Friday, 6 November 2009

Newsletter Issue 174, November 2009

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 174, November 2009

Hi guys,

If you are feeling overwhelmed by constant interruptions, read Time to Stop the “Hard Stop” below & think about some changes.

We take a look at a new browser engine, Lunascape

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Time to Stop the “Hard Stop”

In a recent AMA article, Sander Flaum, Chair of Fordham Graduate School of Business' Leadership Forum in the US contributed a great article on workplace interruptions (reportedly costing the US economy $588 billion pa), why they are so destructive and what you can do to avoid them. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce that article for you to enjoy here.

Have you noticed the American office is a shrine to interruptions?  Each day managers arrive at their desks, focused on their daily and long-term missions. And each day, they must swim against a tide of e-mails, ringing phones, pinging BlackBerries, and an army of subordinates knocking at the door. If it sounds difficult, it is.
No office is immune to the problem, and the majority of employees are affected by it, as either interrupters or the interuptees. The average worker spends roughly 28% of the workday—that's more than two hours a day—dealing with and recovering from interruptions, according to a 2006 study published by the management consultancy Basex.
Which workers must fend off more interruptions than anyone else?  Unit heads, because their ears are always in high demand.  The challenge for leaders is to filter out extraneous requests and to maintain the primacy of their own essential goals.  They must remain so focused that they allow nothing to steer them off course until they are certain their key priorities have been addressed.
Of course, a no-interruption policy is only as good as the leader who institutes it.  It’s all well and good to say, “Don’t knock when the door is closed.”  But if a direct report knocks and you answer, you aren’t teaching the right lesson.  As a general rule, leaders should not honor any interruption, except for a true emergency.
“Management is largely about interruption,” writes Henry Mintzberg, management professor at McGill University, in an article published in August in The Wall Street Journal. “But e-mail—and especially BlackBerries—really makes it much worse...”
Cognitive research conducted over the past 10 years indicates that the time cost of switching between two tasks is magnified when one of the tasks is unfamiliar or more complicated—a common scenario for the executive interruption.  So if you’re trying to stay focused in a meeting about how to execute a new project, an interruption can cause greater delay than the amount of time taken to attend to the new task.
The research goes on to say that if a task is actually scheduled with a division or department head, rather than sprung on him or her as an interruption, not surprisingly it will take less time, and in effect, demand fewer resources from management.
In many cases, an interruption does more than set back the meeting schedule. A poorly timed interruption may undermine the perceived seriousness of your intent.  Interruptions not only take your eyes off the prize; they send a signal to your collaborators and clients that you may not be all that serious about the prize to begin with.
Another common obstacle to productivity is the preemptive interruption, or the “hard stop.”  Too many critical meetings begin with the phrase, “I only have a half hour,” when a half hour just won’t do.  If an issue is important, dedicate the time necessary to deal with it effectively.  Piecemeal meetings waste time and accomplish little.  Focus your time on critical matters and don’t allow a hard stop to hijack your goals.
The consequences of permitting interruptions to control your business can be disastrous. The Basex study reports that workplace interruptions cost the U.S. economy roughly $588 billion a year.  Whatever your share of that money is, your firm can’t afford to lose it to managerial mistakes—especially during a downturn.
At Flaum Partners, we’ve developed several strategies to keep interruptions at bay.  I ask team members not to take their BlackBerries into our Brainbuster meetings.  Their e-mail and missed calls will be waiting for them on the other side, whether they like it or not.
I’ve also learned to ask the same of our clients.  I suggest to them that if we’re going create viable solutions to the pressing issues at hand we will need everyone's complete attention.  At that point, I recommend that we all shut off our BlackBerries and mobile phones.  My request may seem a bit audacious at first, but it conveys to everyone my seriousness about making progress on the project. It’s a sacrifice our clients are more than willing to make.
In the end, great leaders develop their own strategies for shutting out the noise.  Formulating that strategy needs to become a priority of its own.  Just don’t let anyone—or anything—distract you from it.

Hard Stop!
This article originally appeared in AMA's member ezine at

Sander A. Flaum is Managing Partner of Flaum Partners, Inc., and Chairman, Fordham Graduate School of Business, Leadership Forum. Contact him at and view his new book - Big Shoes: How Successful Leaders Grow into New Roles - at


There are devotees of all the web browsers out there; Firefox, Opera, Chrome , Safari, and even Internet Explorer. If you really want to throw the cat amongst the pigeons, you could ask them why their particular browser is their favourite, and get quite a lot of information!

However, there is a new piece of internet browser software wending our way; Lunascape. Originating in Japan, what is exciting about this application is that it combines the engines from all the major browsers into a single, easy to use app.

