We see these folks every day. Perhaps it’s the gentleman walking along down the road in the city. Maybe it’s the young couple enjoying a drink at a cafe. Or, a shadowy figure you notice driving a car. What do all of these individuals have in common? They all suffer from head downer syndrome. The guy walking through the city is with head bowed, furiously typing away on his smartphone. The young couple are not gazing longingly into each other’s eyes; no, they are flipping through pages on a tablet, each to his and her own. And the unknown figure in the car? This is the most frightening of all, as he or she appears to be texting while attempting to drive. With the Ubiquitous Internet, and wi-fi and phone service everywhere, we are all blessed with a 24/7 ability to communicate. For the entrepreneur, this can be a tremendous boost to the ability to obtain and retain business. But our always-connected society comes with a price. We are all cursed with a flood of information, and demands upon our ability to communicate. How does one manage the deluge? Here are five ideas:
1) Turn all e-mail and voicemail reminders off. Your smart phone, computer or tablet generally beeps, honks or burps at you whenever an e-mail or voice mail is received. Each one of these interruptions causes you to lose your concentration and curbs your flow. Don’t look at e-mail or voicemail until you open the mail program, window or app. If you’re the courageous sort, consider turning the ringer off on your office and cell phone for set periods of time during the day. Even if for one hour, the amount of work you can produce when quieted will astonish you.
2) Being mindful that this can increase spam, and therefore setting your spam filters accordingly, consider an auto reply on your e-mail program that tells senders that you only respond to e-mails at certain times during the day.
3) Reply to e-mails and return phone calls immediately before lunch and before the end of your day. Not only does bunching these tasks make you more efficient, but particularly with phone calls, if you reach your party, the call will tend to be brief and on point. Everyone wants to get on with the mid-day meal or off to home.
4)Triage your e-mails and voicemails. Group them according to the urgency to which you must respond. In the lowest category, you may be able to do nothing – no response is necessary – as the problem will resolve itself, or it’s simply a marketing pitch or similar communication. Your next level are those that require a response, but you can likely do so with an e-mail in return. To be even more efficient, consider if your reply can be simply put into the e-mail subject line, and then type the characters (eom) – end of message. Finally, those communications, e-mails or voice mails that are urgent, come from a particularly good customer, or otherwise need a quick and personalize response, warrant a return phone call. There are those customers and referral sources to whom you want to give outstanding service.
5) Practice a little information illiteracy. The good news today is that we have access to virtually unlimited digital information. The bad news is that we are receiving virtually unlimited digital information! Many of us have free subscriptions to newsletters and other forms of communication from providers that help us with everything from marketing to accounting to business tips. While many may be valuable, consider turning down the volume. You will find that you can be knowledgeable and operate your business fine without a number of these time suckers. A little information management goes a long way towards making the entrepreneur efficient. Remember, you don’t have the resources of the big multinational companies. Therefore, you need to be judicious with your time. It is the efficient entrepreneur that enjoys success.