Monday, October 31, 2016

Getting tasks done

We all have days that things just don’t seem to get done and then there are the days that everything seems to get accomplished.

Lately I have been dealing with the days that things don’t seem to get done and then I realized why that was. I am working on some bigger projects that a day isn’t going show me the results that I have wanted to see. It has been a big challenge because I was starting to get down on myself for not getting things accomplished but then I realized that instead of just looking at the end result I needed to start looking at all the little bits of things that I have accomplished along the way.

Not every thing will work like this, but what I ended up doing was actually tracking some of the smaller things that I accomplished each day and then I started to feel a little better. Also I started to write down all the little things that needed my attention that I was trying to keep in my head. Being able to un-clutter the mind has also resulted in me feeling a lot better and I am seeing some results again. Of course, the big projects are still there but at least now that I am seeing even the smaller steps accomplished it makes me feel a lot better.

I think we all go through times where things just don’t seem to be moving forward and we forget about the small accomplished that have been reached along the way. For most projects there are the smaller accomplishments and they need to be noted when you start feeling like you are getting no where for a few days. The list that I keep isn’t very detailed but it is starting to show me that even when I feel like nothing is getting done I can see the few little steps that have been accomplished along the way.

There are always going to be things that take you away from the main task that you had on your agenda for the day but you need to realize that the other things also needed to get done. The getting the small things done are also important and knowing that they can get done and out of the way is also good. For us it can be a simple email or a text message that changes our day so knowing that even bits of some tasks are getting accomplished works well.

Getting the tasks done may not be something that is accomplished in a day but at least seeing that some progress has been made can really make a different. The tasks may have feel extremely overwhelming at some point but then you just need to look at them in the small pieces and you will feel better as you get each of the smaller pieces accomplished. Lots of pieces of paper to track some of the accomplishments will let you know that you are getting things done but maybe just not as quickly as you first thought.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I can't find that email

How many times have you heard someone say “I can’t find that email you sent me” or “Can you resend me the email because I don’t seem to be able to find it”. In business this is something that I think we all deal with at some time.

If someone if looking for an email there are methods that can be used to assist them in locating that specific email. Of course there is the request for it to be resent because they just can’t take the time to check their email themselves and don’t know the other ways to try and find it. I have received a number of phone calls about someone not being able to locate an email and asking me to resent it. I do resent the email but what I normally do is find it in my sent items and forward it showing them the original date and subject line that I used.

Search – this is one of the methods that can be used to locate an email when you have a general idea about the subject of the email. It doesn’t have to be exact but at least a general idea by help. An example would be “staff meeting” if you are looking for minutes from a staff meeting that was sent earlier in the year. The search would then show just the emails that are in your email pertaining to staff meetings. The person would then be able to find the email that they were looking for without having to ask for it being resent.

Sort – here is a method that can also help you locate an email if you know who sent the message in the first place. Email can be sorted by name, date, size, subject and are all different methods of helping you locate that email that you are looking for in your email. By doing the sort in a couple of different ways you will probably locate the message you are looking for as long as you haven’t deleted it.

Folders – using folders within your email system is another way to assist in locating the various emails you are looking for. The only thing with folders is the volume of email in each of these folders can get out of hand very easy.

Saving the attachments – if the email has a file attached the first thing you should do after receiving the email is save the attachment somewhere else which would also make it easier to locate. We all deal with tons and tons of emails and yes they can get a little overwhelming sometimes but knowing how to sort and search your emails can make life so much easier. There will be times when you have to ask a person to resend something because you deleted it but at least it won’t be as often.

All of these methods will assist you in finding that email that you received or sent. It is also very important to remember to not keep everything in your email account because things can be deleted in error or your email system can get corrupted and you can lose everything. The rule that I always try and use is if the document is something that I may need in the future, save it outside of the email system when you receive it. Don’t think just because the message is in your email today it will be there tomorrow.

Email storage isn’t unlimited so in some cases emails can be lost if there are issues with the storage. Figure out how to manage your email account and don’t just leave everything there and not understand how to locate what you are looking for.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Common sense isn't always so common

I have some across a few examples of why I have titled this blog what I did. As being a person that continues to think about my personal security I have noticed that people seem to forget about the basic things.

