AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

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Hi all!  I’m Sheena Horton, a Consultant and Project Manager for MGT Consulting Group and President of the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA). I would like to kick off SEA’s AEA365 Professional Development Week with a few tips for more effectively managing your dreaded, bottomless email inbox!

Hot TipsUnsubscribe! Many people receive emails that they immediately and regularly delete, sometimes without even opening them, and they haven’t unsubscribed from those email subscriptions because one day one of those emails might contain something useful. While it only takes a few seconds to glance and delete a message, those seconds can add up and decrease your productivity. For an eye-opener, take a quick assessment of the number and type of emails you’ve deleted for just one day. Your time is valuable, so make sure the items you spend time on have earned that time. Unsubscribe from email lists that you regularly delete and that have not provided any value to you in the last 1–2 months. To save time, there are many free unsubscribe services available, such as Unroll.Me, Unlistr, and Unsubscriber.

Consolidate, Automate, and Label! If you have multiple inboxes, consider consolidating them. Many email applications allow you to link inboxes so you only have one inbox to check. You can also automatically direct emails from your inbox into folders by type or sender to view later, allowing you to focus your attention on more immediate messages. Take the next step by using a program like Moo.do or Sortd to categorize and prioritize your incoming emails and to convert them into action lists or appointments.

Moo.do:

moo.do inbox example

Sortd:sortd inbox example

Create a simple labeled folder system for organizing email. Avoid overusing subfolders to reduce the chance of losing messages beneath the layers. Try to use action-oriented folder labels instead of descriptive ones (“Respond to Client”). If you juggle a lot projects, folder labels can be used to reference a contract amount or client name quickly (“State Project ($34k/Emily)”), but be careful not to create overly long folder names or your labels may be cut off and partially hidden.

Schedule Meetings with Your Inbox and Keep Replies Simple!  Turn off notifications! Nothing derails a to-do list and kills productivity faster than constantly seeing new mail alerts. Avoid being reactive to emails. When checking email, reply to messages that will take fewer than 2–3 minutes to complete and schedule a time to reply to all others by priority level. Keep your messages brief and put the most important information at the beginning of your email. Consider using the subject line to tell the recipient succinctly what the email is about and what is needed (“Subject: Draft Meeting Agenda by Monday”). To avoid tedious back and forth messages, consider skipping email for sensitive, complicated, or urgent messages by contacting the recipient in person or by phone. Finally, try not to respond to an email if a response isn’t necessary. The more email you send, the more you get.

 

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Professional Development Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Ellen Steiner, Director of Market Research and Evaluation at Energy Market Innovations, a research-based consultancy focused on strategic program design and evaluation for the energy efficiency industry – we work to create an energy future that is sustainable for coming generations.

Lessons Learned:

An increasingly common practice…

In energy efficiency program evaluations, telephone surveys are traditionally the mode of choice. However, there are many reasons that evaluators are increasingly interested in pursuing online surveys including the potential for:

(1) lower costs,

(2) increased sample sizes,

(3) more rapid deployment, and

(4) enhanced respondent convenience.

With online surveys, fielding costs are often lower and larger sample sizes can be reached cost-effectively. Larger sample sizes result in greater accuracy and can support increased segmentation of the sample. Online surveys also take less time to be fielded and can be completed at the respondent’s convenience.

Yet be aware…

In contrast, there are still many concerns regarding the validity and reliability of online surveys. Disadvantages of online surveys potentially include:

(1) respondent bias,

(2) response rate issues,

(3) normative effects, and

(4) cognitive effects.

Certain populations are less likely to have Internet access or respond to an Internet survey, which poses a generalizability threat. Although past research indicates that online response rates often are equal or slightly higher than that of traditional modes, Internet users are increasingly exposed to online survey solicitations, necessitating researchers employ creative and effective strategies for garnering participation. In addition, normative and cognitive challenges related to not having a trained interviewer present to clarify and probe which may lead to less reliable data.

Come talk with us at AEA!

My colleague, Jess Chandler and I will be presenting a session at the AEA conference titled “Using Online Surveys and Telephone Surveys for a Commercial Energy Efficiency Program Evaluation: A Mode Effects Experiment,” in which we will discuss the findings from a recent study we conducted comparing online to telephone surveys. We hope you can join us and share your experiences with online surveys!

