I have a gazillion digital pictures. Each trip i ask my students to send me their pictures, so I get a trip times thirteen or fourteen = photo memory overload. Whether it is for a team project (producing a newsletter, webpage) or just a photo album of a mission’s trip, etc. I have found that a great piece of software to have is picasa.google.com photo software. This simple download can order all the pictures on my drives with the ability to add captions, notes and titles to each picture. The discipline of purging from “My Pictures” became much easier when I started using this one software package. Yes, it is FREE!
The most popular DVD we have ever made was shot in the hills overlooking Bethlehem among the sheep. This study of Psalm 23 is an exposition and explanation of this important and popular passage. If you are interested in getting a copy (US), email me. If you would like a copy but live outside the US, contact Kerugma Productions: firstname.lastname@example.org for delivery instructions. To view a few minutes of the DVD, click the link below:
There is an abundance of free software (shareware) out on the web. Some of it teams need to operate smoothly. In these hacks, I will try to survey some of it that I have found helpful. There are many blogs that do this well, but I know that there are Pastors and business owners in my circle of friends that may not read them. Nothing in these hacks will be included unless I have tried the software, and deemed it personally useful (a rating that virtually no one acknowledged!). Here it goes!
Last year a student came to Great Commission Bible Institute with no Microsoft Office suite. They went to the store and bought a student edition for about $150 before I realized what they did. Because of that, I will post this one first: The whole suite that works with Word, Excel and many other productivity pieces can be found absolutely free (from Sun Microsystems) at OpenOffice.org ! This is not a new announcement, and thousands use it everyday. It is easily downloaded from their site and works like anything I have ever purchased from Microsoft. You DON’T NEED to spend money updating to newer versions of MS products every time one office somewhere updates theirs. Your whole team can download this and keep it current at no charge.
We have already written in a previous hack about the use of online based document software available through Google docs. Another excellent piece of software (also free) is their Google Presentation software, that has worked for me seamlessly with my Microsoft Power Point files. There are options to work with a presentation that is located on the web, or that is kept on my own drive. If you are familiar with Power Point, this web based application will be very helpful, and did I mention, FREE. A simple but entertaining presentation of all of this software and the concept can be found at:
Another freebie for this hack is a personal favorite. Recently I have been a part of several conference calls and meetings where a group of individuals have needed to coordinate schedules and “poll” each other on a good time to get together or call. “Doodle” is a free website where I can create the poll, ask my questions, send the link to my list of those involved, and watch responses in near real time.
How can I use this? Let’s say five couples want to go out on Friday night. We need a time and a place, right? I can send them a simple link with time choices and restaurant choices and “poll” them. That’s a simple example, but think of how this can work on team based projects. What day of three is best for us to have the upcoming meeting? Is it better in the morning or afternoon? If you are spread out across the globe and you need a quick straw poll, this is your simplest answer. Go to www.doodle.ch and check this out! It is effective and fast. Yes, of course it is also FREE!
Something remarkable is happening in the team working world. The software framework of our lives is shifting beneath our feet. Yes, Bill Gates is retiring from Microsoft operations, but something even more profound is shifting… More people are using “Team software” or collaboration software. What’s more, is most of this new software is FREE.
Instead of using Microsoft Word or Word Perfect x.0, try a collaboration of writing notes among team members using the Google Docs software, all free online. Set up an online free Google account for your office use and have all of your team members able to log on. When you create a document or update a document, every person who has web access can view the document in real time. In fact, every person on the team who has been given access to the document on the system can change it. If two work on it at the same time, Google will let you know when you go to save that there are two docs competing to become the revised version. You can rename one and compare them, making a choice.
The best part of working online with documents is that you can avoid emailing back and forth fifteen revisions, trying to keep which one is the most recent and best. In addition, no matter where in the world you are, you can access the team’s most recent collaborative document. Simple solutions have already been made for working offline on materials, so you needn’t stay online all the time to be working on them. You can set your laptop to automatically update files you have been working on at the time you next go online.
Someone is reading this and asking, “What about security?” Fair question. Yet, I don’t know many people that have that much secure information that they collaborate on and send via an email or web. Obviously there are ways to encrypt and do that, it just doesn’t happen in my world that much. Most of what we work on simply isn’t that sensitive. If yours is, I would suggest working another way.
All of my students are required to turn in all work digitally. In team projects, I want them to get used to the idea of using online software, because many of them will work on teams that are not geographically bound to the same area as them. Life is changing and even social networks are electronic for many around the world. What makes us think we need the team in the same office to work together.