Credit card information
Credit card information seems to be one of the things that I have heard a lot of stories about and how people don’t think what they are doing is wrong. Here are a couple of examples of what I have heard lately.
  • I had a problem with a hotel business centre so I emailed them and asked for a refund of the fee that they charged for me using the business centre. When I emailed them I provided my credit card information so that they didn’t have to contact me for it. This is a good example of how credit card information can be stolen if it gets into the wrong hands.
  • Yesterday I was in a hurry to get to work so I figured I would place the order over my cell phone while I was traveling to work. I didn’t want to try and waste the time at home and I knew that once I got to work I would forget so I did it while on transit to work. So what this person actually did was provided their credit card number, expiry date, three digit security code, name and address while on transit over their cell phone. Basically this person provided a vehicle full of passengers a lot of information that could be used for identity theft. If you are afraid you will forget to do this task when you are in a better place to do it sent yourself a reminder so that you can do it lately and don’t do it in transit or out in public.

Computer security
These are some situations that I have seen.
  • A computer is left unattended on a table in a food court or in a fast food restaurant while a person goes and gets some food. The person’s back is to the computer so they would never know if someone walked off it it while they were getting their food. People don’t think of how quickly a computer can go missing when your back is turned. If you are going to leave a computer unattended for any reason out in public you should be ensuring it is secured with some sort of security cable to at least slow the person down and draw attention. Invest in a security cable so that you can secure your computer to the table or even a chair so that it looks extremely odd if someone is trying to steal it.
  • Entering passwords on mobile devices in clear view of others and then leave the device and walk away. This is another situation where the person isn’t thinking that someone could send some damaging emails just by getting into this person’s mobile device. This actually did happen when I was at an IT event and an employee of the company doing the presentation did this at the table we were sitting at. Not long after seeing this the presenter mentioned how they ensure security policies within the company. Gee, I am thinking that the person at our table must have missed that presentation for employees.

Wallets and other personal items
A few very common issues I see.
  • A women has a purse on transit and forgets that with the new trend of no zippers to close the top of the purse the wallets and mobile devices are in easy reach of someone else. A purse that is open on transit is one way to lose a lot of your identification and not know it until you actually need to use your wallet or other item that was removed. This also applies when you leave a purse open out in public and have it in a position where others can see it but you can’t. Think about the purse that you purchase and will be safe when you are atually carrying your personal items in it. It might be the lastest fashion but is it going to be something that is actually going to ensure others to steal your personal items.
  • Leaving wallets and other personal items on a food court table and gets and orders food or to grab napkins or the like. A simple thing to be quickly removed from a table by someone. Don’t leave wallets or mobile devices on tables when you walk away if there is no one else to look after them.
  • Individuals carrying their credit card in a holder on the back of their mobile device or even in the case with their mobile device. People seem to forget that when you are holder your device and using it you are showing others what you are carrying with your device. Someone may not actually get a hold of the credit card but even all the devices with cameras on them it would be extremely easy to just take a picture of the information. If you are going to carry this information with your mobile device at least make sure you turn the card around so people can only see the back of the card and ensure the security number isn’t visible.

Recycling information
Everyone has seen this
  • People throwing credit card statements and other statements into the garage without destroying the vital information on them. I have even seen people sit in fast food restaurants and go through their billings and then throw the statements in the fast food restaurant garbage or sort of throw them in the garbage. The paper is left sticking out of the garbage so again easy for someone else to pick up. It is always amazing to see how many people will do this and then wonder why their identity was stolen. If you are going to be throwing out your credit card or bank statements it is best to do it at home and it is best to shred it so that no one can see the information.
  • Recycling the statements and putting them in the recycle bin at home and then put the bin out for pick up. This is just like throwing them out in a public garbage. You are leaving the personal information available for someone else to steal.

So yes, common sense really doesn’t seem to be so common any more. People are doing things so quickly now that they are not thinking of the outcome of their actions. Wallets, computers and mobile devices are stolen almost daily if not daily from food courts and fast food restaurants because they have been left unattended. Personal information is found on public streets because of how they were thrown out.

Protecting your personal property really isn’t so difficult but it does take a couple of minutes to think about what you are doing and what the possible outcomes could be.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Good Bye Inukshuk - you will be missed

Inukshuk has been part of the Toronto Zoo polar bear exhibit for years and of course it is the polar bear that I have fallen in love with.

Inukhuk became part of the Toronto Zoo family in 2003 when his mother was killed by a hunter. He hasn’t spend his entire live here as he was in a couple of different zoos but he turned to be the Father of both Hudson, Humphrey and Juno. He has played a key role in making sure that the Toronto Zoo has been able to have the polar bear cubs.

