I like being connected. I love reading the latest news, finding out what my friends are doing, and being able to do business any time. But I also love getting away -- despite what my friends might think, I do have a life!
So it's incredibly important to prioritize my connections. Here's how -- in broad terms -- I do it. I'll discuss details in future posts and in the upcoming CHCS webinar series.
First Priority: Phone and Email
Like most people, during business hours, I answer the phone and leave my email program running. I have separate phone numbers and email addresses for business and personal use, so that I can decide what to deal with first. And I've set up "rules" or "filters" that can prioritize and file messages for me.
After hours, I'm on call most of the time. Luckily, my clients are pretty understanding about calling after business hours except in emergencies. But our phone system is set up to connect with one of our staff if needed. And I get notified by email or SMS if someone has left me a message.
Some of the phone tools listed below have overlapping services, but we try not to be dependent on any one service. And we still have land lines and cell phones. But I don't use the "push email" function of my cell phone to get new emails automatically -- I don't feel like being that connected.
- Phone Tools
- Email Tools
Second Priority: Instant Messaging
My company uses instant messaging (IM) extensively, because our staff often works from home. Since there are several different IM systems (Yahoo, AIM, MSN/Live.com, Gtalk, Jabber, etc.), it makes sense to use an IM program that connects with all of these systems, as well as with the new Facebook Chat IM system. With Growl (for Mac) and pop-up notifications (built-in for Windows), I can find out immediately if someone sends me a message, but I can set my "status" or "presence" to "away" or "do not disturb" while I'm working.
- IM Tools
Third Priority: News and Social Networks
Since I manage a web development business, I need to keep up with local, national, international and business news, as well as web and technology news. Traditional news outlets and blogs are making for a rich news environment. Blogs and groups with RSS feeds have essentially replaced the older listserves and email newsletters, which have been lost in a sea of spam.
It's not possible to read everything, but thanks to RSS feeds, I can browse through headlines quickly and at my convenience. Now that social networks (like Facebook and LinkedIn) have made inroads among the business community, along with microblogging services like Twitter, I use RSS to keep up with them, too.
There are lots of ways to read RSS feeds. Browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer have RSS readers built in, as do email programs like Thunderbird, Outlook and Apple Mail. But since I consider email to be first priority, and news to be less urgent, I prefer to read my RSS feeds in a separate location.
Once you've installed one of the programs above, when you go to a web page with a feed, you will likely see an orange or blue symbol next to the web site address in your browser. Click on the symbol to subscribe. Finding RSS feeds for social networks is a bit trickier.
- RSS Feeds from Social Networks
- LinkedIn: Go to your LinkedIn home page and click on the orange RSS icon next to "Network Updates." You can also subscribe to RSS feeds on the Answers pages.
- Facebook: To follow your friends' postings, go to Friends in the main menu, and click on the blue RSS icon in the left column marked "Friends' Status Feed." To get notifications for events like people writing on your wall, go to Inbox in the main menu, click on Notifications, and click on the blue RSS icon in the right column marked "Your Notifications."
- Twitter: Go to http://twitter.com/home and click on the orange RSS Feed icon at the bottom of the right column.
I hope you found these comments helpful! Your comments are welcome.