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  • Remember those in need

    Because of my need for "to do" and "to remember" lists, I list my current prayer concerns, especially my concerns for students and colleagues, on a Post-it note in my work space. When a rare and treasured quiet moment comes during the day, I find that focusing on the needs of others refreshes my own spirit as well.

    (If you use a Macintosh, you can also use the "Stickies" option in the "Apple Menu" to make your list pop up each time you turn on your computer. Ask your CSR about equivalent programs for PC's.)

    Go to faculty meetings

    Go to faculty meetings! This saves time for everyone in your area. Although when you are pressed for time, the devil on your shoulder may try to convince you that you could use the hour more wisely, you have only cheated yourself and your colleagues. Those who don't go to faculty meetings get confused, need to seek out colleagues to find out what they missed, and are uninformed about important administrative information. They in turn are not able to advise students about changes in the program, or be the students' advocates at the meetings. (For example, at a recent meeting I was able to seek extra scholarship money for some outstanding students. Other faculty members were disappointed they missed the opportunity by skipping the meeting.)--Claudine Bigelow (Music)

    Write thank you notes

    Write thank you notes. For the short amount of time it takes to write a brief note, the rapport it develops is worth its weight in gold. Being gracious is one of the nicest ways to establish a good relationship and add a personal touch to a professional relationship. A sincere thank you helps people feel appreciated, and it also helps them to remember you. Everyone wins. Keep a box of thank you notes handy on your desk so writing them is easy.--Claudine Bigelow (Music)
  • Conquer E-mail Clutter

    I find that the more organized I am, the more likely I am to be productive. E-mail has been a challenging area to deal with. The following suggestions, which I found on an Internet website, have been very helpful. I have edited them somewhat. CSRs can help faculty to arrange their e-mail programs to do all that is listed here.--David A. Nelson (Marriage, Family, & Human Development)

    Six Ideas for Conquering E-mail Clutter

    E-mail is beneficial in many ways. It's a wonderfully quick way of delivering a message. It helps us to answer on our own time--no telephone tag, or waiting on hold. Plus, it's extremely cost effective. However, there is a price to pay. Just like paper clutter, e-mail can easily turn into virtual clutter. Now, in addition to having a mountain of paper, many people have an enormous amount of e-mail to plow through each day. Here are a few simple tips to help keep it under control.

    1. Check and manage e-mail on a daily basis.

    Schedule one or two consistent time periods each day to go through your e-mail in-box. Get rid of as much e-mail as you can each day.

    2. Take Action.

    Just as it's easy to paper shuffle, it's also easy to "e-mail shuffle." Try to take action on each e-mail you open. First, skim the subject lines and immediately get rid of e-mail that you don't need. A high percentage of e-mail can be deleted without ever opening it. Second, open each message one by one. If there are any that can be answered immediately, do so. Usually, the message can then be deleted. Be brutal here. Again, most messages do not need to be kept after the action has been completed. If you truly need to save a particular message, file it in an "e-mail folder." An e-mail folder is an area in your e-mail program where you can "file" e-mails so they're easily accessible when you need them. Categorize these folders, just like you would paper folders. For instance, if you like referring to some regular newsletters you get, make an e-mail folder for each of them. The name of each folder should be the name of the newsletter.

    3. Take advantage of filters.

    Some e-mail programs allow you to filter messages. Check with your CSR if you want to learn how to take advantage of it. There are two common reasons that you might want to use your filtering capabilities. a. Quickly storing e-mails you want to reference later: Let's say you get an e-mail report every day from a co-worker that lists some numbers that you may need to reference, but you don't have to look at on a daily basis. You can filter e-mail from that particular person directly into an e-mail folder. Then, when the person sends you the e-mail report, it will automatically be moved into the folder you have set up. b. Quickly getting rid of e-mail you don't want: I recently was getting unsolicited e-mail messages from a specific e-mail address. After determining that it was impossible to get off this list, I decided to filter any e-mail from that particular person right into my "deleted mail" folder. Now, I never have to deal with it. Very often, you can filter by different variables, such as sender, subject line, messages with attachments, and so on.

