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30 November 2006

Are You Organized?

Organization has always been one of my strengths (even though my mother and my wife probably have examples of the exact opposite...). I'm not sure where it came from - but I've been told that it could be related to being a first born with a concrete-sequential personality and a healthy dose of perfectionism thrown in. And while being a perfectionist often leads to neurotic behavior, it can also be used in moderation to stay organized and manage your workload well.

In my previous life (a few months ago) I managed an acute unit in a psychiatric hospital and organization was mandatory. I supervised three clinicians providing services to over forty patients in crisis along with managing statistical analysis of a myriad of variables to keep the administration happy.

When I left the mental health field to become the web director at granger things calmed down for about ten minutes. Fifteen minutes into my new position I was thinking about ways to stay organized in this new environment.

One thing I quickly realized the following:

In order to stay organized in any environment you first need to find out what needs organized. -daryl mcmullen 2006 (like that matters...)
This may sound elemental but think about it - all organization is not the same. My organizational strategy and the tools I used at the hospital did not completely transfer to the church environment. The mindset transferred, but many of the strategies and tools did not. Here is a list of the most common things I must keep organized (ranging from macro to micro level tasks in no particular order):
  • Relationships: I manage relationships with co-workers, volunteers, other departments, our Senior Management Team (SMT), our web developers, current and potential vendors along with people inquiring about our website, etc.
  • Data (files/folders/pictures/video/etc.): Over time "stuff" builds up and can become very disorganized. I am directly involved with web files, image/graphics files, video clips, documents converted to PDF, etc.
  • Data (statistics): We are developing strategies to manage the statistics we have access to when it comes to our CMS, our website(s), our eCommerce solution, our enewsletter and our online streaming video usage.
  • Information: In every field there is basic/foundational information (capable of being learned in school or from a textbook) and there is progressive/cutting edge information that's so new it must be managed differently. This is where online content, blogs, tutorials, recently published books, periodicals and the like become very helpful.
  • Web Development: Managing current projects and identifying the next phase of web development.
  • Budget: Managing the cost of our current projects, and leveraging funds for future development.
  • Wish List: Developing "cool" new ideas that may or may not become part of future web development projects.
  • Web Maintenance: Managing the day to day maintenance of the website(s).
  • Doing/Designing: Actual hands on work in terms of maintenance or design work. I spend time in our admin panel adding/scheduling/maintaining content and do a small part of the graphics and flash work on the site.
  • Quality Control: A constant focus in terms of site consistency, functionality and integrity.
In order to stay organized in the above areas - here are some organizational strategies and tools you can use. Some work for me and some don't. Likewise, some may work for you and some may not:
  • Your brain: Keep track of everything in you brain. Doesn't work for me - more power to you if this works in your world!
  • The "2Do List:" The most basic organizational strategy to keep track of stuff and get thing done. Of course this takes place in a myriad of ways. Electronics: desktop, PDA, notebook or even the handy dandy smart phone. Paper: keeping lists on paper is very traditional - but rarely fails you. Whiteboards: awesome way to keep your 2Do list in front of your face all day - but it's not very easy to take with you. Sticky Notes: some people swear by the sticky notes and unless things are written on one of the little yellow squares it won't get finished.
  • Email clients: Another organizational tool is your email client. Microsoft Outlook (for example) powerfully integrates your communication (email) with your 2Do list, your contact list, your working documents, etc. If you can wrap your brain around this sort of integration it can take you to amazing places.
  • One Note: I do not use One Note (a Microsoft product) but I work with people that swear by it. This application takes your electronic organization to new levels by allowing note taking and document creation as it integrates other Microsoft products like Outlook and Word.

Of course the list could go on and on, but I'll stop for now. The key is not to do what everyone else is doing - the key is to find what works for you and do that.

Good luck!

28 November 2006

Do You Zune?

So I broke down and bought it...

