Just say “Hi”

For many introverts, it’s incredibly difficult to start a conversation with people they don’t already know. Paul Campbell recently wrote about this inner conflict in his blog post “Hi, I’m Obie”. I can relate very much because I feel the same when I’m at conferences, especially with people who I admire and would really love to get to know better. I remember so many occasions when I tried to join a group conversation, stood there for a while not knowing what to say and finally backed away, slightly embarrassed and disappointed about myself.

Paul then describes a watershed moment:

He put out his hand to shake my hand, looked me in the eye, and said “Hi, I’m Obie”. “Hi, I’m Paul.” I had never felt so loved.

In this moment, Paul had an epiphany: You don’t need to do extraordinary stuff to get in touch with people. Just say “Hi”.

Introducing yourself by name at a conference might not seem like a huge deal, but for me, it was just the recipe I needed to break the ice, to avoid the “what do I say now?” question.

I had the same insight start of last year, after reading a great ebook. It made a big change about which I wrote in “How to survive and succeed at conferences as an introvert”.

As IT guys, we’re familiar with the principle of breaking big tasks down into small parts that are easier to handle. The thing is, we can apply the “divide et impera” principle to the conversation problem, too: Instead of trying to tackle a whole group at once, just pick a person, stick out your hand and say “Hi, I’m $NAME.” I can assure you, noone will answer with “Yes? And?”

Except maybe if there’s such a thing as professional asshole conferences. But then again, you might not want to attend these anyway.

Never leave the playground

On Presentation Zen, a blog I’ve been following for years to improve my conference sessions, I found a post about Stephen Jepson. He’s 72 years old, a retired college professor, and he claims that to keep being playful and moving “is the single most important thing to do to be physically healthier and smarter, regardless of age.”

His story is very inspiring, so go on and read the article and watch the video clips!

My children have brought me back onto the playground and in teaching me how to have fun playing, they make me a very happy man.

Take control of your email

This week, I realized that I’ve got a problem with email. I was wondering why I struggled so much with finishing my important tasks and found that I’ve been living in my inbox. I’ve been constantly looking out for new messages from colleagues and customers. While this made for great response times, it prohibited me from concentrating on what I needed to work on. So many times, I have read the advice to not get addicted to my inbox and still, I did.

That’s why I’ve decided to limit my checking for new email to a few times per day. I’ll still be notified of anything important or urgent by AwayFind and by the support request escalation of our Help Center. I’ve also reinstalled the Concentrate app on my computer to minimize distractions while I’m working on a certain task — for example writing this blog post.

Since email is obviously a both useful and disruptive medium, I’d like to point you to a great article by Kelly Forrister, a Senior Coach with the David Allen Company. In Email best practices for your team, Kelly gives the following tips:

  1. Match the message to the best medium.
  2. Be discerning about your use of “To:” vs. “Cc:”.
  3. Use subject lines that clearly describe the topic; add short codes for minimum reading effort.
  4. Resist the urge to simply click “reply to all”.
  5. Set a standard for response time and use the leeway it gives you.

Since I seem to have blind spots regarding the influence of email on my productivity, I’ll take a good look at which of Kelly’s tips might further improve my work style. Read them on the GTD blog in full length!