You Can Get Ahold Of Me…

At any point of the day I’ll look down at my notebook and when I glance back at my computer (or my phone), I’ll see:

  • 7 new emails from clients, one from Refinery29, and a shipping notification from Amazon.
  • 3 texts from another client.
  • A missed call. Oh it’s an 800 number. Also, I have 66 unread voicemails because some guy who used to have my number is wanted by the police.
  • A flashing gchat message from our developer.
  • And a Skype chat from my good friend in Australia (who I’m also co-publishing a book with).
  • Not to mention FB and Twitter private messages that I tend to always miss.

“Oh wow, I’m so popular,” I’ll think to myself. But seriously I’ll pause whatever I was sketching or writing to tend to these messages. After fifteen minutes, I’ll have handled everything. I look back up and they’ve all replenished (because, go figure, people respond) and I’ll cry a little on the inside. Because I’m so distracted, I’ll get on Twitter or start online shipping.

SIDENOTE: THIS IS THE MOST UNPRODUCTIVE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS, EVER

So this week I’m putting my foot down and taking control of all these forms of communication. Here’s my approach. I’d love to hear your thoughts or if you have any better ideas.

  1. EMAIL: As I have been doing (but sometimes slack on), I’m only checking email 3 times a day. I check it in depth at 9am once I’m in our studio. I respond to emails, get clients files/feedback, write guests posts or respond to interviews from fellow bloggers and archive. At 2pm, I check it again. The third time takes place at 6-6:30pm before I shut down for the day. Truthfully, I check my email WAY more than those 3 times but since putting this in my footer, I at least know that most people don’t expect an instant response. There’s a part of me that loves to be organized and messy inbox is troubling. This week I’m implementing a more customized auto-responder while I’m working for certain chunks of time. I was inspired by Lisa’s post.
  2. TEXTS: I turned iMessages on on my computer and I can’t decide if it was a good decision or not. Most of my texts that come through are from friends and I love being able to talk to them all day. Having the messages come through on my computer makes it easier to reply and a bit less distracting than picking up my phone every time. I also have one client that texts me consistently but I know I could transition them into Skype. I know fellow designers/entrepreneurs who don’t text back because…they’re at work! Still debating how I should handle this.
  3. PHONE CALLS: I’m changing my voicemail to: “Hi this is Allie’s phone. Thanks for calling. I probably didn’t answer because your number is not stored in my phone as a contact. Please feel free to text or email me at allie@thewonderjam.com if you need anything. I don’t listen to voicemails.” <- obviously this will annoy a lot of people but I can’t be on top of every form of communication.
  4. GCHAT OR SKYPE? I’m going to make myself invisible on Google chat. Most people don’t message me there except Adam and our developer. I also talk to both of them via Skype randomly. I think Skype will be an easier place to consolidate chats because it’s also how I take calls from clients virtually and where I talk to Claire (almost daily).
  5. FB/TWITTER MESSAGES: I wish I could automate a message when someone DMs me on either social network. I tend to read them and immediately forget about them. I haven’t installed the FB messenger app on my iPhone and don’t get notifications from Twitter on my phone. Anyone else have this problem?

This might seem like such an insignificant problem but I noticed how it was negatively impacting my productivity. When it comes down to it, I don’t owe anyone my availability in 7 different ways. Gosh, I miss letters in the mail. Hopefully my thoughts helped any of you running into the same issues but secretly I hope you share some of your own tips with me!

 

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  • So many different forms of communication can be so distracting for me. I have to turn off my Facebook/Twitter brain while I am working, and it is SO. HARD. I have to stop any push notifications and just focus. I think your clients would definitely understand if you specific hours for contact.

  • I have to turn off all push notifications / sounds while I’m working, otherwise I never get anything done, ever!

    For the numbers that keep calling you forever that you don’t know, if you tap the information icon like you’re going to edit their contact info, down at the very bottom there’s an option to block the number. voila! no more calls from them!

