Communication and the immediacy expectation: is patience the only answer?

The advent of the internet and, by extension, smart phones has seen the way we communicate become quicker and quicker. Everyone has, it would seem, as a minimum, a phone which they can receive a SMS message. The vast majority of people have a phone that is internet enabled and receive email as well on their phones or tablets.

Add this high level of connectivity to the plethora of means by which we also communicate by social media and the urge, nay the need, to communicate with immediacy has become ever more in recent times.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my smart phone and love the fact that I can communicate where ever I am no matter the time or day or the night. That said, I am bothered by these issues that flow from this communication availability:

1. All too often misunderstandings seem to arise when one does not answer a text, email or tweet immediately. I am sure everyone reading this blog has been in a situation where they have received, for example, a text but they have not immediately answered because you are focused on something else and then you receive a second text asking “Are you ignoring me?” or worse the person on the other end gets angry without any rational basis.

2. Particularly in the context of communications for business the urge to respond immediately often seems to lead to the sending of communications without thinking about the effect of the reply being sent or, worse, without checking that what one is saying is correct. Unfortunately, the expectation that email is a communication form that is read upon being sent leads to a further expectation that a response is going to be sent immediately. That pressure to reply can lead to mistakes.

Recent situations in both categories in my own life have gotten me thinking about how best to deal with the immediacy expectation that vests from the way we communicate in 2014. The following approaches I have jettisoned either because they are rude, unwieldy or they play right in to the hands of the immediacy expectation:

1. Setting up a rule in my phone / email accounts that everytime I receive an email or a text message an automated reply is sent acknowledging receipt and noting that I will reply as soon as I am able to.

2. Ignoring an email / text message until I receive a follow up email, text or call about the first email / text message.

3. Sending an email / text / social media message to every one of my contacts every day advising of my likely availability to reply to their communications on that particular day.

None of these strategies are all that palatable are they? Nor are they workable in my view.

Having considered all of these options I kept coming back to a central premise: we all (I should say I have been guilty of wondering and worrying about a delayed reply as much as the next person too) could just be a little bit more patient when it comes to communicating.

It is hard to believe but it is true that not 25 years ago very few people had mobile phones, the use of email was not prevalent and social media networks did not exist. Letters and calls to the fixed telephone were the only broadly available means of communicating. I am sure in those times people did not spend anywhere near as much time wondering if they were going to get a reply soon as we do now. Why? Because the nature of the communication methods available required an inherent level of patience.

Surely the application of a similar level of patience today in communications as that which was the norm 25 years ago is the way to avoid all of the issues that come from the immediacy expectation.

Maybe this is too simplistic an approach but it is one I am going to try. The next time you have the urge to send a message that says “Did you get my last message? or “Are you ignoring me?” maybe being patient could work for you too. I hope it works for me!

Bugger me … February already? Where did January go?

The sentiment in the title to this post is one that I have heard at least 3 times today and have seen on twitter possibly a dozen time more.  I too have found myself incredulous that already we are into the second month of the year.  I am not sure our lives get progressively busier as we get older but it sure feels like it on days like to today when I have sat back to reflect on the month that was January and feel like I have done not very much but that the time has flown.

It struck me though when I thought about it more that perhaps I was being a little too harsh on myself, given that it has actually been a packed month when I look at my diary, and the actual problem is one of failing to reflect on, for want of a better term, things when they actually happen.

Life rushes past so quickly that it is easy for the days to, it would seem, roll together into one large collage of success and failure that just continues to roll on without reflecting on the good and the bad of each day and looking for ways to improve.

In an effort to slow things down and learn more from both the successes of each day as well as the failures I have decided to spend some time each day reviewing what I have done during the day and reflecting on how I could have improved.  Hopefully that will make the time seem to run less quickley and I will learn and improve as the month goes on.

Hopefully next month I am not sitting here feeling like I have done nothing of import and rather feeling positive about the new learnings to come from the month just gone.

The Longest Drive … a lesson in golf and life

I was lucky enough to be included in a round of golf with some clients this morning at St Lucia Golf Course. We only played 9 holes and the format was a 4 ball ambrose. Whilst I have been playing a bit of golf and practicing much at the driving range of late, I have been pretty ordinary so I was more than happy we were playing an ambrose. To say I was chuffed with how I hit the ball today would be an understatement. Right from the first hole I was hitting my driver well and enjoyed a great morning with come quality blokes.

When we got to our last hole (18th) I had the words of a guy I have played a bit of golf with this year who is off a single figure handicap in my mind. His principal golf maxim is encapsulated in this quote:

“Think about your shot and decide on what you are going to do … then stop thinking and swing the club as hard as you can!”

Now there is some important background here: due to the combination of a troublesome hip and neck and nearly 20 years of lacking self confidence in my golf swing I have developed a way of getting my driver in the fairway by only hitting it at 80% power. It has worked for me for years and I have rarely strayed from it.

Today though, as I stood on the tee of the 18th and with some urging of one of my playing partners, I decided that I might as well have a go at hitting my drive at 100%.

The 18th hole at St Lucia Golf Course is a 302 metre par 4 with a very wide fairway and a great that is guarded at the front by two large bunkers that have a strip of grass about a metre and half width between them that feeds up to the green. The tee is a little elevated and the tee box today was right at the back of the available space.

Armed with the maxim above, I decided that the shot I wanted to hit was going to be a driver as hard as I could hit it which I expected would end up about 20 metres from the bunkers. Then I stopped thinking and swung as hard as I could. Off the club I said to myself that it was in one of the green side bunkers and the shot would have ended up there if it had not been directed at the patch of grass between the two bunkers. After a hard first bounce, the ball trickled up the patch of grass and rested on the fringe of the green (before it rolled back down to end up nestled between the bunkers a metre off the green). I have never hit a ball so far and had reaped the benefits of putting into the play the strategy my regular golf companion has been pushing to me for some time.

Now if you had read this far, you are probably thinking that this post is simply just a vanity exercise. Whilst I am chuffed about my drive on the 18th (and have told the story at least 10 times already which is a golfer’s perogative), the application of my friends maxim got me thinking about its application in other contexts.

What the maxim is really all about, in my view, is making decisions and then sticking to them without over thinking them. I know I, for one, am a chronic over thinker which at times leads to the procrastination I have already spoken of. Some times I wish I didn’t think so much and focus more on making a decision, sticking to it and, once said decision is made, “going hard” at it. That is easier said than done but is certainly something to strive to because I am sure that if we all focused more on execution of our personal goals rather than over thinking we would all be happier and being happy is what life is all about isn’t it.

I know it is only just golf and it is only just one golf shot but thinking about the thought process that lead to the result of the shot may well have given me some clarity as to how I might in the future avoid the procrastination that has dogged me. It is time to start thinking less and “go hard” me thinks!