Tag Archives: @TechCounselor

@TechCounselor: A better way to email, Part I

By Adria S. Dunbar and Beth A. Vincent December 11, 2017

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with email. Luckily, there are many software solutions to help counselors and counselor educators handle email more efficiently. Let’s begin by identifying the email issues you want to fix. If you choose more than one, don’t worry. We will take it one step at a time.

 

1) Which inbox issue are you trying to solve?

  1. a) I write emails during nonworking hours (e.g., 4 a.m., weekends, holidays).
  2. b) The number of emails I receive each day is out of control.
  3. c) I need to translate my emails into tasks on a to-do list.
  4. d) My email signature leads people nowhere.
  5. e) I write the same email over and over again.

 

We will spend the next few months addressing each of these types of email issues, one at a time. For those who chose “I write emails during nonworking hours,” we suggest an email add-on that might save you a lot of time and energy. It’s called Boomerang (boomerangapp.com/), and it just might make your life with email a little easier.

 

Counselors, meet Boomerang

We are all trying our best to set boundaries with work and work-related tasks. Maybe you like to spend your Saturday mornings catching up on work, but sending an email on a Sunday evening or Saturday morning alerts people to the fact that you are available and working. Or perhaps you are a night owl who writes emails at 3 a.m. The meta-communication of when we send our emails says something to the recipients.

Regardless of your counseling role, email is a reality of the working world. Now that the majority of people have a smartphone, our emails tend to follow us everywhere — even when we are not physically present at the office. Everyone manages his or her connectedness differently, but as counselors, it can be challenging to set boundaries when it comes to responding to emails from clients, students or co-workers. Unfortunately, it can be easier to just go ahead and respond immediately rather than risking the sometimes unavoidable reality of forgetting to follow up at a later time.

Boomerang is a helpful tool that allows you to schedule when your emails get sent. What this means is that you can write and respond to an email whenever you choose — maybe that is at night after your children have gone to bed, or on the weekend when you said you weren’t going to be checking your email. Regardless, you can schedule the email to be sent to your client’s inbox at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning during normal “business” hours. This can help us as counseling practitioners or counselor educators to model better communication boundaries to our clients and students (i.e., suggesting that we are not instantly accessible) by limiting communication times and creating a culture of self-care.

In addition to setting boundaries, Boomerang allows you to schedule emails ahead of time, whether that is hours, days, weeks or months in advance. For example, perhaps you are planning a workshop or group event that is a month away, but you already have a list of attendees who have RSVP’d. Using Boomerang, you can write your email reminder now and schedule that email to be sent to attendees a week before your event takes place. This takes the pressure off of you to remember to send a reminder email.

Boomerang does come with some limitations. The tool is accessible both for Gmail and Outlook users. However, currently, you can schedule only 10 emails per month using the free version. Once you hit your 10-email limit, you are unable to schedule additional emails until a new month begins (unless you pay a monthly fee for the service).

In our view, there are definitely benefits to the paid services. For $5 a month, you can schedule messages to return to the top of your inbox at a set date, while also including a note to yourself with next steps or reminders. You also receive mobile access to the application. For additional fees each month, other features are available, including unlimited emails with Boomerang, recurring messages (e.g., weekly, monthly, yearly), a setting that allows you to pause email notifications and a setting to prioritize a VIP list of senders.

Whether wishing to disconnect a bit more, wanting to be more organized with your recurring messages or just needing reminders of the emails you sent that no one replied to, Boomerang can be a tool to help counselors reduce some of the mental clutter that we all experience because of our very full inboxes.

 

****

 

Adria S. Dunbar is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She has more than 15 years of experience with both efficient and inefficient technology in school settings, private practice and counselor education. Contact her at adria.dunbar@ncsu.edu.

 

Beth A. Vincent is an assistant professor at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, in counselor. She is a counselor educator, licensed school counselor and former career counselor who is driven to learn everything there is to know about innovative productivity software so that she can help counselors be their most present selves. Contact her at evincent@campbell.edu.