Not on November 14, 2006 (the launch date). I actually waited until November 15, 2006 just to make sure I wasn't jumping the gun...

My simple review: There are bugs - but I'm glad I bought it.

I must say there are some pretty harsh reviews out there - everything from "trash" to "waste of time and money." And while some seem to have valid arguments, it often ends up being a hard core iPod user or someone with all-or-nothing syndrome (the idea that if there is one single problem you MUST throw the entire thing down the drain).

Now for a slightly more detailed review:

The device itself is awesome. I love the size, weight, color, texture, buttons and especially the size of the screen (320x240) which shows your standard 4:3 video crisp and clear. The case itself is strong, solid and the buttons easy to press without being easily bumped. You have the essentials and nothing more to clutter up the device.

I wasn't all that concerned about the software on the device or the software used to download media (Zune Marketplace) probably because I expect bugs at the beginning. And because software is easy to upgrade. Each time you attach the device it downloads necessary updates. And the Marketplace can only get better since it's a web-based ap that receives upgrades in real time.

Now don't get me wrong, bugs do exist:

  • I can connect to the Marketplace on my desktop but not on my laptop.
  • The Marketplace has no podcast function which means every podcast you have is treated like a song.
  • The Marketplace is a bit unstable - having to be shut down every now and then to catch its breath.

User Interface
Love it. Love it. Love it. Of course I am not an iPod user so I have no point of reference. But the navigation is easy and concise. Titles, descriptions, images and the like are all laid out well. The volume indicator is cool as is the flyout menus for images. Throw in an FM radio, the wireless functionality and I'd say you're miles ahead of the game.

I purchased the Home A/V Pack which comes with power cord, dock, A/V cable to hook up to your receiver and small remote that looks just like the black Zune. Works well and looks cool too.

I'd recommend: More professional earphones. The ear buds that the Zune comes with are supposed to be cool (magnetic to keep them together during storage) but they aren't cool enough to be my default set...


17 November 2006

Content Management Systems (CMS)

During the Communications Workshop (hosted by someone asked a question about content management solutions that could be leveraged to ease web maintenance needs.

Our current CMS was designed and is updated periodically by our web developers (Aspire!One) but many sites are designed and delivered without a CMS. If this is your situation, you are in one of two camps: 1) you already have a site without a CMS or 2) you are having a site designed and a CMS solution is not part of the deal.

For those in the process of having a site designed - READ THIS! Make sure to discuss CMS and future web maintenance issues with your designer/developer. There are some very simple things they can do in the process to make your life easier in the future.

Here is a list of online solutions. I have not tried these personally, but at least it is a place to start. Give a few a call and talk specifics with them. Ask the tough questions and even have your designer/developer call if you don't feel comfortable with what questions to ask.

Please let me know if these resources were helpful and if so how you have implemented them in your specific environment.

Keep up the good work!

10 November 2006

WiredChurches Workshops | Communications

Today was another one of those fun days at work. Not only did I get to do my regular job, but I also got to help support the check-in process and attend the majority of the Communications Workshop hosted by

Kem was amazing as always talking about the development of a communications strategy that works. She hit on communications myths, best practices and tips the attendees could take home and try right out of the box.

Worth attending just for this:

  • Less Clutter & Noise Mantra
  • As a communications professional you have the responsibility to "lead up" at you place of employment
  • Your communications department is NOT a brochure factory
  • Your communication department should function as an internal consulting firm - not as a silo but in collaboration with other departments
  • You may have to say NO more often than YES and rather than "directing" you may find yourself "redirecting"
  • Ask, don't tell: Rather than opposing your superiors by telling them NO, lead them to make the right decision by asking the right questions
  • Find the yes behind the no
  • Coach vs. Censure
  • Offer tools to gain credibility
  • Too much more to list here...come to the next workshop!

It's great being part of a team of professional people in key leadership positions whose passion is to give away their knowledge to equip others in the business of taking Jesus to the world.