Hudson - one of Inukshuk's sons
It is now time for Inukshuk to move on and I am going to be missing this guy when we go to the Zoo because he is the one that I always look for. He is also the one that I have enjoyed taking a lot of pictures of. Inukshuk has been spending his winters up in Cochrane Ontario at a polar bear habitat and this time when he goes up he wont’ be returning to the zoo like he has in the past. The original move was scheduled for July of this year but because of the weather we had he got to stay at the zoo a bit longer.

I don’t know when a new male polar bear will be added to the Toronto Zoo exhibit but I really hope that he has the same time of personality as Inukshuk had.

Inukshuk is moving up to Cochrane at the end of September 2016, so by the time you read this blog he will be back at his winter home. I am glad that we heard that he was going to be leaving the zoo before we went because I wouldn’t have been happy to go and discover he wasn’t there.

Next time I go out to the Toronto Zoo I know that I will look for Inukshuk but at least I know that he will be enjoying his winter where it is nice and cold. He will probably be given over to another zoo for an exhibit and I hope they enjoy seeing him as much as I did.

Taking lots of pictures of Inukshuk
Inukshuk – I have loved seeing you from when you first arrived at the zoo and upon your return. I have seen you quite a few times and have lots of great pictures of you. I hope you will enjoy your new home and know that you made a lot of people smile because of your crazy little habits.
Update – Since I wrote this blog there as been an announcement that the Toronto Zoo will be getting two male polar bears in October of 2016. The bears are Hudson and Humphrey, which will be returning to the Toronto Zoo from the Winnipeg Zoo. Both of the polar bears are returning as they were born at the Toronto Zoo and Inuksuk is their father.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Transit in a big city

TTC Closure map - Sept 24th and 25th, 2016
For all of us that live in a big city we know that public transit can be good and then it can be really bad at times.

For us that have subways within our transit we know that there are going to be the challenges due to medical emergencies on the trains from time to time. We also understand that there will be mechanical issues on the trains from time to time. These are situations that cannot be helped and normally we just try and plan for a situation like this to happen when we are trying to get somewhere by a specific time.

Now what we don’t like with our transit system is when a major section of the subway is closed on a weekend when the transit system is really needed. Of course, there are only over night and some weekends when the subway system can be upgraded and that I understand. What I don’t understand if why the transit system would close off a major section of a subway line on a weekend that there are major events in the downtown core.

The closure that I am writing about is one that happened the weekend of September 24th and 25th. The TTC decided that it would be a good weekend to close down a section of the Yonge line between Bloor-Yonge and Osgoode Station. This basically is the main section of the Yonge line that gives people easy access to certain major locations. The locations that I am talking about are:
  • Eaton Centre
  • Union Station
  • Air Canada Centre
  • Rogers Centre
  • Ripley’s Aquarium
  • CN Tower

Yes there are the locations that during this weekend that are going to be a bit more of a challenge to get to. Now the explain why this isn’t a good weekend is simple as there are a number of events that are happening in the downtown core and these are:
  • Blue Jay games versus New York Yankees – both Saturday and Sunday
  • World Cup of Hockey – both Saturday and Sunday
  • Word on the Street – Sunday
  • Eaton Centre – open all weekend
  • Ripley’s Aquarium – open all weekend
  • CN Tower – open all weekends
  • other tourist areas.

Now this isn’t a complete list of what will be impacted by the closure but you can see that even with the first two events going on that means that there are going to be ten’s of thousands of people trying to get into the downtown core each day over the weekend without one of the main subway lines available to them.

The TTC has stated that there will be shuttle buses running between all the stops on the subway line but a bus carries a lot less people than a subway train so it is going to be another crazy weekend in the downtown core. I understand that the TTC needs to do work on the subway tracks but this section of the line could have been booked for a different weekend. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is part of the city so they should be checking for major events in an area before they schedule the closures. Now the TTC has the closure is to make the service better in the future which I hope is true but really did it have to happen this weekend.

For everyone that is going to be traveling into the downtown core this weekend of the closure all I can say is make sure you give yourself lots of time to get where you are going. Pack your patience and understand that you aren’t the only one trying to get somewhere.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Amazon -- the frustrations

How often have you found something that looks like a good deal only to discover it isn’t?