 

Our Instagram is @techncounselor (instagram.com/techcounselor/).

 

****

 

Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

@TechCounselor: There’s no escaping technology

By Adria S. Dunbar and Beth A. Vincent November 13, 2017

Do you pay for your drive-through latte with your iPhone app while streaming Spotify through your Bluetooth speakers and double-checking your GPS for traffic notifications? Or are you the stalwart who prefers to park and go inside to order your coffee because drive-throughs seem so impersonal and face-to-face communication is an endangered art? Whether you’re the early adopter who embraces technology usage in every aspect of your life or the skeptical laggard who argues that we would all be better off if we were less plugged in, you can’t escape the question of whether (or how) to integrate technology into your life and work.

For those of us who are counselors, our technology habits in our personal lives likely influence how we use technology in our professional lives, including in our relationships with colleagues and clients. Yet it can be difficult to remain self-aware about our habits and choices surrounding technology use. Constant advances in new technologies ensure that as soon as we have a solid grasp on current technology, a new innovation bursts onto the market and changes everything. This is lifelong learning to the extreme.

Why does it matter which technologies we use and how? If technology is a means to an end — be it increased efficiency, convenience, communication, transparency or organization — then it matters whether those ends are achieved. Email enables us to communicate from the convenience of our smartphones, but not when the messages pile up too fast for us to read and reply to them. Cell phones make us accessible 24/7 from any location, but only until our signal gets dropped. PowerPoint helps us stay on track in meetings, but not when the presenter falls back on reading slide after slide of black bullet point text from a plain white background. When technology fails — when it does not get us to the desired end — we can end up feeling lost, frustrated or even betrayed.

The downsides of technology can arise from our own abuse of technology or be inherent in the technology itself. We see the human tendency to abuse technology every time a co-worker consistently replies to all when they think they are replying to one. Or when we sit in a meeting that is filled with the incessant tapping of keyboard keys as colleagues refuse to unplug long enough to attend a one-hour meeting. Or, perhaps worst of all, when we sit silently while a lunch companion stares at a screen rather than paying attention to the human being seated directly across from them. At times, we may catch ourselves being less present in the company of others, distracted by social media, email or notifications. Some of the ways people use software may even be categorized as addictive or criminal.

In addition to these human failings, other pitfalls are inherent to the technologies themselves. Important emails wind up in spam folders, text messages never make it to their intended audience, and software crashes a moment before we hit save, just as we are entering the final case note of the day. Just as we all benefit from technology, we also struggle to navigate its challenges.

As counselors, our choices around technology use are laden with our professional responsibilities. Federal laws dictate what we can do and say in online and digital formats. Our social media must be monitored carefully to avoid the creation of dual relationships or unintentional self-disclosure to clients. Our behaviors must be models of healthy boundaries in front of those we serve. Ethical standards exist to help guide our professional behaviors, but as counselors, we are confronted with an ever-changing technology landscape that affects our personal and professional lives and the lives of our clients.

In this shifting landscape, how do counselors make decisions about which products to use and which to avoid? How can we leverage technology to make us more efficient and effective without allowing technology to steal the spotlight away from the real work we are doing with clients? We must keep returning to the question: “What is the end goal, and how can technology help us get there?”

Each column in this new monthly series for CT Online will explore this question in the context of a different type of mobile and online software technology that counselors use.

Future column topics will include:

  • Email
  • Productivity software
  • Communication software
  • Site blocking software
  • Record-keeping software
  • Online counseling platforms
  • Chat and texting
  • Mobile devices

 

****

Adria S. Dunbar is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She has more than 15 years of experience with both efficient and inefficient technology in school settings, private practice and counselor education. Contact her at adria.dunbar@ncsu.edu.

 

Beth A. Vincent is an assistant professor at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, in counselor education. She is a counselor educator, licensed school counselor and former career counselor who is driven to learn everything there is to know about innovative productivity software to help counselors be their most present selves. Contact her at evincent@campbell.edu.

 

Our Instagram is @techncounselor.

 

****

 

Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.