In my travel office (one of the businesses that we set up years ago) I can get a photo from that day’s Jerusalem event, put into a document written in Florida with travel flight of a recent teaching details from our booking agent’s office in Ohio and match it to a video clip from our producer in South Africa from a DVD we shot in Israel six months before, link them all and have them on the web by nightfall in Florida. The next morning (Jerusalem time) a brochure can be generated at the printer’s office in West Jerusalem and a pdf copy can be emailed to me for final approval before the press runs. We call that a Tuesday, it happens all time in businesses around the world. I choose color printing based on where I can get a good deal, in Asia or New Jersey. All of it will be shipped anyway.
Our place of business is increasingly becoming wherever I am sitting with a cell phone and laptop. As much business is being accomplished in my local Starbucks on a Wednesday morning, as in the local strip mall. Business is changing. Teams can keep up and work together with no monetary investment!
Because my life includes a substantial amount of travel, I have learned some things about hotel rooms. I know that Orlando is still the best dollar for value city anywhere, with rooms in palatial buildings costing me $60-75 a night (thank the Lord for priceline – name your own price!). I know where in the hotel I don’t want to stay (the room next to or across from any exit point, (elevator or maintenance room). A third thing I know, as sure as I am breathing, is that organizing my room is the secret to a good trip. You may laugh, but I try to put my things in the exact same place in every room I stay. If I need something in the dark of a night, I can find it without turning on a light. My toiletries are placed in the same order (sounds OCD doesn’t it). But it helps.
The problem comes when I am traveling with my sweetheart, or my kids or colleagues. They move things. It can become the subject of some tension when I can’t find something that I reach for on my way out the door and haven’t left time to search around. One of the tips I took some time ago from leadership books was to try to organize my life. The life organizer Gina Trapani has written a number of articles on this.
Any team must decide where to keep the uniforms. In other words, we can’t build solid communication between us on detailed plans for next quarter if we can’t agree on where to recharge the cell phones in the office. We can’t use each other’s files if we all keep a different filing system (we will talk in another hack about organizing files in the computer later). We must agree on the “common space” and the “common needs”. In the school where I teach, each student has a bed and desk that belong to them for the year. In addition, they have some common areas. In the common areas the cleaning and the organizing becomes an issue each year, as the students must learn the principle of “Team Organization”.
The principle is this: “For the good of the team we must agree to maintain common areas and property by putting each item where we have predetermined it should go.” If everyone moves one thing and places it somewhere else in a dorm of twelve students or an office of five workers, all will be completely disorganized in one week.
There is a natural law of organization. All of us have experienced it. Have you ever put a flat surface (like a table, cabinet or dresser) next to an entry door? What happens? Within a short time, a pile forms of collected “stuff” on the surface. The natural law of organization is that we will put things in the easiest place to put them down, not in the easiest way to find them. In that way we make life easier on the front end, but harder on the back end. We don’t naturally place something according to the “finding point”. In a way, “we sabotage our future” (Trapani’s expression for it). She’s right!
Hack #3 is to organize all common space in the office according to two guidelines. First, what location for this item makes the most sense to the team (where will they naturally expect it to be). If we all decide each time we buy coffee where we will put it, we will spend an inordinate amount to time looking for it every time we go to make it. A simple discussion in the team on common space can eliminate any mystery when a sudden coffee urge overpowers us.
Second, how can we make that location easier to get to without intermediate points. If each team member has an inbox or “hotfile” (a wall mounted inbox outside or inside their office door), we don’t want to have a “general inbox” near the front door. If we did, we wouldn’t be sure if a new item went to our box or was still in the holding bin.
Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised. In our homes and in our offices, common space needs to be defined by or for the team, refined over time and maintained. We have to agree to do it together, or someone will end up being the “mom” and doing it for us. Since most offices don’t have a “mom”, we probably need to do it for ourselves.
Probably the best Biblical texts for this claim come from Paul’s writings to the Corinthian believers, particularly in 2 Corinthians. The letter can be divided into three sections:
1) 2 Corinthians 1-7 are arguments as to why Paul is not at Corinth in spite of the fact that he told them he would be back by that time. The section addressed the fact that “life change transformation” was part of the New Covenant process that will be consummated with Israel later (Isa. 59, Jer. 31, Rom. 11) but for the time being is foreshadowed by the change in them. As a result of their transformation, Paul had no fear for them, but wanted to answer some of their discomfort over Paul’s apparent neglect of his word.
2) 2 Corinthians 8-9 offer twenty principles of giving, as Paul attempted to get the church motivated and organized to complete an offering that was to be sent to the Jerusalem believers. Paul explained his expectation of the church as the time drew near to take the offering to Judea.
