Why I’m not using my Google Voice number

I have a Google Voice number (originally from a Grand Central beta invite.) I love the concept, but I don’t publish my Google Voice number.  Why am I passing up on making use of cool technology that can route my calls to me wherever I am?  Fear of audio advertising.

Google Voice may have audio advertising

We’re inundated with advertising throughout our online experience, watching movies, and for some even on their mobile phones.  I see a phone call as more personal and intimate than any other form of electronic communication.  My friends and family have had my phone numbers for years – I saw Google Voice as a great opportunity to centralize my phone numbers into one published number that could follow me around.  But, if a customer is calling me for work or a prospect is calling me about consulting, the last thing I want them to hear are advertisements while they’re waiting for me to get to the phone.  Especially when there’s an opportunity the advertisement could be from a competitor or from some company/service I wouldn’t want to be associated with or perceived as endorsing.

For me, it’s one thing to see ads in the sidebar of a web site (easily ignored), but an entirely different story to force callers to endure them while waiting to speak with me.  You could make the argument that I could just let everyone know if I ever decided to stop using Google Voice or take the number with me.  I’m under no illusion that the agreements Google puts me through give me any real say in the matter.  I see phone calls for more important/urgent real-time communications.

If the point of engaging online is to connect and stay connected, would you take the risk that some may not be able to find you later on, when some new tech fad comes along and makes Google Voice look “so 2009”?


Blog post from Scott H Young on Deadlines

There is an interesting post on the Scott H Young blog about deadlines. See the full post at Scott H Young >> Budget Your Time: How to Use Deadlines.

Scott covers what deadlines won’t do, what they can do, and what makes a good deadline.

It’s a good reminder of why we need to set goals and deadlines — to give us structure, focus, and motivation.


cut it out! (junk mail and telemarketing calls, US)

A little while back we were receiving at least 10 pieces of junk mail (unsolicited US postal mail) and 1-2 telemarketing calls per day. I found three things you can do to significantly change this. I’ve shared these instructions to family and friends, but figured it was time to share on the blog.

I know of three free things you can do to help cut down on this junk in the US:

Opt out of junk mail and credit card offers

The Direct Marketing Association’s “How to Get Off a Mailing List” page has information for getting off mailing lists as well as opting out of credit card offers. (It looks like the mail preference service now has a $1 fee for both online and mail-in — the mail-in used to be free.)

You’ll want to submit your information and $1 fee to opt out of mailings. They say it takes 30-90 days to see results, but we saw changes in just under 30 days.

On this page you’ll also see information on opting out of credit card offers. If you only want to opt out of credit card offers, you can go directly to OptOutPrescreen.com.

Stop the telemarketing calls

Registering your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry should stop most telemarketing calls. Though it doesn’t apply to charities, political organizations, or phone surveys. In our case it has significantly reduced the number of unsolicited calls we receive. For the few calls we get from groups not covered by the registry, most have been respectful of our wishes when we have asked them to remove our name from their lists and not call again.

Hopefully these steps will help you cut down on the junk and interruptions like it has for us. If you know of any other tips/tricks we can use, please let me know.


mobile web access, I can stop at any time

Quick update. I’m using my Treo 650 to access the web pretty much every day. Still in a “pull-only” model, and I think that’s working out. I do find myself checking work email more often than I probably should, but it is always when I have the time to do it. Emails don’t come to the phone automatically — interrupting my day.

Any tips for keeping the balance?

taking the plunge, mobile web access

In my post about the BBC story on ‘The rise of technology addiction’, I mentioned I didn’t have access to the web from my phone. Well, now I do.

My wireless carrier was offering a plan that included more minutes and unlimited web access–so I figured I’d try it out. I still don’t have any plans to have email pushed to me — that way I can pull information when I need, but I don’t get pinged for every email that comes through.

I have found myself checking work email even more often — I’m hoping that is just until the novelty of it wears off. Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve used and my thoughts:

  • Love Google Maps Mobile, Yelp Mobile, and GMail mobile!
  • I’m not fond of reading my rss feeds with Google Reader mobile, I find it is too difficult to skim though all the feeds I subscribe to, marking several posts as read without taking everyone on the page. I don’t normally click through to read every post that comes through — though it looks like I’d have to with the mobile version.
  • And most importantly, my credit union has a full service mobile interface that I’ve used almost every day
  • Still haven’t had time to play with Flickr and NetFlix mobile, but I’m looking forward to it!

Now my question is, what other services should I be using?


BBC story on 'The rise of technology addiction'

When I read this BBC News article, my first thought was “I can stop at any time.”

One major consequence of this phenomenon is that the line between work and private life is much more blurred, now that e-mail and phones provide a 24-hour link between employers and staff.” [see BBC News full article]

All joking aside, this is a serious problem for many people, and one I stuggle with myself. I have to admit I work more hours than I should, but I am not connected to the ‘net all day, every day, intentionally.

I’ve carried a mobile phone for almost 10 years and have found coworkers, managers, and customers respect that after hours calls should only be for truly urgent problems.

Two years ago I started carrying a Palm Treo 650. When faced with the prospected of web access from my device at any time, I have to admit I was very excited. With my mobile service, it is still rather expensive, so initially I held off because of cost. Now that I have had more time to think on it, I’m glad I made that choice.

I carry my Treo everywhere, and sometimes will jot down ideas, projects, tasks that pop into my head. Or I’ll take the time to work on a thought while I’m waiting in line somewhere. I don’t see this as addiction, it just gives me an opportunity to get the thoughts out of my head and on my lists (see Getting Things Done for more on how I manage my time).

With this approach, I’m available for emergencies, but I don’t give space in my head to every concern that comes in via email. I’m not sure if I will ever turn on web access on my device. If I do, it’s going to require more work from me to keep a balance, but for now, I’m able to use the technology to keep me productive without the constant interruptions to every other aspect of my life.

