When you come to think about it, it is quite ironic that the amount of communications we receive can be the very reason we miss important information. Every morning as we start our working day, we need to make a choice about where to start with our messages, texts, emails, Snaps, Whatsapps and social media that make so much electronic noise in our lives. If you think about your LinkedIn presence alone, most of us need to check the actual posts, responses to anything we posted, and then the same for our business and brand pages as well as our direct messages. There is a lot of what we could call white noise in all of this communication. Not to mention the spam and unsolicited messages.
So, what do you do? Where do you start filtering, filing and responding each day?
Remember when we used to get post every day? The rattle of the letterbox and the thud, thud, thud of envelopes on the doormat? I can go days now without receiving a single letter. I am not saying I particularly miss the reliance on mail, though. It was slow, difficult to use, costly and occasionally meant trudging to the post box in the rain. In terms of functionality and ease of use, modern communication is much easier to handle. I do, however, have to admit to having a little twinge of nostalgia for the simplicity of opening the post. Once a day, there was the rattle of the box, and you went through your correspondence. For its faults, the post did have routine in its favour.
The issue now is one of overload. If you count social media feeds in the tally, along with email, texts, and so on, you could easily need to check 20+ different communication sources every morning. Then you also need to add in the time taken to respond as appropriate and post your own contributions. It all adds up to a lot of time every day. So, where do you start, and what do you do to handle the communications overload?
Setting communication priorities
I guess we all need to find ways to cut through the noise, or we would be at the keyboard all day.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Separate the personal and the business communications and deal with them independently.
- Do the core purpose of your day first. By which I mean the communications that are most important because of your business, work or current priorities. In our case, that means the people who are always our primary concern, our clients and the candidates. General business questions and so forth can be done later.
- Start with email and fully deal with that before moving on. There are plenty of systems for dealing with your email. Inbox Zero is probably the most common, but other people deal with it in different ways. Whether you treat email as something to eradicate or a sort of filing system, it is probably the first choice of most people for important information.
- Don’t cross-refer. One of the causes of confusion is the ease with which you can accidentally mix up the communication methods. Starting on email and suddenly switching to a message system is a recipe for missed information and miscommunication.
- Tell people how to contact you. If you find people are using different methods to contact you, ask them politely to stick to one.
- Go with another option than email or social. One thing that can really work for specific communication between teams is to fix a central point where all messaging is done. Slack or a similar closed messaging system or even a specific Facebook messenger or Whatsapp group can be really useful when the discussion is all going to be about a specific topic.
- Don’t respond to the pings and beeps. If you let them, the demanding pings of incoming messages will run your life. When you are not available, turn them off.
I suppose one of the results of the sheer volume of communication is that we all have a problem with FOMO worries. The fear of missing out on a really important piece of information is ever-present in our lives. You know what, though? Is a few hours delay in seeing a message really going to make that much difference for most of us? If anyone really wanted to speak to you urgently, they would pick up the phone, wouldn’t they?