3) 2 Corinthians 10-13 offers another defense of Paul’s leadership, as Paul answers some unbelieving Judaizing critics that have attacked his leadership and Apostleship. Paul openly answers some of the criticism of the Judaizers that have been affecting the people’s thinking.
To answer the question I would zero in on two specific areas of 2 Corinthians. First, I would look closely at Paul’s argument in 2 Cor. 3-5 on the New Covenant life change. In the argument, Paul says that the New Covenant that God promised Israel and Judah has been foreshadowed in fulfillment by the changed lives of the people of Corinth that were being transformed inside by the Spirit. In that context he said that the Law brought a ministry of death and condemnation (in that sacrificial animals died because of it) and the new covenant brought the Spirit, glory and righteousness (3:1-13). He noted that Judaizers were experiencing the blinding of their hearts but that those who followed were an encouragement, causing Paul not to lose heart (13:14-14:18). Paul also said that any affliction now is less important than the glory he will get in the end, when his mortal body is “swallowed up in immortality” and he becomes “absent” from this body but “present to the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:1-9).
Here Paul plainly taught that when the body was dispensed with, his spirit would immediately be in the Lord’s presence. This is what Jesus taught as well. Consider that if we look closely at Paul’s description of “Paradise” as the “Third Heaven” of 2 Cor. 12:2-4 we see that the first heaven is the atmosphere of the earth, the second heaven is the starry canopy and the third is the place we call Paradise, or where God dwells. Paul makes clear that “Paradise” and “Heaven” (the abode of God are the same in 2 Cor. 12. Why is that important? Because we recall that Jesus said to the thief on the cross that “Today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:42,43). That would mean that on the very day of the thief’s death, he could be with Jesus in the third Heaven.
Both Jesus and Paul taught that to be absent from this physical body as a believer is to join in the presence of the Lord, in Paradise. The judgment that follows appears in the context of being with the Lord already (2 Cor. 5:10-11).
It may seem a bit self serving to have a blog talk about blogs. Yet, I truly believe that this hack will be particularly helpful to my students. Get your own domain and begin a blog that becomes the “digital YOU”. There are some several reasons I want my students to pick up on this hack. At the stage of life that most of my students are (in their 20’s), it is important to look to the future and the exciting things that are in store for you. Because most of those things will require MONEY, you may want to consider how you are going to get a job in the future. Because a job is in your future, building a significant resume is in your present.
How can you distinguish yourself among your peers to make your God-given abilities and talents shine above others in the field by the time you seek that position you long for? In the old days I told students to write a book. It helped people look at you in a more serious way, and it showed that you: a) had cohesive thoughts you felt were worth recording; and b) you could finish a project your started. Now I offer different advice. I encourage every student to get a domain and blog. This transformation happened just recently, when a good friend helped me to see that my old school methods needed updating. Here are some rules worth considering:
Rule #1: Buy your name – the domain, that is. Life is moving quickly, and one of the only things you will always have is your name. If you begin to “brand” your name, you make yourself easily trackable to those you will meet along life’s journey. This won’t work if you are planning a great career in fund embezzling, but for the honest and hard working person, it will pay off. You need your friends a acquaintances, they weave the net of a social circle under you.
Rule#2: You can have a MySpace or FaceBook, but your blog should reflect the serious you that a potential employer will see. Collect your school articles here. Make this the digital portrait you want the world to see. Is that fair? Of course it is! Didn’t you ever see those “Glamour shots” pictures that some people have in their home. If done properly makeup isn’t a deception, it is accenting the best parts of your natural beauty. Use FaceBook to share your favs in mp3s. Use your blog for things that you will collect over a lifetime and hook your domain name to it. Think about the pictures you put on your blog. They will probably differ in character from those on your FaceBook.
Rule #3: Make the categories match your serious pursuits. Every employer asks the same question when hiring, “What makes this candidate a more serious contender than all the others.” In the interview, show them your blog at www.yourname.com and help them to get a glimpse of who you have become. In the better companies and ministries, they already checked you out before you got there.
Rule #4: Never post anything online that you think is personal or hidden. Ten years from now, the stunt you pulled in the dorm with your buddies will be accessible to your future employer, insurance underwriter, and maybe even your child. Think about that. If it looks dumb now, it’ll really look dumb then! Remember, jackasses get the worst jobs – they carry the weight of the packs.
