Category Archives: Guest

Philofaxy All Stars Guest Post – Susan – Philofaxy Web Finds as Organizational Tool

Philofaxy Web Finds is a great feature.  Recently, we learned how Steve manages to put the web finds together.  There’s quite a science to it!  Come Saturdays, and now mid-week as well, readers across the world sit down with their cup of coffee/tea and settle in for a relaxing reading of posts and a viewing of videos of all things Filofax.  Readers read each post, one by one, savoring all of the planner goodness.

I don’t do this.  Yes, you read that right—I do not sit down to read all of the Philofaxy Web Finds posts (gasp!).  Rather, I use the list as an organizational tool to update my Favorite Places links, my Google Reader feeds, and to catch up on any posts created on new blogs.

So what’s my system?  Let me explain…

Normally, when new posts appear in Google Reader, I browse through the list and star (save) anything that appeals to me.  For the most part, I save anything that is Filofax/planner/productivity related.  For anything else, I save only those posts that appeal to me (for whatever reason).  I apologize for this, because here I’m admitting that I don’t read every post that is published on every blog.  I just can’t.  There are so many wonderful blogs out there and I would love to read every post from every one.  But the reality is that there just isn’t enough time (I barely have the time to keep up with the posts that I want to get to).  I do have a few “favorite” blogs—they aren’t my favorites because they are necessarily better than others, rather they are favorites because I have read them from their inception (back when there were only a few Filofax-related blogs) and I have so much emotion invested in them that I just can’t skip any posts.  And of course, I never skip a Philofaxy post.

A few times a day I’ll open up Google Reader and save anything that I want to read later.  When I have time (usually on my lunch break), I’ll read through my saved posts.

Philofaxy items are always read first, mainly because by the time I get to them, my friends in Europe and beyond have already read the post and commented.  If the opportunity presents itself, I want to be able to comment before everyone has moved on to the next post.  From there, I usually head to the oldest post first and continue up the list until I run out of time.  The process then starts again when I have time.

For anything I want to comment on, I email myself the post.  Having set up a filter in Gmail, anything that is sent from Google Reader automatically gets a label of “Review.”

Using the various Gmail stars, I know what needs to be answered (red exclamation point) versus looked at (orange arrows) versus updated (yellow exclamation point).

When I get time (usually later that evening or the next morning while I have coffee) I will post my comment, subscribe to the post via email for any follow-up comments that may appear, and then delete the email once I’ve done so.  This way, I rid my inbox of virtual clutter.

It may take me a long time to get through my list, and while I would love to be able to get completely caught up from time to time, I know that it’s not realistic—I very rarely get caught up, and even when I do, it’s only a few hours before my list starts growing again.

When I know I will be travelling, I will save any unread articles to the Instapaper iPad app.  This app allows you to save an article or blog post so that you can read it off-line at a later time.  Since I don’t have wireless for my iPad on the go, this comes in handy.  And when I’ll be travelling for a few hours, it allows me to catch up on all those unread blog posts.  I have a folder where I keep anything I want to comment on, and when I have wifi again, I will do so.

With Web Finds, however, the process is different.  As soon as I see the post, I email it to myself.  When I have time, I go through the web finds posts and pick out any blog that is currently not on my list (lately there are usually three of four each week).  I don’t read the highlighted post.  Rather, I look at the entire blog to determine if it really is (for the most part) Filofax or planner or organization related, or if the main purpose of the blog is something else entirely that just happened to have a post or two on those subjects.  If it is indeed a related blog, I add it to both Google Reader and my Favorite Places list on my blog.  If not, I won’t do anything with it at that point (sometimes a blog will reappear in Web Finds because more and more posts are subject related—at that point, I will add the blog to both places).  If and when a blog gets added to Google Reader, the last 10 posts will appear as unread.  I will go through and save anything that catches my fancy.  So eventually the post that was originally highlighted in Web Finds will be read.  From there, all future posts will be part of the blog post saving/reading system as described above.

After I have added the new blogs to my lists, I go back to the Web Finds post and watch the videos.  Getting through them all may take a day or two, and if they’re longer than 5 minutes, I often skip through so that I can get a taste for the entire video rather than only being able to watch the first 5 minutes—I hate to stop mid-video.

Since so many blogs get started and fizzle out after a while, I do need to weed through my list every now and then.  Currently this is done on an annual basis.  Every year (usually at the start of the year), I will go through the Favorite Places list on my blog.  I will look at each and every blog (skipping those I know update frequently) and remove any that have been shut down or have not posted within the last year.  Yes, I may remove blogs that have relevant content, but chances are, if they haven’t been updated in a year, it’s pretty much a dead blog.  This wouldn’t matter so much if there weren’t so many blogs to begin with.  But seeing as I’m adding to the list every week, I need a system for weeding out old content, as good as it may be.  And since the Favorite Places list corresponds to what I subscribe to via Google Reader, this weeding process also allows me to unsubscribe from dead blogs, keeping my Reader list to only relevant blogs.  Again, it’s ridding myself of electronic clutter, which to me, is just as important as ridding myself of physical clutter—if I don’t see it, I don’t have to think about it, allowing me to eliminate it from my mind so that I can concentrate on more important (and active) things.

I hope I have described my Web Finds and general blog reading system without causing too much confusion.  Please let me know if you have questions regarding my Web Finds process.

Thank you to Steve for hosting my babbling guest post!

All Stars Guest Post – Ray – Keeping in Touch

Today I would like to introduce you to Ray. I met Ray through Philofaxy and together we have developed a suite of diary inserts for Filofax organisers.  Ray recently joined the ‘Philofaxy All Stars’ a team of bloggers that are touring around different blog sites, posting a varied menu of posts on various topics, not just about Filofax. 