Hot Tips:

  • Email Address Availability – In our experience, if you do not have email addresses for the majority of the population from which you want to sample, the cost benefits of an internet sample are cancelled out by the time spent seeking out or trying to purchase email addresses.
  • Mode Effects Pilot Studies – Where possible, conducting a pilot study using a randomized controlled design where two or more samples are drawn from the same population and each sample is given the survey in a different mode is a best practice to understand the potential limitations of an online survey specific to the population under study.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the Business, Leadership, and Performance TIG (BLP) Week. The contributions all week come from BLP members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I’m Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist at Connected Action, co-founder of the Social Media Research Foundation, and one of the team behind NodeXL I’ve been excited to see posts on aea365 from users of NodeXL such as Johanna Morariu, and Shelly Engleman and Tom McKlin.

Rad Resource – The Social Media Research Foundation: A new organization, the Social Media Research Foundation, has been formed to develop open tools and open data sets, and to foster open scholarship related to social media. The Foundation’s current focus is on creating and publishing tools that enable social media network analysis and visualization from widely used services like email, Twitter, Facebook, flickr, YouTube and the WWW.

Rad Resource – NodeXL: The SMR Foundation has released the free and open NodeXL project, a spreadsheet add-in that supports “network overview discovery and exploration”. The tool fits inside your existing copy of Excel in Office 2007 or 2010 and makes creating a social network map similar to the process of making a pie chart. Researchers applying NodeXL to a range of social media networks have already revealed the variations present in online social spaces. A review of the tool and images of Twitter, flickr, YouTube, and email networks can be seen on the site.

Using NodeXL, users can easily make a map of public social media conversations around topics that matter to them. Maps of the connections among people who recently said the name of a program, organization, or event can reveal people who occupy key positions as well as clusters in the crowd. Some people who talk about a topic are more in the “center” of the graph, they may be influential members of the population. NodeXL makes it a simple task to sort people in a population by their network location.  NodeXL supports exploration of social media with import features for personal email, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and WWW hyper-links.

As an example, I built on Johanna’s post focusing on twitter users of the hashtag #eval. Here is a network map, built directly in NodeXL, with vertices sized by the number of followers.

NodeXL #eval hashtag map

Rad Resource – Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a connected world. My co-authored book provides an introduction to the history and core concepts of social network analysis along with a series of step-by-step instructions that illustrate the use of key features of NodeXL. The second half of the books is dedicated to chapters by a number of leading social media researchers that each focus on a single social media service and the networks it contains. Chapters on Twitter, email, YouTube, flickr, Facebook, Wikis, and the World Wide Web illustrate the network data structures that are common to all social media services.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Susan Kistler and I contribute each Saturday’s post to the aea365 blog. This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS), an AEA Local Affiliate. At the opening session, George Grob lead a discussion that ultimately focused heavily on tactics evaluators are using for managing their multiple professional obligations, from handling email to making the most of meetings.

Hot Tips: The group offered a number of time and information management tips and I want to thank all who shared their great ideas. Among the offerings:

  • Don’t answer your email until 10:30 AM, instead start your day by diving into a project that you prepared the night before.
  • If you commute, take advantage of the time en-route to think purposefully through a project or plan for the coming day.
  • Remote corners of parking garages can be great places to get work done if you make your car into a mobile office, equipped with the tools and materials you need to succeed.
  • Make appointments with yourself, block out the time in your calendar, and use that time to focus on project work.
  • For those who work from home, create a space in your home where you are conditioned to think certain ways. For instance, set up your office so that when you enter it, you immediately orient towards work because it is filled with the tools of your trade.
  • Wait until someone you respect adopts and recommends new innovations rather than pursuing each new opportunity.

Hot Tip: Get involved in an AEA local affiliate in your area. The wealth of knowledge shared at the EERS sessions and the collegiality made it an event to remember. I learned new skills, built my professional network, and came away with ideas for collaboration. The list of AEA Local Affiliates may be found here http://www.eval.org/aboutus/organization/affiliates.asp and the AEA Online Events Directory lists affiliate events (as well as many others focusing on evaluation and evaluation methodologies).

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