One of the things that I have been seeing is how often there are wonderful deals through Amazon and I go to check it out because it is something that I have wanted. The worst part of this is after you have gone through all the analysis, of if you want the product or not, you decide to purchase the item and then this happens. Based on your location you should be shopping through and not

How what is bad if when the offer on is not available on even for just a slightly higher price. There was one case that there was a book being offered for $0.99 on but when you went to the website it was being offered for $7.99 which is extremely frustrated. Why is the price so much higher on basically the same site but in the United States they can get it for $0.99 but in Canada we would have to pay $7.99 for the exact same digital book. It wouldn’t be frustrating if the price in Canada was $1.49 for the book but 8 times what the deal in the States was is extremely maddening.

There are also the deals that exist on and are no where to be found on which is also upsetting. There have been times that I have been looking for a cross-stitch kit and have found it through thinking I was on only to discover that it isn’t available through at all. These are the things that bother me because there is no way for me to purchase the item through no matter how I try. Ok, maybe if I had a mailing address or a shipping location down the States I could get the product but then there is the cost of going down to the States to pick up the item.

Looking for the books that are offered through various publishers and writers is the upsetting. I have found a number of times that the book through the American site is a wonderful deal but then it is either extremely expensive on the Canadian site or not even available. If people are going to make something a deal it should be available to more than people in the United States. I have now started letting people/companies know that the deal should state “only available in the United States” instead of letting people around the world think that the deal is also available to them.

The internet has opened up so much of the world to others but deals through sites such as Amazon can’t being opened up. If I am willing to deal with the exchange rate when I make the purchase on the .com site that is up to me and there shouldn’t be sites that are saying to a consumer, you cannot purchase from this site even a digital book because you don’t live in my country. Authors are losing out on some sales because of this limitation and it needs to be changed.

Amazon should be a place where I could go and purchase what I would like to purchase especially the digital media. If I am willing to deal with the exchange then that is up to me. If the item is also available through the .ca or other country sites let me know that and then let me make the decision of where I will purchase the item.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Get writing

These are some of the words that I can hear some days from my husband/business partner.

I normally hear these words "Get writing" when I am talking about my writing total for the day and I am saying that I haven’t got as much done as I would have liked. I can also hear these same words when I have let him know that my writing has been really good and I am happy with what I have accomplished. The words “get writing” aren’t done in a negative way because I normally am getting the writing done that I want to write.

“Get Writing” is normally done with a big smile on his face because he know that for me my writing is something that I really enjoy doing. Writing to me is an escape from the rest of the world sometimes. There are things that I write for fun and then there are the things that I write professionally. Yes there are times that the writing is a blend of both fun and professional.

What makes people laugh is when I say that I enjoy writing how to manuals and policies and procedures. Yes, a lot of people find these to be such a challenge and to me they are a means of assisting others in understand what they should be doing. In IT, when you say to someone you should document that you get those looks (normally a glare) because the individual doesn’t want to sit down and figure out how to word it. Being able to communicate to others a task can be a challenge but it can also be very rewarding. If someone says they don’t want to write a document, I will let them know that all they need to do is get the basic information down and then I will take it and make sure it makes sense. Maybe what gets a lot of people is they figure that when you say document it you mean it needs to be perfect right away. A lot of documents have to go through quite a few edits before they are at the final stage and that is when normally happens. Getting your thoughts down first is the key part that needs to be done and then making sure all the other information is where can be done after that.

Writing the how to manuals or policies and procedures can be a challenge to ensure that you get the information correctly communicated but that is why you get a few people to read it before you make it public. Manuals in some cases are going to be used for a short people of time and then the task will be learned and the manual will be put on a shelf and forgotten. Policies and procedures are something that people will look at from time to time if they need to verify something. Making sure that both of these types of documents communicate accurately what you are saying is very important.

Get writing in so many ways for me is now something that makes me smile. Yes, I write quite a bit of my day and I enjoy it. Being able to love what I do is very important and it also helps me know that in some of my writing I am helping others as well.

It is now time for me to “Get writing” and see what else I can accomplish today.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Voice messages

Have you ever got a voice message and it simply says “Call me”?

I think this is one of those voice messages that frustrates a lot of people because you haven’t said why you were calling. If you would like me to call you back it would be nice to have a little bit of a heads up about why I am to call you. Is it an emergency, is it when I have some time to chat or is it time sensitive and I need to call back without a certain time? Making sure that if I need to check into something that I know about it before I call you back would be wonderful as well.

