Last week, we focused on not overwhelming our partners and team members with communication. This week, we are focused on how to not be so overwhelmed ourselves that we miss important communication (or life!) opportunities. Honestly, I am applying this as I am writing it this week. I read the book “Margin” by Dr. Richard Swenson earlier this year and “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown a couple of years ago. These books are great resources and yet in order to apply the important principles, we have to take practical action. We are so bombarded with email, phone, social media, in-person and more that we have to be proactive in order to keep from being overwhelmed. Join me this week as I am practicing 6 things to reduce my own communication overload.
- Let someone else be first. In our teams and networks, there are usually lots of emails asking for input, recommendations or next steps. Rather than being the first to respond, wait…let someone else respond first. Rather than being the first to volunteer, wait…see if someone else volunteers first. Or, consider who might be better at doing this than you are and recommend him or her.
- Sort by subject. This is the most efficient and effective way for me to sort through and address email. This is also helpful when you try the first recommendation and let someone else be first. You can see the thread of conversation and then take the most appropriate action. This is particularly important when you have been out of the office for several days. Rather than trying to sort by most recent and hoping you see the entire story, this allows you to see the full conversation and decide if you need to be part of it.
- Do what only you can do. This is a leadership principle I learned from Andy Stanley and it’s a good one that aligns with the first recommendation. I know it may not seem feasible if you are the ONLY staff member; however, perhaps you have a board member or a volunteer who could support some of the efforts. When we try to read everything, pay attention to everyone and do everything, lots of things don’t happen. They can’t happen. We do not have enough time in our day or week and we miss out on doing what we are most gifted, experienced and passionate about when we keep saying yes to things that others can do or communicate.
- Unsubscribe. I know this seems risky. What if we miss a big sale or a wonderful resource from someone we once thought was interesting? I am going to reverse this, what if we miss the important message from someone we love? What if we have so many emails and so much noise that we can’t follow-through with our most important commitments? If you find yourself “mass deleting” email messages from a person or organization, try “unsubscribing.” Don’t worry, you can ALWAYS subscribe again to this person or organization. And if you think you might want to buy a product for a good sale, you can probably go directly to their website and enter the “deal” of the week to get that same deal without being bombarded with emails every day or week. You can always “google” it too! 🙂
- Turn off notifications (especially email). I haven’t had email notifications on my computer or phone in years. I realized that it only served as a constant distraction. I check email frequently enough to see what comes through without having to see a little piece of it, wonder what it says and then completely disconnect from what I was focusing on at the time!
- Use airplane mode – not just when on an airplane. When you want to focus on writing, editing, developing, analyzing or anything that is important to accomplish during your day, put your phone on airplane mode. Use it when you are working on important projects and want to focus. Use it when you are feeling overwhelmed by all of the communication and questions so that you can pause, re-focus and remember what is most important.
So what about you? What are you going to try this week to not not be so overwhelmed that you miss important communication opportunities?
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