Monthly Archives: July 2018

The wonders of TRAF

If you’re alive in today’s world (and believe me, with some people I really wonder), you just can’t get away from managing your in-box. Even if you don’t work in an office, you still have something known as a mailbox, a perpetual in-box if there ever was one. Stuff comes in, and it all needs to be addressed. How do you keep from getting buried under all the garbage?

That’s where TRAF comes in. I can’t remember where I first heard about this process, but it works.

Trash It
Ninety percent of the stuff that appears in your in-box can be trashed. Right away. Ads, promotions, those annoying credit card offers. I like to keep one bin for recyclable paper and a shredder right by the front door. When mail comes in, most of it goes right out again. Same goes for an in-box at work: recycled or shredded right away. The email in-box is even easier. Read, delete. Read, delete. Getting a little zealous with the delete button can be a liberating experience.

Refer It
Of the material that’s left, normally just 10% or less of the original mound, you can refer about ninety percent away. Refer it to someone else. Send those memos on to your subordinates. Hand the lingerie or motorcycle parts catalog to your spouse. Not your problem!

Act on It
Now that you’ve whittled your way to the 1% that’s left, you’re probably going to have to do something with it. Act on it. Don’t wait. You’ve done the lion’s share of the work, so now close it out. Pay the bill, sign the memo, make that follow up call. Just get it done.

File It
You may discover something that you can’t trash, can’t refer, and can’t act on right now. It just sits there looking at you stubbornly saying “I’m here to mess up your Karma”! The last and best thing to do with such annoying material is file it. Put it away where it can’t do any harm, until such time as you must act on it.

Building an amazing filing system is a topic for another day. In the meantime, you can use the ever-powerful TRAF filing system to help unclutter your in-box.

An Article about TRAF from Stephanie Winston’s Book, The Organized Executive
– Here’s a word document that discusses the technique.

Stash stuff in your environment

Driving in to work at the military academy this morning, I really needed some chapstik. Normally I carry a chapstik and a USB flash drive in my right front pocket. But last night I delivered a lecture in my flight suit, and the stick was still in one of the sleeve pockets. Those sleeve pockets are just perfect for such small objects that need to be close at hand. Unfotunately, I don’t wear a flight suit to work any more.

This brings up a tactic for smoothing out all the daily disappointments and lost opportunities brought about by a distracted mind (I’m not going to say forgetful.) I like to stash stuff in all my normal haunts. At first glance this may seem at odds with the goal of crafting a life free of karmic garbage. But sometimes having more lets you DO more. I keep a small first aid kit in my desk at work, in the pickup truck, and in the basement shop. When you need a bandaid, you need it NOW. You can’t afford to stand around wishing you had a band aid.

So think about stashing stuff around your environment. Your mind will feel less cluttered, trust me.

Avoiding the word BUT

Certain words are like signposts, warning of an impending emotional and negative exchange.

Effective Communication is a pivotal skill. When we as leaders consider requests, there are often times when we must communicate “no.”

Many entry-level manager classes include this tidbit: non-verbal cues make up at least 55% of verbal communications.  The actual words themselves may convey as little as 7% of the message, with tone making up the rest. Part of the tone includes the grouping of words. Certain groups carry a positive tone (“Happy Birthday!”), and others are more negative (“This is the IRS.”)

More skillful communicators have grown sensitive to the nature of this tone. There are many times I’ve presented an idea, been flatly turned down, and have still gone away with a smile on my face. This was not because of the negative words themselves, but rather the skill of the other person in avoiding a negative emotional tone.

As receivers we have also grown sensitive to tone, often on a subconscious level. Certain words are like signposts, warning of an impending emotional and negative exchange. One such word is BUT. It is a qualifier that can shut people down immediately. Perhaps this sounds familiar:

“Your idea has merit for several reasons, BUT those reasons are not sufficient for me to accept your request.”

Which part do you focus on? Is it the praise for taking a risk (the first part), or rejection of the idea (the second part)? That tiny little word BUT changes the tenor of the statement in a very tangible way. It shuts down further dialog and hampers constructive development. Now consider this response:

“Your idea has merit for several reasons. Those reasons are not sufficient for me to accept your request.”

The second phrasing allows the communicator to continue the conversation, perhaps:

“If you present better evidence, I’m open to reconsider.” Now the receiver is likely to go away and actually do more work for you! Avoiding BUT keeps the options open. By using BUT, an emotionally charged word, you shut them up tight.

As a challenge to my fellow communicators, try avoiding the word BUT for one week. Can you do it? Can you adjust your habitual speech and writing patterns to steer clear of the emotionally charged BUT? If you make the effort, you will discover many other words and phrases that impact the tone of conversations. The real challenge is bending that tone to reinforce elements of your message, team cohesion, and political effectiveness.

Sometimes an emotionally charged word or phrase is necessary, even desirable. But adding them to conversation should be a conscious choice.

Please share your experience with my communications challenge in the comments. Besides BUT, what other words did you find with emotional impact, positive or negative?