So why would you care? Well, regardless of what your web browser skin looks like, it's the engine underneath that determines its performance. According to Windows Secrets newsletter, the "engine for Firefox is Gecko. Safari uses WebKit, Opera uses Presto, and Internet Explorer uses Trident. The recently released Google Chrome browser also uses WebKit, as does Safari. That should alert you to the fact that different-looking browsers can share the same engine in much the same way different cars can have unique exterior and interior designs while using the same engine."

Like car engines, web browsers have strengths & weaknesses. Lunascape lets you swap your engines. Window's Secrets newsletter goes on to say "optimization is easy with Lunascape, because it can be configured to open a different engine for specified sites. Indeed, you can have multiple tabs open, each using a different browser engine. Swapping engines in Lunascape is easy: Just right-click a tab and select the engine you want".

You can easily import your bookmarks and customisations into Lunascape; they have made it easy to adopt. If you want to give it a crack, you can download it at The initial download is 8.42MB, plus additional downloads for the Gecko and WebKit engines (if you want them).

And let me know how you get on :-)

5 Tips to Trim Outlook

If Outlook is starting to grind slowly - particularly if your .pst/.ost file is over the magic 2Gb size - then you need to think about changing your habits. Here are five things you can do to trim back the size of your bloated Outlook behemoth and reduce the risk of an all out Outlook failure:

  1. Empty deleted items. Outlook stores everything in a single file - a .pst or an .ost file (the latter is an Offline Folder). That file includes the Deleted Items folder. When you don't empty your Deleted Items, you can end up with a gargantuan-sized mailbox. Empty it regularly by setting up Outlook to empty Deleted Items automatically on exit. Go to Tools | Options | Other. Tick "Empty The Deleted Items Folder Upon Exiting" & click OK.
  2. Save large attachments elsewhere. Remember the last item, that Outlook is one single file? The same thing holds true for large attachments bloating Outlook's file size. Save any received attachments into a file folder and then dump the email. This will reduce the size of your Outlook file significantly. You can add a file size field to your inbox and sent items so you can sort your mail by size (right click on the header bar in your mailbox view, select Field Chooser and select Size)
  3. Archive. Optimise Outlook by archiving mail regularly. Microsoft has set default mailbox quotas at 2Gb. Mailbox sizes over that are headed for vastly reduced performance, if not corruption or total collapse. Set up auto-archiving by going to Tools | Options | Other tab | AutoArchive button, then select your desired settings.
  4. Keep it Simple. Dump the fancy stationery, the graphic signature, logos, badges, business cards and other fancy graphics - it takes lots of space, and if your receiver is viewing online, they are likely to only see a text-based version and won't see your stationery/signature/logo anyway. Stick to the fundamentals of communication: name, title, company name and contact information. Go to Tools | Options | Mail Format tab | Signatures button, then set your signature settings using text. Eliminate message, mailbox and server queue bloat.
  5. Maintain Outlook. Outlook’s storage file corrupts every now and again, "just because". Microsoft has an Inbox Repair Tool which will analyse your mailbox storage file for errors and creates a backup file as part of the repair process. Ensure you close any other applications that you have running before you start this process, then go to Help | Detect and Repair. Ensure you UNtick "restore my shortcuts when restoring" and UNtick "Discard my customised settings and restore default settings", then click Start. Or you could run Scan.pst (or Scan.ost) monthly.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:

  • QAT, Quick Access Toolbar. This appears at the top of Windows applications software windows, providing one-click shortcuts to commonly used functions (the defaults are Save, Undo and Redo). You can customise the toolbar by clicking the arrow icon immediately to the right.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys

In this newsletter, we are going to look at some hotkeys to use during a PowerPoint presentation:

  • PowerPoint "Start a presentation from the first slide" F5
  • PowerPoint "Run the next animation or advance to the next slide" Enter or Spacebar
  • PowerPoint "Return to the previous slide Backspace End a slide show" Esc or - (hyphen)
  • PowerPoint "Jump to the first (or last) slide" Home (or End)
  • PowerPoint "Jump to a particular slide" Type the slide number and press Enter
  • PowerPoint "Go to a black screen or resume the slide show from a black screen" B
  • PowerPoint "Go to a white screen or resume the slide show from a white screen" W

Hot Linx

To send someone a shortened URL, go to and paste in your long link. TinyURL will give you a shortened link to cut, paste and send in place of the long one :-)

If the Ribbon drives you mad in Word, you might want to add some tools to the quick access toolbar. TechRepublic has a great pdf download of the "How To" for that, at
How about a bit of tongue in cheek news reporting about people who want to opt out of our interweb lifestyle? All those new luddites out there might be interested in this onion news report at

To fully explore the capabilities of your camera, there is a whole lot of information that is trapped when you take an image. Check out just what info you can access at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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