Do you ever get the feeling there are just too many places to look and listen to get all the information you need, and that’s expected of you? How are we suppose to deal with all these channels of communication and still be productive? It’s definitely a challenge. In a vain attempt to get something done, you end up shutting down your email, closing your web browser, setting your chat client(s) to “Do Not Disturb” and put your phone on silent and in your drawer. Does it work?
At work we depend on communication channels to keep abreast of changes in the workplace, client requests, the competition and everything else. So when email is so prevalent, why do we need to even think about using chat, or forums, or secret departmental mini-apps?
Recently I was exposed to “Chatter”, Salesforce.com’s attempt at making a boring CRM social, and “fun”. As soon as I opened it up I thought “Oh great, another channel I need to check”. Not only are we expected to wade through hundreds and hundreds of emails every day (some of which are important, but most of which are not), but now we need to scroll through a bunch of Chatter conversations scouring for pieces of information relevant to us. After starting the day at 8:30am, it’s already 11am before I’ve even managed to get to my task list for the day.
It also becomes a problem trying to figure out when to use what channel. If you need to ask a question of someone, should you:
- a) Email them and wait for their reply
- b) Ping them on a chat application
- c) Text message them
- d) Leave the question on a forum or chatter
- e) Send them a private message via the company intranet
- f) Send a Facebook or Twitter message to them
- g) Pick up the phone and call them
- h) Leave a note on their desk
- i) Walk over and ask them
- j) Write the question on a piece of paper, folder the paper into a plane, and launch it at their head
Argh! So many choices!
So how can we overcome the challenges of dealing with so many channels to keep track of? Well, here are a couple of suggestions. Bear in mind that some of these tips may work for you, some may not, and it may even be the case that your workplace mandates you manage every one of the channels that have been setup.
1. Limit Time Exposed
I’ve previously discussed ways to limit the time you use email, so it should come as no surprise that the same principle applies to any other communication channel you use. Give yourself one or two short bursts of time each day where you can get into each messaging application, read the content and interact if needed, then get out. Let’s use Chatter as an example. Chatter is like a web forum. Anyone can write anything they way, pretty much anywhere they want within Salesforce.com. Between the times of 10am to 10:05pm and 3pm and 3:05pm, you would open up the main Chatter application and scroll through the conversations taking place, just looking for key words or people who jump out at you. If you miss something, it’s really not worth worrying about. If someone needs to get a piece of important information to you, they will find a way. As soon as your allocated time for that channel is up, close it and move on to the next one. In this way, you can get through the bulk of the messages in each channel relatively quickly and move on to real work. And you’ll have the added piece of mind that you are indeed monitoring every channel.
2. Just Say “No”
When your company decides to roll out the latest and greatest messaging system, you have a choice to not take part! This is done at your own risk. But if you really don’t see the value in using said application, then don’t succumb to using it. If you feel that installing another chat application, or RSS ticker for your company intranet or whatever, really isn’t going to help you be more productive, and that you can be a much more valuable employee (or employer) by not participating, don’t. Be confident in your decision and when you get asked why your not involved (and you will be asked), you can say with confidence that you don’t feel there’s enough benefit in wasting time with another communication channel.
3. Fight Back!
Just about every messaging system gives you a “profile” page, or a status you can use. So the next time you’re asked to sign up for some pointless system, it’s time to fight back. Do sign-up and then go directly to your profile page. Update your profile and for your “bio” or “about” section, enter something like this:
“Hi there. I’ve chosen to avoid this application due to the fact that I’m already spending countless hours trolling through mountains of email. I like to think of myself as a “doer” and spend the time I can getting things done. Therefore, if you would like to reach me, please contact me via phone on [phone number here] or for less urgent matters, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org”
Then save your profile, log out and never open that application again!
4. Do it Last
Friday’s are great. Everyone is excited about the impending weekend (even though a lot of the poor souls around you will spend their weekend in their inbox). The office is a little more lively and vibrant (and chaotic). Wrap up your activities by 4pm and if you’re not out at the local bar having a cold one yet, use the time before heading off to casually browse the other channels you’re a part of. Don’t rush and if you don’t get through everything, don’t worry about it. The content will still be there next week.
It’s incredibly difficult trying to managing an ever-growing number of communication channels and it’s becoming harder and harder to know when to use a particular channel to reach out to someone. So here’s a final tip: If you need to contact someone, don’t leave them a message on some obscure chat application; don’t send them an email. Pick up the phone and call them. Only if you can’t get through should you leave a voice message and then send them an email. In your voice message, let the person know that they should expect an email from you shortly.
How many systems do you have to manage every day? How is it effecting your productivity?