  • Recently, I have begun to tell my clients, PTO contacts and friends (not my inner circle)– it could take me up to 48 hrs to get back to you. It isn’t personal, it is how I stay focused and productive. It rarely takes me 48 hours, but unless your pants are on fire and your phone is broken and you can’t call 911– nothing is so mission critical that you need my help– yesterday.

    I think all of these contact pathways have lead us to believe that everything is an emergency. It isn’t.

    I also turned off my Twitter notifications and I am not installing FB messenger.

    I only text with close friends. Texts are about the only thing I stop and return in the moment. I also let the phone go to VM unless I am expecting a call. I hate talking on the phone.

    I think you are totally correct– you do not owe everyone in your life immediacy. You just don’t!

  • Ha! I just talked to you on twitter about virtual coffee dates! (Skype is a great idea!) I completely ignore my phone when I’m working. I will only look at it if it rings in case it is my son’s daycare. For clients, I would stick to email, in person, or video chats but always mak sure to set hours so they know when they can contact you! I try (keyword: try) to limit myself to fb/twitter chatting during breaks.

  • Some days are worse than others. Sometimes – I have to be on my phone to check out blogger’s accounts or campaigns on Instagram, and it’s easier to search by hashtag on my phone than on the desktop version. I’ll get texts, tweets, emails… I’ll start responding and scrolling and sometimes it’s 15 minutes before I realize I had a task to accomplish.

    Aaron recently recommended this app, it’s pretty cute and seems like it could help the iPhone/ADD prone of us, but I haven’t tried it: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/forest-stay-focused-stop-phubbing/id866450515?mt=8

    It gives me anxiety to shut it down for half an hour… which must mean there really is an underlying problem!

    • OMG Lindsay – I totally relate. I have to be on all social networks (except Twitter) for clients and all of a sudden…it’s been 20 minutes and I click out of FB without ever doing the thing I initially wanted to do!!

      I get anxious when my phone is dead. So bad…

  • I’ve loved using iMessages on my computer. It really does save time and I can turn off text notifications on my phone (huge distraction!). Plus, once I pick up my phone, I usually end up checking everything instead of just texting back.

    And I love the idea to tell people you don’t check voicemails. What a pain!

    • Yes! I’ve really enjoyed iMessages on my computer too. Although one time I tried to shut it down and I still kept getting messages. Awkward because I was in a client meeting.

  • Hi Allie,

    I know I am late in responding to this blog because like you I budget my time and don’t read blogs daily anymore, sometimes not even weekly.

    So anyway, I think it is extremely important to limit how you can be contacted. Personally for me I refuse to text for professional communications and have made that clear to clients for years. I used to get text from clients at all hours into the night, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I received a text at 1am that woke me up. Yes I love what I do, Yes I understand that my client’s business is very important to them but seriously no one’s dying on the operating table here so a 1am text is just simply unnecessary, unprofessional and above all impolite in my humble opinion. Even in today’s digital age I don’t find text to be a professional form of communication nor is it a productive one; talk about reading it and forgetting all about it.

    I think all the boundaries you have set are good ones and I truly believe (from personal experience) that if you can stick with them you will be more productive and more importantly happier which will benefit both you and your clients. And I recommend excluding text from professional communication. As for your friend’s text well that’s different though I rarely respond to any text while I’m working but I’d be lying if I said that one was a hard and fast rule. :)

  • OK so I’m not sure how I had zero idea that you could get iMessage texts on your Mac! This seems like kind of a lifesaver. I am awful with texts & facebook messages — I do the same thing, look at them and forget. Emails though; I don’t have a problem for some reason. What i’ve been trying to do on Facebook is when I see that I have a message — if I know I can’t respond to it at the time, I don’t click on it & read it so it still shows up as a message notification. A small thing, but it’s helping so far.

    I find that when i’m working on a big project or something has a tight deadline, I don’t pay attention to texts and messages even more, and then I get overwhelmed catching up on it all. This is definitely not an insignificant problem at all! Thanks for sharing your tips!