    4. Stories, jokes, and e-mail hoaxes.

    Stories, jokes and e-mail hoaxes are constantly being forwarded throughout the Internet. Some people really enjoy receiving these types of e-mails. Others don't have the time for them. If you don't have the time to receive such e-mails, tell the senders that you'd prefer not to receive them anymore. It's not being rude. Simply tell the person that you're happy to receive a personal note from them, but you don't have time for the other types of e-mail.

    5. Don't stay on lists that are not helping you.

    Be particular about the newsletter lists you sign up for and remain on. The lists you should be on are the ones that benefit you in some shape or form.

    6. Print with caution.

    If you like printing a particular newsletter to read from your comfy chair in another room, that's fine. However, be careful about printing every single e-mail you get. You don't want to double the problem by duplicating your e-mail clutter into paper clutter. Remember, you can store e-mail in folders on your computer. Yes, they'll take up some room on your computer, but at least they won't begin to clutter your home and your office too.

    Efficient way to leave phone messages

    To make telephone messages you leave for others more effective, I recommend the approach below because of these three major advantages:

    1. It helps you organize your messages, thus avoiding stammering and meandering on the phone.

    2. It makes the phone messages shorter, saving time for both senders and receivers.

    3. It gives the receivers much clearer information, reducing the chance of miscommunication.

    The "OABC" approach stands for "Opening, Agenda, Body, and Closing":

    O-Opening. State your name and affiliation: "Hi, John, this is XXXXX from the XXXXX Department at Brigham Young University."

    A-Agenda. Quantify and/or Identify your messages:

    Quantify: "I'm calling to bring you up to date on two things."

    Identify: "This call is about the research we discussed last week."

    Quantify and Identify: Here are two things you need to be aware of regarding next month's visit to BYU."

    B-Body. Deliver the message(s) you promised in the agenda, giving all appropriate details (who, what, why, when, where, etc.) "First, you need to arrange for your own airline tickets.... Second, we'll arrange for your hotel accommodations...."

    C-Closing. Give appropriate ending comments. "If you have any questions, call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thanks." (Make sure you give your phone number s-l-o-w-l-y.)

    OABC also works in writing memos and letters, giving talks in church, and giving professional presentations.

    Bill Baker (Organizational Leadership & Strategy)

    Minimize Email

    One tip stated two ways (in the mouth of two witnesses!):

    E-mail, while a great boon, is one of the most disruptive elements in my work. I've found that if I turn off all beeps, whistles, and signals that tell me when a message has come in, then only check it at certain times of the day, I am much more productive. I've also found that not checking e-mail until I've done something productive in the morning makes for a more efficient use of my time.--Steven L. Peck (Zoology)

    Only check your e-mail three times a day. I prefer to check it when I first get to work around 7:30 AM, then at lunch time (I do it about noon), and then about 15 minutes before I leave for the day (for me about 5 PM). I find that when I leave my e-mail program running all day, each time it dings to announce a new message, I get distracted. I always want to see what the new message says. Then I respond to about half of the messages. These interruptions can really eat up a lot of time.--James C. Brau (Business Management)

    Send phone mail messages

    Sometimes it is easier to relay a message verbally rather than in writing, but if you call someone, you stand a chance of getting involved in a lengthy conversation that neither of you may have time for. Try sending a phone mail message instead. (Check with OIT for how to do this on the current BYU phones.)
  • Keeping track of facts, figures, and passwords

    I find it impossible to remember all of the trivial facts, figures, and especially passwords I sometimes need in order to do my work. In the past, I've wasted time trying to track this information down. Now, I have a system that easily keeps this information at my finger tips.

    I created a word-processing file where I type (or paste) the hundreds of passwords I now have, along with any other bit of information I might need again in the future. For example: esoteric computer or phone instructions, account numbers, contact information for people I might need to locate again, "job aids" for tasks I do infrequently, etc.

    Every time I use a new password or other information I might need again, I copy it into this file. I add a few descriptive words so I can easily use the word-processing program's "Find" feature to locate the information when I need it.


