How to manage email expectations

Email is distracting me from everything else.

BlackBerry blinking notification red light

It’s been years since it was paramount that I be available at all hours of the day. I managed social media for two technology companies. To do my job well, it was essential that I monitored our brands and was available to assist our customers when need be. That was eight years ago. 

In 2005 B.i. (Before iPhone) days, I was commissioned a Blackberry by my employer. I remember that blinking red light often represented urgent matters related to my role in rebranding an entire television network across Canada. I was dealing with issues across six time zones! 

These days, I still get urgent emails from time to time, but it’s seldom. I am thankful that I have few fires that need extinguishing now.

When I worked for the television network, my boss did something inspiring. This is something I am implementing today. Walter had an out of office email auto-reply on all of the time. It read something like…

Thanks for your message. I check my email twice a day at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. If the matter is urgent, please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX. 

I am certain this inspiring move made Walter more productive. I know this because of the amount of time I find I am stuck in my inbox. This has inspired me to repeat this method and combine it with only checking social media at specific times of the day. It’s time to get more serious with my goals.

By managing the email expectations of my clients, prospects, and colleagues, I can now focus more time on the work I need to do. Blocking myself from checking email and removing notifications will allow me to improve my productivity and focus.

Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.
— Gretchen Rubin  

The Art of the Podcast

The Art of the Podcast

What are the five types of podcasts? What is the common thread that connects each? How can you make your podcast better?

Yesterday, during the Craft Content conference in Nashville, I presented The Art of the Podcast. My goal was to leave the audience, who were a mix of current and future podcasters, with ideas on how to tell a better stories and produce better podcasts. I began my talk describing the five types of podcasts. 

The Five Types of Podcasts

The Five Types of Podcasts

1. Interview. An interview podcast is a program that features a guest and a host. Some of my favorites include; The James Altucher Show, WTF with Marc Maron, Marketing Smarts, and Six Pixels of Separation

2. Couples-Cast. A podcast featuring two co-hosts. I used to use this definition for podcasts with actual couples like Dawn and Drew, and my first podcast, Two Boobs and a Baby. I now use it to cover all co-hosted podcasts. Check out Marketing Over Coffee as a good example.

3. Ramble-Cast. A single host podcast. Any podcast with one person sharing what's on their mind fits this category. Tune into DicksnJanes and Up In This Brain to get a taste of what I am talking about.

4. Round Table. These are podcasts featuring a host as the moderator and a panel of subject experts. A favorite is The BeanCast.

5. Magazine. A magazine podcast is highly produced. It features multiple stories (like a magazine), and can also be referred to as a narrative podcast. I love shows like 99% Invisible, RadioLab, This American Life (admittedly this is a radio program first), and StartUp. I also have a new favorite, Neighbors, which I learned about from the host, Jakob Lewis, during Craft Content.

The online broadcasting barriers have dropped

While some of my favorite podcasts began as terrestrial radio programs, some favorites have gone the other way and become radio shows. The online broadcasting barriers have dropped with the advent of inexpensive production software (Audacity is free) and hardware like microphones, mixers, and headphonesAnyone can become a podcaster now. The point is to become a good one by telling and sharing stories your listeners will be interested in. 

What makes a great podcast story?

Each of the five types of podcasts has one thing in common: Storytelling. The interviewer knows when to remain quiet to listen to his guest's story. A couples cast will feature the hosts taking turns sharing and adding to their stories. A ramble cast features a single person telling stories about their day or from their past. A roundtable moderator will pass the mic to each panelist, she will ensure they stay on the same topic while each participant adds their own stories to the mix. Like a physical magazine, a magazine podcast includes narrative stories from guests and their hosts. All powerful podcasts include rich, vivid stories. 

What makes a great story in podcasting?

Four keys to podcasting an exceptional story

In The Art of the Podcast, I shared four keys to use in a podcast to relay an exceptional story. These don't have to all be used in a single podcast episode, but strong stories include one or more of the following; ambience (background sounds, music, sound effects), conflict and resolution, honesty, and humor. 

I included several clips during my presentation as examples. The sound bites came from 99% Invisible, RadioLab, DicksnJanes, and StartUp. I am truly passionate about podcasting. I hope my audience found my presentation helpful as they weave better stories into their shows. 

If you have a podcast please leave a link in the comments. I would love to tune in to your show. If you would like to see The Art of the Podcast live please get in touch

You Have 3 New Messages

Amber Case is a cyborg anthropologist, author and speaker. A few months ago, she spoke at Hubspot's Inbound Conference about Calm Technology. Calm is a term coined by Mark Weiser. The concept is for technology to improve our lives, but to step out of the way. 

Amber used electricity as an example of Calm. It exists all around us, but we only really notice it when it isn't working. It's time to think about Calm, since we live in an era of interruptive technology. You probably have received a few annoying notifications since you have been reading this post. 

50 Billion devices will be online by 2020. 

1. Technology shouldn't require all of our attention, just some of it, and only when necessary. She used a tea kettle as an example of this. 

2. Technology should empower the periphery. It should be around us, but not in our faces constantly competing for our attention. I loved her example of the Hue Light Bulb that changes color based on the weather. 

3. Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity. She adds that machines shouldn't act like humans, humans shouldn't act like machines. How many times have you repeated something for Siri to understand in your best robotic voice?

4. Technology can communicate, but it doesn't have to speak. I just added the LumoBack Smart Posture Sensor to my Christmas wish list. It gently vibrates to alert you to sit up. I need this right now. 

5. The right amount of technology is the minimum amount to solve the problem. Amber points out a simple toilet occupied sign as an example. 

Her presentation hit home to me. you can bet I need to avoid distractions (and to sit up straight). I encourage you to pick up her book, Calm Technology: Designing for Billions of Devices and the Internet of Things

How are you dealing with countless notifications? What are your thoughts on Calm Technology?