Voice messages can be a challenge at the best of time and the new method of getting your voice messages to text can also make it a challenge to understand what is being said. For us, we decided that it was better not to even have the voice to text message because it didn’t work too well. In some cases you had no idea who was calling because the name was destroyed by the program. Another thing was if the person had even the slightest accent the words really got changed.

Now, if you are going to leave me a detailed message I appreciate it because it will give me the detail before I return your call. After leaving me the detailed voice message please do not immediately send me an email with the entire message again. If it is an emergency OK, I understand you are trying to get a hold of me several ways. If the information you need isn’t urgent let me have some time to check the voice message and return your call. The other point is if the information you need is going to require me to email you the information it might be just as quick to sent your request via email in the first place.

I understand that with the mobile devices it means that you are a lot more attached to your email and voice mail than we were before. The other thing that people need to understand is that we can’t always immediately be checking our emails or voice messages during the work day. In some cases if we are in a meeting we are not going to be able to check to see what the messages are that just arrived. For a lot of people that work personal mobile devices are not allowed to be on during the normal work day and only on at lunch.

For clients, I understand that they are looking for answers on a timely basis and those messages are the ones that I will give the attention to first. If your voice message just says “call me” and I have other messages with more detail I am likely to deal with the other messages before your call me message. Now, if you have called me and left a detailed message and then emailed me all the information as well remember that I will only answer one of the methods. Email will likely be done quickly as those I can normally handle during quick breaks if I am in a meeting but a phone call may have to wait. The other thing to remember is that if you have emailed me your request as well as left me a voice mail I am likely to reply to the email and never call you unless you request a call back in the email as well.

Voice messages are very important as a means of communicating. If you need someone to check into something before they call you back let them know that in your voice message. The accurate voice message will result in a lot quicker answer to your original call and won’t result in the worst thing that can be phone tag of simply “call me”.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Daily writing

There are so many blogs, websites, etc about learning to write on a daily basis. Maybe some of them have good advice on them and others are just going to repeat the standard message. To write every day you just need to sit down and write. One really good reason to write every day is because a better writer you just need to practice the skill.

One thing that I learned while trying to write on a daily basis was not to get upset with myself when I missed a day at first. Writing every day has to become a habit and yes it does take some time to get into that habit of sitting down and writing.

So many people say that they are writer but there is one thing missing if what they really say. Being a writer means that you need to write and not just talk about writing. Real writers are those people that simply write every single day. Of course, some writers are lucky and are able to just sit down and the words just flow but others have had to practice their skills and get into the habit of writing every day.

For me to get into the habit of writing I needed to have a few steps to assist me in achieving the daily writing and these were:
  • Pick a spot where I was going to try and write every day. I found that sitting at my desk in front of my computer was a good spot for me to start my writing.
  • Set a time of the day when I would try and write. I found that being able to write first thing in the morning was when I could just sit and write. It was also the time of day when emails and phone calls were less likely to interrupt my writing.
  • Set myself a writing goal. This was originally how many words a day that I was going to try and achieve.

When I couldn’t get the words to start to flow in the morning where are some things that I would write about:
  • What was the weather like when I sat down to write.
  • What was on the schedule for the day, working at home, at our office, going to a conference or any of those things.
  • What did I do after I finished writing the day before.
  • What was I feeling as I sat down to write.
  • Use a writing prompt as there are a lot of websites that will email you one each day.

Of course these are just some of the ideas that I had when I started to write. I got into the habit of trying to write each day and it has got a little bit easier. There are days when I don’t seem to be able to find the words but I still sit down at the computer and try each morning. I may only have a few minutes at the beginning of my day to get something down but normally I will find time at some point during the day to add to the writing that I started.

Daily writing is just what it is. It is sitting down somewhere every day and writing even a little bit. Being afraid of what your writing looks like is something else that you need to overcome. Your daily writing is just that it is a draft and no one else is going to need to see it. If you are writing a story then yes you will edit it later to make it look professional. Your general daily writing is just for you and you have to remember that when you sit down to write. It doesn’t have to be formatted perfectly and you don’t need to ensure that every word is the exact word that you should have in that sentence.

To get into the habit of writing you just need to give yourself permission to write and let it happen. You may not achieve your writing goal every day and something your writing may not make a lot of sense when you read it over but at least you are writing. To become a writer and actually say that you write means one thing and that is you do write.

It’s one thing to call yourself a writer but it’s quite another to actually write.