    Because my file contains all my passwords, I gave it an obscure name and buried it deep in my hard drive so no one is likely to find it. I also assigned a simple keystroke to the file so that I can instantly open it any time I need it. Now, I can always find what I'm looking for in a matter of seconds! If you have some sort of palm device, you might want to store this file on it.

    Leave messages to yourself on your phone mail

    Quite often we are still managing our time even when we are away from the office. Rather than look for a "post-it" or other form of stationery and writing instrument, I simply call my office phone and leave detailed "to-do" lists on my phone mail. When I am back in the office, I play back my message(s) and go to work. This is a very mobile method: use cell phones, motel phones, home phones, or any other phone to get your ideas back to your office.--Ronald Gonzales (School of Technology)

    Note from the editor:

    If you call yourself (or anyone else), press the number 1 as soon as you hear the "greeting" to skip the greeting and go directly to the tone to record your message.
  • Handle/file immediately

    One tip stated two ways (in the mouth of two witnesses!): A busy physician I once worked with told me that her policy was never to touch a piece of incoming paperwork more than once. Deal with letters, memos, and forms right away (or at some time you've set aside for paperwork), so that you won't waste time reading them twice.--Christopher Dromey (Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology)

    A tip I learned from a secretary has worked great in my faculty office--minimize the number of times you look at paperwork by either dealing with each item immediately (discard unwanted mail, record notices of meetings in planner, discard or post flyers), or placing it in an inbox with a commitment to immediately take care of anything that comes back out--then deal with the inbox on a regular basis.-- Leigh Johnson (Botany & Range Science)

    Never forget something you meant to bring

    When I'm at my office, I often come across materials I need to take home. When at home, there are materials that need to go to the office. I used to hate arriving somewhere and discovering I'd forgotten something. Now that NEVER happens because I've developed a strategy.

    I bought two different-colored manila folders. I marked one "HOME" and the other "OFFICE" and put them in my briefcase. Now, whenever I see something that needs to go home, I *immediately* put it in the "HOME" folder. When I see something that needs to go to the office, I *immediately* put it in the "OFFICE" folder. (Having it in a folder keeps it from getting lost and/or forgotten at the bottom of my briefcase.)

    When I get to my office (or home), the first thing I do is take out the appropriate folder and put those things where they belong (even if it is just in my "to do" pile). If there is some other location where I frequently spend time, I create a folder for that place also (e.g. a lab or a second office).

    This is a simple idea, and it has been a real time-saver.

    Schedule classes

    To work more efficiently and effectively, I try to schedule classes at times of the day when I'm better at teaching, and avoid scheduling classes during times when I'm a more productive thinker and writer.

    Set specific time limits

    I find it's helpful to set limits on the time I spend on particular activities. For example: If I need to prepare for a class or presentation, I may decide to spend two hours on this task on a particular day. I then think about how I can accomplish as much as possible in the two hours allotted. When the two hours are up, I move to another activity. This helps ensure that I dedicate sufficient time to different tasks (i.e., one seemingly urgent task doesn't take away from other tasks that are equally important). It also helps me work more efficiently by focusing my efforts and working toward completion at a specific time.
  • Are You Present?

    I don't know about you, but when I was in grade school, you answered your teacher's ubiquitous roll call with "present." As I got older, we were allowed to say "here" to confirm our presence in the room. Now, no one asks us anymore, but maybe they should.

    Being present, being fully focused and attentive to the moment or the task at hand, is a skill in itself and one that is becoming harder to come by. The parent at the park talking on their cell phone while pushing their kid on a swing, the driver who bumps the car in front of him while juggling a cup of coffee and the steering wheel, the executive who is standing up greeting their next visitor before they've even let you know your meeting with them is over. In a world that does too much, it is really hard to be present. We are merely really good at pretending we are not absent.

    Do you sometimes feel like you didn't accomplish anything all day although you were busy at every moment? Do you lack the closeness to your spouse, your kids or other loved ones that you desire? Do you find yourself irritable and hostile for no immediate reason? These could all be indications of being absent, or at least, not as present as you could be.

