Written In Whatever Works

yes written in the sand

Wow, it’s been a while, but I’m back… at least for this post.

There are times when it does become a question when trying to establish guidelines if you are taking the “written in stone” method or the more ambiguous and flexible “written in mud” approach.

“Written in stone” implies this is how it is, and there is virtually no wiggle room for you to move outside the guideline. You essentially have to work within them which is excellent in the beginning. However, as time goes on and things evolve, you might start to see bits and pieces of your stone tablet starting to chip away.

Those strong and idealistic guidelines proved very helpful in establishing your processes and creating the environment you are working with. However, they also may have become even more restrictive than you expected as these guidelines now control your work versus you controlling the work product you want to produce.

Hence, the idea of “written in mud” comes to light. Yes, as the phrase implies, it could get messy. Still, because it offers some ambiguity and more flexibility than the stone practices, that messiness allows you to try out new things within reason and carry on with your evolving workflow.

Your written-in-mud guidelines can evolve with the times versus needing to be carved out of another stone tablet that will likely fall prey to the same ravages of time the first set of written-in-stone guidelines did.

Which approach is best for you and your projects will ultimately be your decision, although it will eventually come down to the approach: written-in-whatever-works.

Get It Right The First Time

You’ve only added two lines – why did that take two days! ~ Matt Lacey

The above is a great read and another aspect of providing support. In this case, the premise is “fixing a bug” and getting it right the first time.

Ideally, every time you have an interaction with someone in support you will be able to provide them with a solution in your first response… and sometimes that may take a bit longer than usual but most of those times getting a solution will be much more appreciated than a quick response prolonging the support request.

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No Shortcuts

Learning a new shortcut can often take longer than the long way you already know.

When offering a new strategy or approach to something, keep in mind following the tried and true methods will always work. Sure, it may be great to find a new and better way but not at your customer’s expense or reducing the quality of care you would have provided before spending the time to find the new approach.

This doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t find ways to improve and enhance your approach — only that it should not be at the expense of others when you do.

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Quality communication is a key component to any support endeavor. You will always need to be able to convey the idea you are trying to present to another person, or persons, and how you communicate will be of utmost importance.

As a continued theme, working remotely you will most likely be using some sort of communication “tool” with your team that provides audio, video, and text channels. This post will mostly focus on the text aspects and some considerations when using it.

First off, “text has no tone” is a bit of a mantra to remember. When you are typing your message to another person try to remember to be clear and concise in the information you are sharing. Also remember, there is no body language to convey any extra emphasis and no real means to add emphasis like physically leaning in or raising your voice to animate the conversation (there are some formatting tricks you might consider but for the most part think simple monospace plain lettering as what the person will ultimately see).

Also to note, mind your language! You are typing a message, it’s not like you can accidentally drop an f-bomb into the conversation and carry on — if you type it and hit send it’s mostly going to be a done deal and there for all to see that have access to your sent message.

Take a moment to read (and re-read) the message you have written before hitting the send button. Aside from any poor choice of, or inappropriate, words you should be re-checking your spelling and grammar as well. Some things like blatant spelling and grammar errors or unprofessional language can both distract the reader as well as affect the reputation you are representing (yours and the company if writing to customers). Of course, knowing your audience is the caveat to this, if having a chit-chat is expected/wanted by the other person then it might be best to use that approach and have the content of the message much more loosely guarded.

In my personal opinion, there is no reason whatsoever to use inappropriate language (i.e.: f-bombs, etc.) in text communication. Take the time to find a better way to explain the idea you are trying to share and find better ways to accentuate these ideas… even if that means using more socially acceptable, business-friendly terms that convey the same meaning as a frakking 5hi7-storm f-bomb might.

One last point to ponder, when you are writing someone, pretend they are on the other side of your workspace and consider what reaction they might have if you actually said what you typed instead.

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I heard it said that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

In some homes, a sole occupant faces endless loneliness. In others, family members are getting peace, rest, and time with each other — while in still others, quarantine means an increased danger due to domestic violence.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment, some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk, and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near-death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.


An inspiration to take to heart when working with others, especially when you are trying to help. You might be working with someone facing challenges you are not and this may have an effect on them.

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Ça va bien aller

Perhaps more a timely phrase with the current work environments being seen at the time of this writing although ultimately this really holds true no matter the case.

“Everything will be OK”

When working remotely or just providing support in general, one of the key elements you should be striving for is having your customer feel that all is well and things are just going to work out.

This also applies to yourself. You are your first customer of the day every day. You need to make certain you are in a good headspace to do your work. Remember, a smile goes a long way to helping someone feel better about their current concerns.

Start every conversation with a smile on your face and treat the conversation as though it was the first one of the day. This shows through to the customer, this also lets you shake off the earlier events of the day and give your best efforts towards the customer you are currently working with.

Vive les Québécois for this reminder.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Take Breaks

Although it may be important to set boundaries, it’s just as important to take breaks, too!

If you are working from home, you should take advantage of your own personal support system. Take breaks to spend time with your family… if you are coming from working in an office environment this would have been difficult to do. Use the flexibility of remote working to get in some extra quality time with your family, take your dog for an extra walk, or just spend some quiet time to yourself and enjoy that new tea you found!

Taking a break during the day will help keep you from burning out. It’s a healthy work habit to keep — or create if necessary.

Just like you should be getting up from your desk “in the office”, do the same in your remote work space… and take advantage of the extra benefits of spending more time with your family or slipping in that quick exercise routine… whatever it is, just make sure to take breaks for your own well-being.

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Set Boundaries

Often when working remotely, it is important to have a dedicated workspace… or, at least a dedicated work schedule.

The key is to be able to ensure you can focus on your work when you need to and having a dedicated space where others know you are remote working; or, an explicit work schedule to let others know when you are working. Both of these create a sense of respectable boundaries where you can feel comfortable you will not be easily disrupted by some outside influence.

Sure, make a comfortable bed for your best four-footed friend to hang out while you work; let the “kids” know they need to try to be respectfully quieter during “working hours”; and, let your partner know that although your schedule does offer some great flexibility when remote working the whole point is you still need to be working and meeting those expectations.

Setting boundaries helps everyone that is affected by remote working, especially when first entering that type of environment. Try to make sure they are clear while also being respectful of others and you should be good to go… and remember to follow those “rules” yourself — the beach isn’t going anywhere.

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Don’t Change Anything

One of the biggest concerns when migrating from an in-office environment to a remote environment is simply the changes that are involved — in short, don’t change anything!

Of course, your commute is going to change — more prep time!

You might even look at making a real breakfast instead of a drive-thru coffee shop on the way to work — great, better meal management!

You don’t have to pack a lunch, you can plan a good midday meal or activity for your lunch break.

You can work in your pajamas — “don’t change anything”, get dressed for work! You might find something a bit more casual or comfortable according to your remote work environment but keep in mind you are going to work not a slumber party.

Start work at the same time you did when you went into the office and work as long as you normally would. Take your lunch! Time management is one of the easiest things to let slip both in working too much and not putting in an appropriate amount of time and energy into the day.

The key to my success and rapid change from an in-office desk job to a high-efficiency remote worker was to keep as much of my day the same in both environments so I could continue to focus on the work versus the short commute, the more nutritious lunches versus labeling my food in the fridge… and getting dog-walking breaks when one of them needed to go out or just wanted some attention.

Don’t Change Anything! — unless it makes you more productive and allows you to do your work better and more effectively.

Perhaps even more important, be honest with yourself when asking if the above is true when making those changes.

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