How do you manage this and keep a balance?


wishful thinking is no substitute for common sense

July 3rd I wrote the post “Sometimes recharging just isn’t enough“. When I first had car problems, friends and family suggested maybe the alternator on my car was failing and that I should have it looked at. Ignoring their advice, I chose to replace the battery because it is cheaper

With the new battery I made it about 20 days without significant problems, that is, until Thursday of last week. On my way home from work a car cut me off, so I used my horn. That set a chain reaction of electrical weirdness in motion that left me without dashboard indicators, radio, power windows, or air conditioning. I managed to get my car home, but once I turned it off, I couldn’t get it to start again without charging the battery first..

Brought the car for service on Friday and they found the alternator wasn’t working. They fixed it while I waited. Driving home, everything worked perfectly.

So what is the moral of the story, you ask?

It’s a lesson I have to re-learn from time to time. Sometimes I want so badly for the common sense approach to be wrong, for whatever reason, that I eliminate it as a possible solution. In this case it looks like I didn’t damage the new battery I purchased, but I did create more problems for myself by not addressing the problem in the most appropriate way from the start — I didn’t leverage the experts available to me to help analyze a problem I did not have the expertise to address.

In my delusional world, replacing the car battery was all that was needed to keep everything running smooth. I could have seen replacing the battery as one step in the troubleshooting process, but instead I replaced the battery hoping that would be the end of it.

Live and learn.


Do you stretch regularly?

At 3:00 am yesterday morning, I woke up with a pain in my left leg. I think my hamstrings were so tight they cramped. It took a few minutes of trying to walk around and stretch before I could get it to relax enough to let me go back to sleep. Six hours later it still hurt. It’s taking quite a bit of stretching to get it back to normal.

It amazes me how closely taking care of the physical parallels the professional and how dependent one is on the other. I’ll be the first to admit that taking care of my physical self has always been secondary. Now that I’ve neglected my health enough, I’m feeling the effects: less energy; poorer concentration; and muscle cramps.

When we fail to stretch ourselves professionally, we get similar results. It doesn’t lead to muscle cramps, but it often leads to other types of “cramping”. We feel less energy for our work, sometimes even a strong aversion to it. Some feel boredom and begin developing a sense of apathy. I believe too much of this can lead to health problems as well (mental and physical.)

I see three things that need to be done to help avoid this problem:

  1. Identify your goals. If you have no idea what you want to accomplish, you don’t know where to go. It’s like being in a new city without a destination. Sometimes it is good to wander, but not all the time. Make sure your goals are higher than where you are now. If my goal is to take out the trash — I’m setting the bar rather low. Instead of choosing goals that you know you can accomplish, choose ones that require some work. Just don’t set the goals unrealistically high. Here are some tips for goal setting.
  2. Create rough plans for accomplishing your goals. This doesn’t mean putting together a full project plan, just a rough outline that helps you understand how to get there and how to measure if you are successful. For example, if you want to move into management, you might want to start reading up on managing or attend a class. Maybe schedule an informational interview with a manager you respect to get a better perspective. The key here is to identify actions you can take to move towards your goals. You’re in the city with a destination, make yourself a map. Paradise Valley Community College has a Interactive Quick Goal Plan tool you might find helpful.
  3. Take action! You’ve chosen what you want to do, identified a rough plan for accomplishing it, now get started!

And remember the proverb:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Lao-tzu (604 BC – 531 BC), The Way of Lao-tzu [source The Quotations Page]

Sometimes recharging just isn't enough

Saturday I went to a family gathering about 2 hours away from my home. Had a great day until the drive home. I was about 1/2 hour from home, signalled that I was changing lanes when my car experienced some electrical craziness. The radio and air conditioner went out and I lost my dashboard indicators. I figured I’d drive another 15 minutes to the next large town and stop to get it looked at. Unfortunately, about 3 minutes later I lost the ability to accelerate.

I quickly pulled off the highway and called for a tow truck. I couldn’t start the car, or get enough power to close my windows. While waiting for the tow truck, a nice guy stopped with his tow truck to help out. He helped jump the battery so I could close the car windows. He suggested we charge the battery for a few minutes, then try starting the car. I was a bit skeptical, but it worked. Twenty minutes after pulling over, we were on the road again with everything working. I picked up a new car battery yesterday and haven’t had a problem since.

This got me thinking. Is burnout the equivalent of the car battery problems I had? Excessive use (or abuse) causes the battery to no longer hold a charge like it used to. I think we experience this problem and unfortunately we can’t just replace our internal batteries and keep going.

Here are some resources on burnout:

How not to react: Stress man at office (YouTube video)

Lesson from a porcupine, watch your reaction

Last week I was driving along one of the back roads near my home. When I rounded the corner, I found a porcupine crossing the road. He saw my car and started running. I had already moved left to avoid him, but I guess he thought I was moving too quickly for him to get away. Half way across my lane, he suddenly stopped and hunched over so his quills would be pointing up to protect him.


I’m sure this approach can be very effective with most predators, but he probably wouldn’t have fared well against a car.

As I passed him, I couldn’t help but think about how often people do the same thing. When confronted with a challenge, threat, or anything stressful, we often choose a reaction out of habit, not because it is the most effective.

[Picture is not of the porcupine in the road, it is one that lives in my yard. We call him “Fluffy”]

Habits become ingrained because we repeat the behaviors, reinforcing them over time. I said “we often choose a reaction out of habit,” because it is our choice. It is always our choice.

Next time you are faced with a challenge, take a deep breath and check your reaction. Is it the most appropriate for the circumstances? By choosing a different action or behavior than the one you would normally take out of habit, can you bring about a better outcome?