Downshifting Your Responsiveness by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

In Writers
Jan 12th, 2013

downshiftMany people today 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.  So that you can focus and be more productive in your writing, 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 (vs. within 10 minutes as some people seem to think is necessary, which is insane).  If there are particular people who deserve and need a faster response, open your email 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 depending on whether I am out of town or whether I am burrowed in deeply on a project.
  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:  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.  If you put up a sign that gives a window that is no more than 90″, people can respect that.  You may download some signs at my Keeping Chaos at Bay site.
  5. Requests as you’re passing someone in the hall, at the grocery, on your walk:  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 office and I’ll take care of it within the next day.”  They are 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 from 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.  Many people write at home and supposedly do so because there are less distractions.  Make sure you don’t allow the phone to distract you.
  7. Answering the phone at work (whether it’s a business line into your home or an office somewhere else):  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 who are high on your list of important people and calls, given whatever else you are working on.
  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 (because if you are, your writing agenda is sorely behind!)  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.

If you will downshift your responsiveness in the ten areas I have listed above, you can “upshift” your responsiveness and productivity as it relates to writing.  And isn’t that what you want?

© Meggin McIntosh, PhD (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®). One of the ways that you can learn from Meggin about productive writing is through her 30 Articles in Just 30 Days program.

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