Downshifting Your Responsiveness by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

In Coaches
Dec 16th, 2013

Many coaches feel pressure to be immediately responsive to every request, no matter when it is received, no matter from whom it is received, and regardless of the method it is delivered.  May I respectfully encourage you to “downshift” your responsiveness in these areas:

  1. Email:  Getting back to people via email within 24 hours is reasonable in most instances.  If there are particular people who deserve and need a faster response, open your email no more than once an hour just to scan for messages from that person.
  2. Voice mail:  Leave an outgoing message to tell those who leave a message on your voice mail when they can expect a response.  I change my message each week, because different weeks are likely to have different response windows.
  3. Answering the door at home:  Just because someone is knocking on your door or ringing your doorbell does not mean you have to answer, particularly if you don’t know who the person is.  This is particularly true if you are alone in your house.
  4. Answering the door at work:  Most coaches work from home and have a home office.  You may be coaching people when no one else is at home, but often, you are coaching your clients when another adult or child is in the house.  It is essential that you have clear boundaries on what a closed door to your office means.  Have certain times each day where your door is open and you are fairly readily accessible.  Have other times where your door is closed and you have a sign that indicates what time people may come back (usually no more than 90″ unless it’s an extremely pressing deadline with dire consequences if it’s not met).
  5. Requests as you’re passing someone in the grocery store, in the neighborhood, or at some civic event:  When a person, in passing, says, “Hey, would you send me xyz?” do not say, “Yes.”  Say, “Send me an email when you get back to your computer and I’ll take care of it within the next day.”  The other person is the requestor.  It’s not up to you to take on the burden of remembering.
  6. Answering the phone at home:  More and more, no matter how many “do not call lists” you are on, your home phone seems to be fair game for “surveys,” “checking on your satisfaction with our service,” political calls, and any number of robo-calls.  It’s horrid.  Either let your machine pick up, screen the calls and only pick up those for people you know, or just call back those you want to talk with.  There’s no need to be like Pavlov’s dogs with the sound of a ringing phone.
  7. Answering the phone at work:  Since “do not call lists” essentially don’t work with business lines, you’re stuck with being on many callers’ lists.  Let your voice mail pick up (preferably having your phone completely turned off so you don’t even hear the ringing) and then call back those people that are high on your list of important people and calls, given whatever else you are working on.  As a coach, you are probably on the phone a great deal with your clients.  It is not necessary to be grabbing the phone every time it rings when you’ve finally had some time to hang up your phone.
  8. Text messages:  The Top Ten Productivity Tips are read by adults, so I will be hopeful that you are not texting all day everyday (or you’re going to be out of business soon).  However, even though text messages can be incredible convenient and offer opportunities for real-time problem solving, they can also be a major distractor and detractor for productivity.  Downshift your responsiveness on texting, as appropriate.
  9. Friend (or connection) requests on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter (or other Social Media):  That’s all I’m going to say.  It’s not urgent and it’s not important.  Get to it when you get to it.
  10. Face to face requests from people in your family:  If you “hop to” any request, no matter how minor and no matter what else you are engaged in at the time, begin to downshift your responsiveness.  You are not anyone’s servant nor at anyone’s beck and call.  Be reasonably responsive to reasonable requests.

That last sentence applies for all of these.  Be reasonably responsive to reasonable requests.  If someone makes an unreasonable request, well, then I would carefully consider any response to that request.

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