    Being absent means you're not there. Your body might be there, you may see yourself and hear yourself, but you are somewhere else. You are not feeling, not experiencing, not absorbing what there is to absorb from that moment. Being present, on the other hand, means you are paying attention and experiencing all the nuances of the moment. Those nuances may be your own emotions or the satisfaction that comes from listening fully, learning from every experience and surrendering to the unexpected.

    Does it matter? If you don't think about what you are missing, it doesn't. But if you care that life might be passing you by a bit too fast, get "present" to the following tips for being more present.

    Take a deep breath. Filling your lungs with air before settling down to a task, conversation or activity can help to slow you down enough to be present. Several deep breaths in a row, will help you quiet your mind as well. Know the signals. Recognize when you are spinning out of attention and do what you have to do to focus again.

    Avoid triggers. Once you recognize when you are not present, start observing what are the things that are the cause of your lack of attentiveness and nip the source of those problems in the bud.

    Be complete in each task or communication. When you are thorough and finish one thing before you move on to the next, you can be fully attentive to the new task or conversation. If you find yourself distracted or into something new before finishing the old, stop, ask for a moment, write down what needs to be done or said and get it out of your mind so you can be present to what you are currently doing.

    Purge often. Make it a habit to throw things out as you are finished with them. Sticky notes, lists, old mail, clothes that are outdated---anything that you are not using, needs to be disposed of so you are not annoyed or distracted by clutter.

    Delegate. One great way to be able to feel present is to get some things off your plate through delegation. Create templates for how you want things done and have someone else do them whether at the office or at home. Do tasks that only you can do and set up a follow-up system so you are never distracted by too many tasks again.

    Find your transition. Come to know how you best make transitions from one thing to the next. Do you need to debrief? Take a breath? Make some notes? Celebrate one thing before moving to the next? Figure out what would allow you to move from thing to thing with ease, and do it.

    Being a working Mom who transitions from one role to the other several times a day, I am especially aware of presencing myself. I will not enter an interaction with one of my children if business is still plaguing my mind. I make note of an incomplete business task, take a deep breath and focus fully on my child. That way, I avoid taking out any stress or frustration on my kids. I learned early on that if I pretended to pay attention to my kid when I was carrying a business concern in my mind, I would become irritated with the little person and was sending a message that I did not really want to be with them.

    In our multi-tasking world, we can fool ourselves by being proud of all we can get done. However, you have to ask yourself what the goal is. Is it to get things done or to do things that matter?What would change in your world if you were more present?

    --Laura Berman Fortgang, Coach

    LBF*InterCoach, Inc. 26 Park Street, Suite 2045 Montclair, NJ 07042 (973) 857-8180 / 888-23-COACH Helping individuals and companies achieve extraordinary futures. * Copyright InterCoach Development & Training, Inc. 2001. Reprintable when full credit is given.

    Take a relaxing walk

    A very timely tip as we approach finals:

    I have found one of the most important things I can do to manage my time is to take a walk. This might sound contradictory, but when deadlines are pressing, and there is more to do in a day than I can possible get done, my mind seems to get cluttered and anxious. I feel burdened and rushed. In such a state, although I may be going through the motions of getting things done, my mind is not working at its best, my creativity has been compromised, and my powers of concentration are shot.

    Taking a stroll around campus can refresh and enliven even the most harried soul. The campus is loaded with beautiful plants, smiling faces, and attractive landscaping. Stepping away from the office and walking, even if just for a few minutes, can restore balance and perspective. Sometimes my best ideas come while I'm away and not even thinking about the particular problems I'm wrestling with; they just appear like bubbles bursting on a pond. So if you want to be productive, when you start feeling harassed and overwhelmed, take a walk. Enjoy the beauties you're surrounded with and see if those ten to fifteen minutes weren't more productive than rushing through the piles of work that never go away.
  • Prep for Annual Reviews and Advancement in Rank

    Each time I do anything at all related to materials I will need for the Annual Stewardship Review (or Advancement in Rank), I just make a copy or a note of the essential information and slip it into a folder for that year. The simplest way to do this is with three folders:

    1) Accomplishments in TEACHING, including grad students supervised.2) Accomplishments in CREATIVE WORK/Publications/Presentations, etc.3) Accomplishments in CITIZENSHIP