Please visit Ray’s blog – My Life All in One Place

How many people are there in your life who you’ve known well at some point, but drifted away from or out of touch with? If you’re like most people, you will have many lost friends and lost acquaintances, many of whom you now miss.

Perhaps your job involves managing relationships and there are customers or business partners you know you have neglected from time to time.

Whether we want to keep in touch with people for personal or business reasons, it’s really easy to let people slip away from us. The main reasons are apathy and lethargy; we don’t care enough, and we’re too lazy. Paradoxically, the more secure we feel about a person’s friendship (or a customer’s loyalty), the less effort we’ll take in staying in touch when distance divides us.

Eventually, we’ll realise we’ve drifted away from that person, and we’ll feel sad or business might suffer. But by then, it is difficult and embarrassing to suddenly call or write again after all this time. Furthermore, the person may have moved somewhere else. Perhaps they’ve been so upset about our heartless treatment of them that an approach now would be unwelcome. It would be even more tricky if it were a business contact we’d neglected for all this time, and the reason we now want to get in touch is that we need their help.

If this is starting to ring a few bells for you, then you need to take action now in two directions. Firstly, you need to design a KIT (‘Keeping in Touch’) system to make sure this doesn’t happen in future. Secondly, you might need to plan an ER (‘Emergency Repair’) strategy to re-establish contact where it has already been lost.

Let’s look first at the KIT system. To operate it effectively, you’ll need one of the following tools:

a) a Filofax or other organisation system; or
b) a computer with a personal organiser programme; or
c) a card-index system with diary tabs or desk diary; or
d) a pocket diary and address book.

Whichever tool you use, you’ll first need to sit down and list all the people you want to stay in touch with. When you’ve done that, decide for each person how often you think contact would be appropriate. When I say ‘contact’, this could be any form of communication, such as:

  • a phone call
  • an email
  • a postcard or letter
  • a greeting card
  • a face to face meeting

For some friends or business contacts you might feel that once a month is the right amount of contact; for more peripheral acquaintances you might settle on once every quarter, or every six months.

So, now you have a list which might look, in part, something like this:

  • Judith Lane 1m
  • Kerry Leaver 6m
  • John Marshall 1m
  • Sam Masters 1m
  • Jill Merry 3m

Now, you simply have to make up a diary entry for each person on the list. Spread the names out widely, so that the first contact for each of them happens within – say – two months. Put no more than 3 or 4 names down for any one day, and try to keep one or two days every week free. This means that keeping in touch won’t become too arduous, and the free days mean that if you miss day or two, you’ll have put time aside to catch up.

If you have a PC or personal organiser with a repeating to-do function, you can programme in the monthly repeat or six monthly repeat automatically, but if you are using a paper system, make your entry look like this:

  • NC: Judith Lane (1m)

‘NC’ stands for ‘Network Contact’, and this prefix makes the entry stand out from other appointment data or to-dos you may have in your diary. After the name, in bracket, remember to put the frequency of contact you chose for this person. This way, as soon as you have initiated a contact, you can cross through the entry, and make a new one in one month’s time which looks exactly the same.

I use a Filofax diary for this purpose and write my entries on Post-It Note index tabs, which I can move easily from one period to the next as I complete my KIT activities.

Depending on the nature of the ‘contact’ you make, it might be advisable not to delete the entry or move the sticky just yet. For instance, if you telephone and leave an answering machine message, you might not want to get rid of this month’s NC entry until the call is returned or until you try again another day and actually make contact.

And do try to vary your KIT activity. If you call a person this month, then when the NC record next appears for that person, send a card or an email instead.

When you get to an NC entry where you have recently spoken to or received a call from the person, feel free just to rediarise without initiating another contact. The purpose of this system is to keep in touch, and if that is happening already, then there’s no need to go overboard!

When you start working your KIT system, you will notice that strange things start to happen. Before long, people will be calling you more regularly, meaning you need to undertake less contact activity yourself. Also, you will find that when you call people for no real reason, they often say, “I was just thinking of you, because…” and then relate some opportunity that you can benefit from. If you hadn’t have called, you’d never have known.

So, with your KIT system in place, you might want to consider an ER strategy, to rescue those atrophied relationships. One thing to remind yourself straight way is that it takes two people to lose touch, so don’t shoulder all the guilt.

The only effective way to re-establish contact is to get on the phone, pick up a pen, or go to the computer and be honest. Say or write something like this:

“I feel bad that we haven’t spoken so long, and I miss your friendship. I’d really like to re-establish regular contact.”

What can sometimes smooth the way is to add an apology, like this:

“I am so sorry I haven’t tried harder to keep in touch with you these past years.”

Don’t make an excuse at this point, just offer the simple apology. Almost without fail, your contact will respond with a similar apology and insist on shouldering his or her share of the blame.

Once this is out of the way, it’s time to set the foundation for ongoing contact. The easiest way to do this is to get the other person talking, and you might ask:

 “So, what’s new in your life since we last spoke/met?”

Before long, you’ll be chatting just like in the old days.

Earlier, we spoke about the situation where you’ve lost contact with a business contact, but now need their help. However dire your need, don’t ask for that help at the first contact call, or you are likely to be labelled a user cut off forever! Try to leave it for the second or third contact, but if it really is very urgent, call a couple of days after first contact.

So that’s the system. Using KIT and ER together will ensure you can maintain a wide personal or business network without it feeling like a lot of work.

Thank you Ray, some very useful tips for all of us I’m sure. You can catch up on the rest of the ‘All Stars Tour‘ here.