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Category: Technology

Send a Better Email – Tips From a Computer Tech

For those of you that achieve inbox zero on a daily basis and enjoy a stress-free work environment, consider yourself lucky. The rest of us have jobs with emails constantly bombarding us during the day, distracting us from our work. Thanks to a huge plate of tasks to attend to, email creates overwhelm at times and leads to the wrong kind of stress. Sometimes this stress spills over into making wrong decisions with our email. These wrong decisions can eventually create more work for us and sometimes get us in trouble. Here are three ways to approach email that your IT support person may not have shown you.

Assume you’re writing to everyone

You’re writing a cheeky response to a co-worker about the status of those weekly TPS reports. Within minutes after hitting send, you receive an email from your boss’s boss requesting to meet with you about the TPS reports… and the questionable tone in which you’re referring to them. Unbeknownst to you, your co-worker thought it was funny enough to forward to a couple other co-workers, who forwarded it to some more co-workers, who forwarded your message to the head honcho. Now you definitely have a case of the Mondays. As you are composing an email, write it as if your message would be read by the CEO of your company, your mother, your spouse, your children, and your entire town once the local newspaper links to it on their website.

Leverage the BCC: field

The term Megathread is not a villainous ball of yarn set to take over the knitting world, but a way to describe an excessive number of replies to an original post. By including all recipients of your email in the Blind Carbon Copy section, you can avoid megathreads.

The BCC: field is your silent partner. Use it wisely.

 

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

You just received an email that embarrasses you in front of other co-workers, adds more work to your overwhelmed task list, or is just plain rude. Naturally, you craft a snarky, sarcastic, angry email response to return volley. Hold up, tiger. Don’t push send yet.

Save that email in your Drafts folder and take a walk. Go get some fresh air. Get another cup of coffee. Wait an hour, four hours, or a day, depending on how angry you are. Sending that email may wreck get you in trouble with management. It may wreck an important working relationship. And your supervisor may have to do damage control to answer to their superiors for your immature response.

Want an Email Ninja tip? Put your personal non-work email account in the To: field and mail it to yourself. You get the endorphin rush of pushing that Send button. You get the wadding-up-paper satisfaction of deleting an email. Plus, you save a potential firestorm of awkward in the workplace.

Always keep in mind that your email may be viewed by many more than you’re expecting. By controlling how your email is sent, and how you phrase your email, you can set yourself up for success at work and outside of work.

 

Chris Powell is an Instructional Technologist from Bellingham, Washington. You can sign up for his personal newsletter, Quiet Conversations, here.

 

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Secure your Mac with a Technology Two-Step

Stephen Hackett at 512pixels.net recently published a very helpful article about securing your Mac computer. A combination of passwords, encryption, and synchronization can provide a solid layer of protection for your data. It’s also important to secure your desktop when you step away. Whether it be a meeting, a trip to the restroom, or the end of the day, leaving your computer on can create an opportunity for unauthorized people to access your information.

For a Mac computer, there are two steps needed to set up a quick way of preventing access while away:

Step 1 – Screensaver Hot Corner

In System Preferences, go into Desktop & Screen Saver. Select the Screen Saver tab. Click the Hot Corners button in the lower right. Pick a corner to Start Screen Saver. I usually choose the lower left corner since there aren’t that many control buttons to click on down there.

Step 2 – Require Password after Screen Saver Begins

Back in System Preferences, go into Security & Privacy. In the General tab, click the box to Require password after sleep or screen saver begins. I usually choose 5 seconds, because there are times when I actually mouse down to the lower-left portion of my screen, and I don’t want to re-enter my password immediately after the screen saver initiates.

Now you can simply drag your mouse to the lower left portion of the screen and walk away knowing your desktop is secured from unauthorized use. Your local password to be needed to get back into your desktop. And hopefully you have a strong, secure password as well.

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A password even the President and First Lady can remember

Last night I took our family doggie for an evening walk along a road that provides a spectacular view of our city. I’m half-listening to a tech podcast about LastPass, an online password manager. They were giving tips for creating a strong password for online accounts. I’ve always recommended my tech clients to use letters, numbers, and special characters, at least 12 of ’em, when creating a strong password. Bonus points if they use words that aren’t in the dictionary, yet are easy to remember.

And then it hit me out of nowhere. Family initials and birthdates.

Let’s take President Obama*, for example. Take the initials and birthdates for him and his wife Michelle, throw in a special character for emphasis, and we get a solid password:

Barack Hussein Obama, born August 4, 1961. Michelle LaVaughn Obama, born January 17, 1964. BHO080461.MLO011764 Gibberish for the majority of us, but easy for the Obamas to remember!

Head over to howsecureismypassword.net and you’ll learn that it would take two quadrillion years for a bad guy to crack this. Not only does the President have a strong password, he won’t forget his wife’s birthday. Plus, if Mrs. Obama flips things around, where her information is first and her hubby’s afterwards, they now have complicated, strong passwords that both would be able to easily remember.

Apply this for your own family, and you’ll be taking big steps toward securing your online life.

 

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A More Realistic Approach to Extending Your Phone’s Battery Life

The Minimalists took a cutesy path to making your device last longer:

  • Put it in airplane mode.
  • Put it in a drawer.
  • Do something that doesn’t involve a glowing screen.

Great advice, guys.

For the rest of us who actually use our phone on a regular basis, how about offering some actual ideas to save battery life on your device?

Screen Brightness – Go to your phone’s display settings. Lower your screen brightness to about 30%. You’ll still get to view your screen, and you should be getting a couple more hours’ life out of your phone.

Bluetooth – Turn off Bluetooth when you aren’t needing to use an earpiece, a portable speaker, or another peripheral.

Low Power Mode – If you have an iPhone, set it to Low Power Mode in the settings. This will conserve power consumption by limiting a lot of background processes until you charge it again.

Reduce Motion – Again, for iPhone users, go into your Accessibility settings and turn off Reduce Motion.

Auto-Lock – In your phone settings menu, reduce the Auto-Lock to a shorter timeframe. Less screen time used to drain battery.

Calibrate your phone’s battery –  Once a month, let your phone run down its battery to 0%. Plug it in to charge fully to 100%. Try to not use the phone while charging. After the phone is fully charged, try a “warm reboot” by holding the on/off button and home button until your phone’s startup logo appears.

 

Apply these six methods to your routine, and hopefully you’ll prolong your enjoyment of your phone for months and years to come.

 

 

 

 

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