Email has turned out to be the greatest tool of communication in many team efforts that I know of. At the same time, most managers and leaders find that there are a number of hacks that new team members need to know in order to help the team. This hack is designed to keep us from making each other crazy with inbox dread. Everyone on the teams I have the privilege to lead has probably heard me say, “I can say anything, but when I email it, that is when it becomes real.” What I mean by that is I simply won’t try to make any serious decisions without an e-paper trail. I know my memory, and I know there is no way I will recall all the commitments I make without a bread crumb trail back home.
Because we have probably all experienced both inbox anxiety and its evil twin e-exhaustion, we need some team rules as to the use of email. This hack is to lay a foundation to our e-communication. Every team should take some time to form some basic policies and a script or short hand that will help the team communicate more smoothly. Here are rules I ask my students and team mates to utilize.
Rule #1: If the team sends you a communication, it is for one of three reasons: We have a question that you can address (Q); we have a request for you to attempt to fulfill (REQ); or we have information you will require (FYI or INF). These should be in the subject line of the email, such as: “INF Time and place of Friday staff mtg.” Please send out emails that reflect in the subject line what you expect of the team member.
Rule #2: Sometimes you will want to cc or bcc team members. If you do, the subject line cannot reflect what you want for each person on the cc list. In that case, put at the bottom of the email, after offering your information a list of those you cc’d and what you expect from each of us as follows:
“Staff meeting is at RJ Gators at noon this Friday. The team leader for each department is required to attend.
Cc: Matt REQ: Please have new budget reports copied for distribution.
Cc: Aaron REQ: Please have pics of last trip ready for selection for website.
Cc: Dave REQ: Please have list of calls made this week and responses.”
Rule #3: Email is not IM (instant messaging), but neither is it delivery by slow moving lame camels. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, we all know you aren’t managing your time properly. Generally, we will communicate the time schedule for any REQ we make from you. If you know you can’t get to the issue on the email, send a quick e and tell the team that you anticipate being tied up until __ . Everyone will know that you got the communication and are putting it into the schedule of “future you”.
Rule #4: Keep it as short and sweet as possible. Short means using numbered points (in that way responses can follow the same format without rewriting the Qs). Sweet means, “Be careful of the tone.” Please is a normal word we use to ask for something. Email is a curt communication, but we try very hard to be civil and project how much we appreciate being on the team with each other.
As I continue to round out this site with things that I want my students to understand about both the Scriptures and life, I thought it was time to add another category or channel to The Wandering Shepherd. I am calling this category of articles “Team Hacks” in the classic blog tradition of life hackers, etc. A “hacker” is not simply a term for some subversive youth that seeks to break into the computers of the corporate in some sneaky Green Peace activity. A hacker is one who finds a solution to a problem, a key to access something closed before. A hacker is a problem solver. A “hack” is a solution.
I am convinced that we are living in a time desperate for problem solvers. I was standing in the Orlando Airport a short time ago. A young couple was standing near me at the beltway where we all awaited our incoming luggage. As the luggage came along the belt, one piece had obviously broken open. I watched as the couple began to discern that the loose articles of clothing coming down the beltway were, in fact, their clothes! The young man turned to his wife and began immediately to raise his voice, “I told you that suitcase wouldn’t make the journey!” She replied, “Did you put the strap on the case like I told you?” What ensured was an embarrassing and loud argument. Even the door guard began to pay attention.
What shocked me was not the argument. They were young, and they were both embarrassed. Yet, while they raised their voices at each other, neither collected the clumps of clothing strewn across the beltway. About thirty feet beyond the arguing couple, there she was, an elderly woman, seemingly unconnected to the loud couple, collecting the loose articles into a pile atop the broken luggage.
I moved closer as I heard someone say, “Ma’am, are these things yours?” “No!” she replied, “But they look too busy to take care of the problem!” I chuckled at her answer.
We can look for someone to blame because working together isn’t always easy, or we can look for a “hack” for the team – a solution to the trouble that keeps us from pressing ahead. Today, we are surrounded by issues that seemingly defy answers. Yet, I serve the Creator hacker, and He already knows a way to make things work. Moreover, I serve with a number of colleagues that I believe are master hackers in all things team. This category will address a few of the scraps I pick up along their trail…
Though the Tabernacle attraction is closed, the series shot on location in the Judean Desert is better than ever. Materials on the Law of Moses, the Priesthood, Law and Grace and much more is available in this series.
Tabernacle Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBFKT4v-qYw
Tabernacle Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V61FwiZ8I4Q
Tabernacle Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Z74oZJWQc
Tabernacle Part 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6SivWyHk58&feature=related
For details on how to purchase these DVD (US) email me. For outside the US email Kerugma Productions in South Africa at email@example.com and they will offer details.