In our fast-paced, multi-tasking world, in person and phone communication have taken a back seat to e-mail, texting and instant chatting. I’ve discussed this before, here, but the issue seems to be even more prevalent.
Many are so quick to respond to any incoming e-mail, text or chat notification they stop what they were working on to answer, whether they needed to or not. This leads to lost focus and wasted time and energy figuring out where you were and getting back in the zone.
It starts simply: a friend or co-worker sends a snappy or humorous note. You compose a witty reply. Before you know it, you’ve dropped everything you needed to be doing and are engaged in a lengthy stream of banter or commenting on friends’ of friends FB pages. Taking specific breaks to do this is one thing, letting the Internet or any e-communication interrupt your flow is another.
I’ve worked with people who’ll interrupt a conversation to check a non-urgent e-communication. To me, this isn’t good etiquette in a work or a social situation. If you’re talking to someone, talk. The vast majority of e-mails, texts, etc. can wait until you’ve completed your discussion. Shouldn’t the person you’re with take precedence over the person in the ether? The next time you’re at a bar or restaurant, notice how many are using their phones instead of enjoying the people in front of them.
Not only are many tied to their cells–not to make or receive calls but to e-mail or text, many are in such a rush that they skim over or don’t process all the info in a given e-mail, leaving the sender exasperated by the reply and maybe even unable to move forward. I try to make sure my e-mails are as clear and concise as possible, though there are those who ramble or obfuscate. As a freelancer working with a variety of clients and communication styles, I pick up the phone to speed up response time.
I think in person and phone conversations are better for building relationships. You have verbal and/or visual cues to help interpret tone and meaning. You’re talking in real words, not abbreviations and acronyms. LOL is no substitute for hearing an actual laugh. On the other hand, there are times you want something in writing, or time to compose exactly what you want to say. And on the other other hand, others take too long carefully crafting every word of every missive they send.
How much time do you spend a day on e-communication compared to doing actual work? Do you get distracted by i-chat or Facebook chat? Consider keeping track of how much time you spend on work and social interruptions, fun or not, instead of being productive for a week. More or less than you expected? How long do you spend responding to the average e-mail? Once you’re aware of how much time/energy you’re investing on unproductive habits, you can make changes to sway the balance to your favor.