Tag Archives: @TechCounselor

@TechCounselor: Retaking ownership of your time

By Adria S. Dunbar April 15, 2019

For those of us who are counselors or counselor educators, it may feel like we are constantly juggling and, dare I say, multitasking during our days. As wellness experts, we know this is not healthy or productive. Even so, with so many possible distractions and so many things competing for our time and attention, sometimes we find ourselves being pulled (reluctantly) toward these counterproductive habits.

I’ve invested a significant amount of time over the past few months investigating my own use of time. In fact, for the first time in my life, I committed to pursuing a New Year’s resolution for 2019. I want to be more intentional with how I choose to spend the time I have each week. I don’t know about you, but I want to have greater ownership over my calendar rather than allowing my calendar to have ownership over me. I suspect that other counselors might also be struggling to find an ideal balance. So, here it is — a brief summary of some of the tools that are helping me increase my awareness around time.

 

1) I highly recommend a podcast called Hurry Slowly hosted by Jocelyn K. Glei. Listening regularly has been a great way for me to explore my own productivity habits related to time management, creativity, efficiency and balance. Glei describes the podcast in the following way: “Hurry Slowly explores how we make smarter decisions, feel more comfortable taking risks, and manage our attention more intelligently when we learn to take our time.” Counselor practitioners may particularly enjoy episodes by Jason Fried (“Whose schedule are you on?”), Cal Newport (“Using technology with intention”), Alex Pang (“Prioritizing rest and reflection”) and Fanny Auger (“Conversation isn’t about talking”). One of my personal favorites is Glei’s “Creativity vs. efficiency”.

2) I’ve also been using an online tool called Toggl. I have the app on my phone and downloaded on my MacBook. Toggl allows me (and reminds me) to track my time when I am working. For example, I had no idea how much time I was spending responding to email. Seeing the patterns allows me to make more intentional decisions about how to prioritize and block my time so that the time I am spending on tasks aligns with my work mission.

3) Laura Vanderkam is one of the leading experts on time tracking. She is the author of several books, including 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. She also has a Free Time Makeover Guide (a pdf is available on her website), which is an eight-step framework to help you reconsider how you spend your time.

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In addition to these resources, or perhaps as a result of using them, I have also set some new norms for how I want to conduct the business of living my life. This has required quite a bit of self-reflection on my part, and technology has certainly impacted these results. Here is a list of a few of my new norms:

1) Plan for the next week on Fridays using (wait for it …) ANALOG tools. Typically, I was trying to make weekly plans on Sundays. There were several reasons this was not working for me, but two stand out. First, planning on Sunday meant that my work week was creeping into my weekend time. Second, it is much easier for me to plan for the following week when I’m still in work mode rather than weekend mode. I’ve been using a Clever Fox Planner to reach this goal. I still use Google Calendar for appointments, but my planner helps me prioritize and budget my time, while helping me stick to my focus for the week.

2) Once my schedule is set for the week, I try very hard not to make changes. I realized I was adapting too much to other people’s requests for meetings, phone calls, appointments, etc. I was rescheduling based on other people’s requests A LOT. Now that my schedule is set, I can better prioritize my time and feel an increased sense of control over my calendar, which allows me to spend my time in ways that align with my goals.

3) I’m still working on an earlier bedtime and wake-up time. This actually may be a lifelong growth edge for me. However, I have implemented a Screen Time curfew of 9 p.m. My iPhone settings have helped me stay committed to this practice.

I’d love to hear some of the strategies counselors are using to manage their own time, or feedback on any of the tools that you are trying to practice in your own life.

 

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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.

@TechCounselor’s Instagram is @techcounselor.

 

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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: Counselors as innovators

By Adria S. Dunbar August 9, 2018

Have you ever been at work using a software system and thought to yourself, “It would be so nice if this software would let me do ___________”?

Maybe you wish collaborative comments were possible when a team of providers is involved in client care. Perhaps you’d like it if calendar reminders included a two-sentence summary of your last session so you could avoid opening a laptop between sessions. Maybe you’ve thought about how nice it would be if emails and faxes could be sent directly from the electronic health record you are using. Maybe you wish you could streamline aspects of your counseling practice or have more automated systems for tasks that are repetitive day after day. Perhaps you’d like to collect data from clients in a way that would help them reach their goals faster.

Stop for just a moment and think about your biggest frustrations (or pain points) at work. Are they universal issues that others in the counseling profession also experience? Could there be an innovative solution?

Typically, when counselors have a problem to solve or a thought to increase efficiency, we begin searching for innovative solutions that already exist — and hope that these solutions won’t be too expensive to adopt. Sometimes, we are even lucky enough to find a solution that mostly fits our needs as counselors. Although the innovation was actually created for health care professionals, the business world or other types of practitioners, we make due, find workarounds or settle for almost perfect. In some cases, finding and using these solutions seems to go well enough, but there also are many examples of ways in which borrowing technology from other fields falls short.

Now imagine what might be different if counselors and counselor educators were the innovators behind innovative technology solutions. How might software be different if it was created by a counselor? What are some counseling concepts that might find their way from our practice into the software we create? Mindfulness? Digital health? A strength-based focus? Wellness models?

How might the user experience be different? How might the content be more applicable to our work? How might our practice be improved through innovation that runs in the background and allows us to do the work we love instead of spending so much energy on the logistics of running a practice, providing supervision or training counselors?

As a counselor educator who values innovation and tech development, I spend a lot of time considering the ways in which our work could be improved if more counselors felt empowered to take their innovative ideas and turn them into something we could all use in our practices.

 

If you have examples of counselor-created software or other innovations that are working well for you, please contact me. I’d love to share them with readers here at CT Online.

 

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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.

 

@TechCounselor’s Instagram is @techcounselor.

 

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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: Streamlining repeat emails

By Adria S. Dunbar April 16, 2018

No matter my professional role, there always seems to exist the need to send out the same email over and over again. Either I write the same email monthly or annually, or I write the same email and send it to multiple people.

When I was in private practice, it was a “New Client” email. As a school counselor, it was usually an introductory email to parents and students. Now, as a counselor educator, my repeat emails are related to admissions and advising. Regardless of the content, I can help you streamline this process to save yourself a lot of time.

The first step is to embrace Google Sheets. Even if you don’t enjoy Sheets (or similar software programs such as Excel or Numbers), I can promise you that Sheets is one of the best tools to help you manage your email. Create a sheet, or multiple sheets, with the following columns:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email Address

Those three columns are the basic necessities to make this work, but feel free to add others. Oh, and capitalization matters.

Once you have your columns set up on the first row of your spreadsheet and have input all of your data, click on “Add-ons” and then “Get Add-ons.” Search for “Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM)” and download the software. Get ready to be amazed at how easy this is!

Compose an email to all of your recipients. You might want to include some personalization, such as “Good morning, {{First Name}},” or “Hello, Dr. {{Last Name}}.” Your spreadsheet might also include a column titled, “Appointment Date,” in which case you could include that in the body of your email. For example, “We are excited that you will be visiting us on {{Appointment Date}} and look forward to working with you.” Once your email is complete and saved (Google autosaves for you), you’re ready to use YAMM.

Go back to your Google Sheets. Click Add-ons > Yet Another Mail Merge > Start Mail Merge. Choose the Sender Name and the Email Template you’d like to use. YAMM gives you a list of your most recently composed emails. You can also choose to track emails to see if and when recipients receive or open your message. Finally, you can also delay your email to send at a specific date and time. This is great for those of us who tend to be working late at night or over the weekends. However, you can also send right away. In either case, you may want to use the “Send Test Email” feature just to be sure your email sends in the way you intended.

For even more advanced options, check out how to convert Google Docs to Emails using a Chrome Extension. This will help you create branded or creative email messages that will really impress your recipients.

 

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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.

 

@TechCounselor’s Instagram is @techncounselor.

 

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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: Creating email signatures

By Adria S. Dunbar March 22, 2018

We’ve all heard that a first impression is incredibly important, so we get dressed up, pay attention to our choice of words and do everything we can to present our most professional selves to the world.

