FYI – Your Action is Required

Everyone knows FYI — short for “For Your Information.”  People have a habit of sending emails with FYI as the subject, or forwarding emails with FYI as the only thing they contribute.

I dislike FYI — and try to avoid using it myself — because it is ambiguous.  This blogger really hates it.  Most of the time people use it, they actually want you to do something or take some action – they don’t just want you to have the information.  Maybe they want to speak with you about the content of the email.  Maybe it’s information about an upcoming meeting — a time change, perhaps — that you need to know to alter your behavior.

Another problem with FYI is that it implies low priority, or unimportance.  If I have 30 new email messages in my inbox, and one simply has FYI as the subject line, you can be sure I’m reading it last.

As much as I dislike it, I know that it’s here to stay.  So, as they say, “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.”  I’m not sure that I’ll completely adopt the FYI practice, but I’ll join in the concept by proposing a counter acronym: YAR.

YAR is short for “your action required.”  Unlike FYI, the meaning is clear.  And unlike FYI, it’s not to be used as the only thing in an email subject line or the only thing that you contribute to an email forward.

YAR is an indicator.  It’s like the “urgent” flag that you can add to emails in Microsoft Outlook.  But it’s right there in the email itself.  If you see YAR in an email, you should read it first, because you have something to do.

How do you get people to respond to your emails?

Have any other tips to help promote clear communication?  Please share.

Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms

Do Things Once – The Wiki Way

I’m a “social media evangelist.”  I encourage responsible use of social media.  I think that having a good LinkedIn profile, for example,  is important.  Since I often spread the good word, I often get questions about how to use various social media sites.

One question I get a lot is: “How do I get my picture from one website (e.g., my firm’s web page) to appear on my LinkedIn profile?”   Not rocket science.  I can practically do it in my sleep.

The first time someone asked me, I called them and walked them through the steps involved.  It took a few minutes.  No big deal.  I didn’t mind doing it once.

But when someone else asked me the same question, I kicked myself for not taking a few extra minutes to write it down and send it to them in an email.  So, I did.  Now, if a third person asked, I’d be ready and forward that email – so as to not reinvent the wheel.

The third time was déjà vu all over again.  I knew I had answered the question before.  I knew I was ready to answer it again.  But now I just had to find it.  It was somewhere in my rat’s nest of Outlook folders.  It took several minutes, but I found it and forwarded the answer along. Not horrible, but there had to be a better way.

That better way was a wiki.  I had learned my lesson.  The next time I would be ready.  I saved the instructions into a wiki page.  No more email folder hunting.   I knew it was in the wiki.  A quick search for “LinkedIn” would bring it up.

That next time was today.  The whole transaction took me about 20 seconds.

The goal is to do things once, then re-use what you’ve done.  It saves time and frustration, and allows you to provide faster and more consistent customer service.

How do you use wikis to make your life — and the lives of others — easier?

Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms

Microsoft Windows and Office Tips and Tricks

There is a nice article in Law Practice Today by Dan Pinnington called The Greatest Hidden Windows and Office Tricks for Lawyers.  I am always trying to find new ways to be more productive, so I like these tips from the article.  Many of the tips are pretty well known, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Keyboard Shortcuts – “To help you remember to use new shortcuts, try putting a Post-it on the edge of your monitor as a reminder.”
  • Alt+Tab for switching between programs
  • Cascading and tiling windows – If you right-click an empty area on the taskbar, you will be given three choices: Cascade Windows, Tile Windows Horizontally, or Tile Windows Vertically.
  • Paste Special – allows copy and paste without pasting the formatting from the source.  After you copy the desired text, “place the cursor at the point you want to add it to your document.  But instead of clicking the ‘Paste’ icon, click on ‘Edit’, then ‘Paste Special’, and then select the ‘Unformatted’ option. The text will adopt the format of the receiving document and any formatting from the source document will be lost.”

Check out the whole article here.

Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms