Does this scenario sound familiar? In the morning, you pick up your smart phone or sit down at your computer and, immediately, little numbers alert you to emails, texts, voice mail, and notifications from your apps. You delete the ones you don’t need or want. You process as many quick actions, and skim as many messages and articles, as you can before the actual business of your day begins. You feel that maybe you have today under control.
But then, as the day progresses, you get beeps or banners begging for yet more of your attention. And if you have to be away from your digital screens for any length of time, you are buried under another barrage when you return. It doesn’t help that the flurry of social “noise” around current events has increased stress levels around issues that are already stressful.
We have at our fingertips immense amounts of information, as well as disinformation. It is more than one person can thoroughly process. It can be overwhelming. But deal with it we must, if we do not want to be left behind as the rest of the world rushes by in sound bites and visual distractions. So how can you juggle everything and maintain any sense of calm?
We will share some thoughts here, keeping in mind that the response to all this noise varies from one person to the next. If you are someone who thrives on frenetic activity, you do not need to read further. If you think you are ready to give up and get rid of all your sources of electronic information, you can stop here as well. But if you are looking for a happy medium that can bring your life into more balance, read on. We will focus primarily on email and touch on some other forms of electronic communication.
Email consists of mass marketing, personal conversations, business communications, and more. There are ways that you can manage the deluge. You can trash a message immediately, of course. You can send quick replies when appropriate, saving thoughtful replies for a dedicated time you have set aside (as people did when writing letters on paper was the norm). Ultimately, you can label and file emails for future reference in separate mailboxes organized by subject matter. If you do not want to file, keep only what you need and use your server’s search engine to find an item you need to look at again. Starring or flagging email messages is helpful, too, if you don’t overdo it.
There are other options for dealing with mass emails you don’t want. You may mark them as spam or junk, so that future messages from the same source go directly to your junk box. But remember to check your junk/spam box occasionally to make sure you haven’t missed an important item. Finally, you can take a moment to locate the unsubscribe option buried somewhere in the content. Click on it and confirm, or choose to receive fewer messages, if that choice is provided. (A word to the wise here—only unsubscribe from things that you know you signed up for. Some senders you don’t recognize will offer the unsubscribe option just to lure you into their system.) Gradually, you will see a meaningful reduction in the amount of time you spend reviewing and deleting messages.
When sending an email, do yourself and your recipients a favor. Unless you are writing a rambling letter, limit the action items or vital information to what can be summarized in the subject line. You may end up sending more messages, but they will be easier for people to identify and to assess what is urgent. The replies you receive will be more efficient, as well.
Texting, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and other “instant” messaging can add to the clutter of your day. Just because they are instant does not mean they all need instant action. One of the nice things about texting is that you can send a message and not worry about disturbing someone with a phone call at a bad time. But how often do we feel impatient when someone doesn’t reply right away? If you need to reach someone about an urgent matter, follow up with a phone call. If the person doesn’t answer, at least they will know that you are serious about reaching them (if they have their device on and within reach).
Now a bit about Facebook: Manage your settings so that you receive fewer (or no) notifications via email. Categorize your friends so that your closest ones appear higher in your newsfeed. If you enjoy scrolling in your leisure time, go for it. Otherwise, discipline yourself not to scroll when your focus should be elsewhere. You’ll feel less scattered.
LinkedIn, Pinterest and other apps can also be demanding. Be sure to manage your settings so that you are only receiving alerts that you want. You can designate special times of the day to deal with these apps, so that you have a more cohesive experience with each of them.
Finally, here is our pledge to you:
The emails we send you will be useful and not too frequent. If you have preferences, please let us know and we will honor them. Our website blog and social media postings offer helpful information that may stand alone, or may link to related items. We generally post on a weekly basis, unless unusual circumstances deem otherwise. Our goal is to keep you informed. And, of course, if you ever have any questions, please give us a call at 203-985-0448.
[Photo credit: Flickr Philips Communications]