Sometimes, however, we don’t have the opportunity as counselors to put our best foot forward in the literal sense. Instead, we must rely on digital communication for a first meeting. Believe it or not, your email signature says a lot about who you are. I will keep this article short and sweet, just like your email signature should be.

 

Here are some tips for creating an effective email signature:

 

  • Think carefully about the photo you upload. Make sure it is a recent photo, a high-quality image and appropriate for your professional setting. If you don’t have a photo you like, perhaps you can choose a logo instead.
  • Link to your social media, but only if it is up to date. No one wants to read your tweets from 2009!
  • Do not include your email address. If recipients have your email signature, they have your email address.
  • Lead people to what you want them to learn about you. This might be your Twitter account, but it could be your webpage or your Instagram instead.
  • Think about using a booking site (Adria uses youcanbook.me/) so that people can book an appointment with you from your email signature.

 

Your email signature should be simple, effective and functional. Here is an example that Adria created with WiseStamp, a free email signature creator.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

@TechCounselor’s Instagram is @techncounselor (instagram.com/techcounselor/).

 

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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: Translating emails into efficient to-do lists

By Adria S. Dunbar and Beth A. Vincent February 14, 2018

This month, we return to our common email issues faced by counselors. The question we have been asking (and answering) is: 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 get 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.

In this column, we are talking to everyone who answered “C” to the question above. That’s all of the counselors out there who need a little extra help translating emails into tasks on their to-do lists.

As counselors, we get a lot of emails. If you’re like us, you may even get hundreds of emails every week. Very often, these emails come from a variety of sources. In one day, a counselor may receive an email from a client asking to reschedule an appointment, a request to sign and return a release of information form and a call for conference presentation proposals for the state counseling conference.

Buried within these email messages are tasks that need to be accomplished, all with various deadlines and differing priority levels. All of these to-do’s can easily get lost or forgotten. As counselors, we don’t want to let people down or not fulfill an obligation, but without a means to set reminders or make a note, that is likely happen. This is especially true for those of us who check our email from our phones, when we are not necessarily in a place to use sticky notes or a whiteboard to help us keep track. One system we use to help manage our to-do’s is an app called Google Keep. Keep is a free application that Google developed to create digital sticky notes and reminders. It is available in both desktop and mobile application form, allowing you access to your to-do lists no matter where you are.

Notice that we said “lists” — as in the plural form. If you’re a sticky-note lover like us, you’ll be pleased to learn that you can make practically unlimited numbers of digital sticky notes (called “categories”) that you can color-code, share with others and prioritize. You can also set location and date reminders.

For example, you could create a to-do list for your client needs, administrative tasks, professional development and personal errands all in one place. Another way to use this feature is to create categories depending on the task’s priority level or deadline date.

For those with more advanced sticky-note skills, color-coding your notes can help distinguish your personal categories from your professional categories or your shared notes from your private notes. Oh, and you can pin the ones you use the most to help move your most important items to the top of your list and keep them there.

Once you have set up your categories, you can easily go into the app or desktop feature and simply type or dictate your tasks one at a time. Once your items are on your list, you can even add check boxes. So, if you are one of those people who get a very satisfying feeling when marking an item off of your list, this feature is for you. The app keeps a record of each item you enter and mark off your list in case you want to keep this information for your records or revisit how much you’ve actually accomplished.

In addition, you can set reminders for your various to-do’s so that you can receive notifications based on date and time or physical location. This can be helpful for reminding you to call Client B when you get to the office or to submit your conference presentation proposal by the deadline date.

Another way this app can help simplify your life is through the sharing feature. You can share your to-do list categories with anyone you work with. For example, let’s say you are planning an outreach presentation with a co-worker. Use Keep to create a shared task list by adding a collaborator to your list, and see in real time when your co-worker has completed a task.

So, how do we use Google Keep to manage our email tasks? We keep it pulled up on our desktops and on our phones each time that we open our inboxes. This way, as soon as we receive that professional membership expiration notice, we simply type it into our Google Keep to-do list and keep moving on with our day. This helps us set boundaries with our email — i.e., not mindlessly checking it when we are not ready to sit down and act on it — and allows us to avoid those stressful situations when it feels like an important task might have slipped through the cracks.

 

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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/).

 

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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