Managing Communication Overload
A friend of mine posted a plea for help on Facebook:
I’m getting increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of messages and communications I have to check everyday. With 3 active emails, social media accounts, messaging apps, texts…I feel like I’m “on call” all the time. Any advice on managing this?
I’ve got problems, but message overload isn’t one. Here’s what works for me, maybe it’ll be helpful for others.
1. Choose where you want to do your communicating with people.
This is the main thing. Pick a couple spots where you don’t mind working, then ruthlessly eliminate every other option. There are three ways a stranger can reach me: phone, text, email. If a person doesn’t have my phone number, they either find my email (not hard to do, even if you’re just guessing) or they wait til I find their message elsewhere. If anyone can reach you at any time you have no control.
For best results just tell people the best way to contact you. Use bio links and autoresponders in your other inboxes.
The hard thing about this is letting go of the other channels. What if I miss an important message? my frank answer to that: fuck it. Life is very short. If it’s that important they’ll find a way to reach you. If someone doesn’t have your phone number already, just let it be a challenge to get a hold of you.
Eliminate options and limit access to yourself. Most of the stuff in your 37 inboxes is trash. Get rid of your voicemail also: if you don’t pick up the phone, make them text you.
2. Emails: have one inbox.
It’s pretty easy to route and fwd emails from various addresses to one inbox. I use gmail. I get emails from maybe 10 different addresses. There’s nothing for me to remember, I work out of gmail and everything goes there.
This concept can also help folks who have trouble keeping track of schedules. Use one schedule, written or online, and just put everything in one place.
3. Use your computer not your phone for the bulk of your communication.
There’s only so much a person can do in a day. Overwhelm is a serious problem because it takes time away from your work.
Uninstall apps and turn off notifications. Again, if anyone can reach you at any time you have no control.
This approach helps me focus on my communication when I’m at a computer working, and I don’t really worry about it when I’m on the go. Urgent stuff comes thru texts or calls as it should.
Give yourself a break. If you’re overwhelmed you are going to have to turn some shit off.