    When it comes time to compile the information and fill out required forms, it's quite easy. Three years of doing this collects the materials required for 3rd-year review; two more years helps make up the packet for continuing status and/or promotion. It saves tons of time trying to remember what I've done and pull it all together each year or when it's time to go up for promotion!-- Barry Lunt (School of Technology)
  • Powerful talks on short notice

    One day I was sitting in Sunday School beside a woman who was greatly distraught. I asked what was wrong. She said she had to give a talk in Sacrament meeting in a few minutes and still had no idea what she should say.

    I wrote out "Incident, Point, Benefit" on a slip of paper, handed it to her, and very briefly explained to her what follows below. Later in Sacrament Meeting she gave one of the most powerful talks I heard that year.

    You too can give a powerful talk on short notice.

    Here is the gist of what I shared with her, adapted from the Dale Carnegie basic course:

    When you are called on to give a talk, a quick and highly effective way to organize it is as "Incident, Point, Benefit."

    Incident--Briefly describe an incident, with some details, that relates to the point you want to make: For example, "When I was 16 years old growing up in Tulsa I wanted to get involved in politics but didn't know how. One day I saw a notice in the paper about the formation of a Teenage political club. I immediately phoned, got the information, and attended the meeting. In the next several months there was much work to do for voter registration and I pitched in. Later I went to a conference in another part of the state, where there was an opportunity to meet people who cared passionately about politics, and were willing to share what they knew. At the conference I was elected President of the organization, and then became heavily involved in a campaign. Later I was asked to serve as page in the State Senate by the man who later became Governor."

    Point--State the point you are making very succinctly: For example, "The point is that I took immediate action on something I wanted to do, and had a great experience--all from a phone call."

    Benefit--State the benefit: For example, "The benefit to you is that if you immediately take action on your passion you are likely to find people who need your help, will teach you, and give you the opportunity to do more." You can share an Incident-Point-Benefit talk in just 2 minutes! That saves time for your audience. If you need to speak longer, just use "Incident, Point, Benefit" to make multiple points, as the woman in Church proceeded to do.-- J. Olin Campbell (Instructional Psychology and Technology)
  • Keep up on journal articles

    Trying to keep up in my discipline is virtually impossible. I subscribe to electronic versions of some trades and journals, but the more reliable sources are still the print publications. I receive 3-4 trade magazines and professional and research journals each week - a heavy reading load. I try to handle each publication just once, as it comes in, by identifying those articles or features that have some promise by reading the title and executive summary or headings. I rip each potentially beneficial article out of that trade/journal and add it to a file folder which I read from during 'lulls' or on bus rides to and from campus.-- Larrie E. Gale - Theatre & Media Arts
  • Have students help you create tests

    To help student prepare for tests, I often have them create test questions over the course material. It works this way:

    1) I divide the material to be tested into sections and assign each row a section.

    2) Each student on the row writes five questions of the type specified (multiple choice, true/false, short answer, etc.). I usually receive about thirty questions on each section of the material.

    3) I SELECT, FOCUS, and REWORD FOR CLARITY before using some of their items on the test or final exam.

    By handling the material in this manner, students quickly begin to see what is important to be covered on a test and are much less likely to waste their study time by trying to guess what I might cover.-- Raphael Johstoneaux (English)

    Organize class materials

    I use a file folder or section of a 3-ring binder for each class period. I can put ideas for new ways to teach the material and other notes to myself, discussion-starters, lecture notes, overheads, and other items for the class in its folder. If I have handouts, I can make as many copies as I'll need as far ahead of time as possible (maybe before the first day of class). The copies go into the folder, too. Then, when it's time for class, or I'm going away from the office but will need to prepare for class before I return, I can grab the appropriate folder and know that I have everything I'll need.


    Quick access to software programs Make a list of all the software programs you use frequently. Program your keyboard so that you can access each of these programs with the touch of a key. I have been surprised at how helpful it is to have quick and easy access to all of the programs I use regularly. (If you don't know how to do this, ask your CSR for help.)