IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Take Control of Your Communication (It's Really Okay)

I just finished writing an article for the Relax Focus Succeed newsletter that will be coming out next week. (Sign Up Here)

In that article, I mention author Neal Stephenson and his policies for communication. As part of my research, I wandered over to the web site page where he explains why he never responds to email or speaking requests. And I found an interesting slide-out window:

Do you see it?

There's a place to put your email and subscribe to updates from Stephenson's press people. At first it seems odd that you should let them email you, but there is literally no way for you to email him.

But this reveals an interesting truth: You can limit your communication intake and still produce as much output as you want. Why is that? Very simple: Most people are very poor at managing their time and attention. As a result, it's easy for you to interrupt their flow and break into their communication channel.

I have found this to be true in my personal and professional lives. With very few exceptions, I never answer my phone. But when I call others, I know they'll answer because most people don't have rules like this.

I check email on a schedule and keep it closed the rest of the time. I check Facebook on a schedule and keep it closed the rest of the time.

I have weaned myself off the dopamine pump that comes with social media alerts. And most people never notice. Every once in awhile, someone will accuse me of ignoring them. That is, until they realize I'm ignoring everyone else as well.

Interruption - especially electronic interruption - has a tendency to make us feel more productive while it actually destroys our productivity. We confuse busy-ness with effectiveness. At the same time, we don't "feel" the effects of lost start-up time required to get back on track after an interruption.

If you have no rules around in-bound communication, you can assume that people are wasting your time. Consider making a chart. What are all the ways you can be interrupted? For example, telephone, text message, instant message apps, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, door knock, shoulder tap, fire alarm, etc.

Consider what would happen if you pick five of these and allocate three minutes to each of them every hour. That's 25% of your time! Does that seem reasonable? It shouldn't!

So when you meet someone who says, "I don't waste my time with social media," consider that they might have it exactly right. If you can point to where social media (or any other communication medium) improves your life or business measurably, then allocate a limited about of time to it. If it's just fun, then consider cutting it out of the business day and only using it evenings or weekends.

Put this on your list of personal SOPs: Develop an in-bound communication policy.

Feedback welcome.

:-)

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About the Author

Karl W. Palachuk, is a technology consultant, author, speaker, trainer, and coach. He is the author of fifteen books. He has built several successful businesses, including two managed services companies. His books include Managed Services in a Month and The Network Documentation Workbook. Karl is a frequent trainer and speaker in the SMB Community. His popular blog can be found at SmallBizThoughts.com. He has more than twenty years experience as an I.T. professional and serves on advisory panels for several hardware and software companies.

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