An often overlooked aspect of time management is communication. We already have covered social aspects of personal productivity and I want to stress communication because I truly believe that no one becomes successful by themselves. You need other people around you. Inherently, communication involves at least one other person and how you communicate with that person or group of people can help you get on the fast track of success.
When you don’t effectively communicate with others you can end up wasting hours, days or even months of valuable time. A simple example of this is interrupting someone while that person is in the middle of a doing an important task. While you might have good intentions, like we have said many times before, interruption is one of the kryptonites of productivity. Doing this one time is not a deal breaker. However, if this is something you do routinely that is another story. The importance is that you want to be aware of how you communicate with someone so both of you don’t waste time but are efficient about it.
Ways of communicating
Nowadays there are many ways to reach out to someone without interrupting that person. Mediums such as email and text messages (or in Europe people refer to them as SMS) allow you to reach out, but the recipient can communicate back at his or her own pace. Jason Fried, author of Rework, is a big fan of this method of communicating because you don’t directly interrupt that person. Personally, I’m a big fan of this way of communicating too.
Other mediums such as the phone force you to make a decision to either respond or wait. The problem is, you still get interrupted. Does that mean that the phone is a bad medium? No. Each medium has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over a couple.
Some people hate talking on the phone, some love it. Personally, I only use the phone when I really have to speak to a person for an urgent matter. For example, a web server is down so I need to talk to the tech support to get it back online or a reporter needs my direct input for a media piece. Otherwise, for business and work, I would prefer people emailing me.
The phone does have a lot of advantages:
- You can get quick answers to your questions.
- You can convey emotions – this is great for persuasion and understanding each other so that you’re on the same page.
- You sort things out on the call instead of going back and forth over email or text messages.
- You can build rapport – this is great for people you want to network with.
- Conference calls are great to inform or instruct multiple people.
The downside of the phone is that you can get interrupted when you forget to turn it off. If you are someone who isn’t very talkative or shy, the phone can also be a inconvenience as you are more likely to miscommunicate or make mistakes.
Text messages / SMS
Text messages aren’t often used in a work environment, especially when you work in the same office building as your coworkers. Texts have a more of a friendship vibe to it. Just like Facebook, you only tend to use it for friends and family.
Also, it could be considered rude to send text messages outside of office hours because it implies that work needs to be done. Unless people are expected to be on call as part of the job, most just want to be left alone and have their own personal time.
Some of the other disadvantages of text messages include:
- It is hard to convey emotions.
- You can easily be misunderstood.
- You only have 160 characters.
However, I think there is a time and place for text messages too. Pinging people, kind of sending a FYI (for your information) text message, is a great way to share positive news. Like I did to Aaron the other day, “Hey dude, yesterday I completed 12 pomodoros. New record. Beat you sucka.”
I have a love and hate relationship with instant messengers. They have similar benefits of a phone call:
- You can get quick answers to your question.
- Group chats are similar to conference calls.
- You can build rapport.
These are all positive points about instant messengers. However, they can also be a big source of distraction. Group chats can turn into locker room talks, you can get interrupted by those IM notifications popping up on your screen and it’s easy to get into the habit of multitasking.
Email. You either hate it or love it.
Personally, I love it. There are many advantages to using email:
- You can ask for things when someone is not around and you don’t need a timely response.
- You can have attachments that can explain things words cannot.
- You can tactfully communicate at your own pace (you can review your email as many times as you need).
- You can communicate with multiple people at your own pace.
- You have a written record of information.
Of course, email also has its downsides:
- Your email might get lost in a big inbox of the other person.
- Most people have problems managing email so they might never get back at you in time.
The pacing aspect of email is what I like about it the most. At my own pace I can decide when I want to communicate with someone. This allows me to eat my frogs in the mornings and play on hero mode when I need to. But, if you have your email client open 24/7 and you watch your notifications like a hawk then email sucks. So please turn off your email notifications and only check your email at specific times in a day.
One medium is not necessarily better than the other. It really depends on the situation. Knowing that interruption is a big productivity killer, the next time you need to interrupt someone ask yourself this question: “Do I really need to interrupt this person right now? Can it wait?”
You will find that in most cases you don’t have to interrupt, so send that person an email. If that person is horrible at email, refer him or her to our email guide.
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