February 5, 2010

Time Management Tip: Returning Calls, Emails, and Text Messages on Your Schedule, Not Theirs

I'm offering up one of my greatest time savers here, today, just for you, Dear Reader.  I only return messages left for me at 10 am, 2pm, and 4 pm.  My phone's ringer is turned off, and my cell phone sits in my purse.  I call it my "Dr Pepper Rule," because of the old 10-2-4 logo on the Dr. Pepper bottles.  Remember those?  (I still love me a Dr. Pepper, real not diet.  Yum.)

Right off the bat, if you choose to do this, too, get ready for some backlash.  There are those who will be annoyed, perhaps even offended, that you aren't picking up your phone every time it rings, or jumping right on their text message or e-mail in reply.  That's okay, because this isn't about them.  It's about you, and your schedule.

I do try and let everyone know that I do this.  New clients are informed in a standardized email that I send out as part of my introduction.  Loved ones grin and bear it, too - some still grumble, but they love me anyway. 

How does this help?  Why follow the Dr. Pepper 10-2-4 Rule?

It keeps you on schedule with what you've set out to do for that day.  As a writer, I've got to have blocks of time to focus on my work.  Writing is tricky, you want to be in this zone where things are flowing out of your mind so fast that the words aren't popping up fast enough on the screen -- and that zone if fragile.  It takes awhile to get there (a pal said I should research the "alpha state" of the brain, it's involved here, somehow), yet you can lose it in a second.  So, I need the lack of interruption to get my stuff done, to make a living.

However, the rule isn't just for writers.  It's for anyone who values their time.  When they created answering machines, they were intended to be time-savers.  Messages are meant to be left, and returned later. 

One of the most important things in leading a simple life, is keeping things simple.  Constantly reacting to your phone - voicemail, text, email - can have you bouncing through a day like the small white ball in a pinball machine.  That's not a joyful, peaceful, productive way to live. 

At the end of the day, ask yourself:  what have you accomplished that YOU set out to do?  How did you spend your currency of time?  Follow the 10-2-4 Rule, and you'll be pleased with your answers.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I so agree. So much so that I have to tell people I don't check my email every day and frequently astonish others when I tell them I don't own a cell phone. I just don't want to be that connected. I love people but prefer face to face interactions when I can get them. My question- Is frequent electronic communication mistaken for actual relationships?

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for writing!!
Great point about face to face interactions being preferable. In fact, there's probably a lot to that, what with studies showing that so much of our communication is non-verbal.

When I was putting myself thru school, I had a job at an anesthesioligist's billing service, filling out claim forms for Medicare and Medicaid and mailing them out. For years, I chatted with the folk at NHIC, the state contractor that handled those MD claims for the gov't. I'll never forget going to their offices for a meeting, and realizing how different those people were in real life from the imaginary versions of them that existed in my head, based upon our phone conversations.

I'm sure they were just as surprised at my 3D version as I was of theirs. And, I've never forgot that lesson. After that face to face meeting, we all still worked together well but it was never the same after that.

All of which I'm sharing for a reason: in answer to your question, that lesson long ago makes me think that yes, today lots of folk do think of electronic communication as establishing real relationships.

I think this is a faulty assumption on their part.

I also think that even if you do know someone personally, those electronic communications cannot replace face to face dialouge. Not only for the nonverbal aspects of the interaction, but due to the spiritual nature of things.

Whew. I'm really rambling, huh?
Thanks again for writing, Anon,
Reba

Anonymous said...

This is only possible because this writer doesn't work corporate. For some people, we don't have a choice.

John Hulsey said...

I like this, and I think mention should also be made of the responsibility it puts on you. If you tell people you will return their emails or calls at a specific time, you need to honor that commitment. I find that folks are generally okay with the delay, but if I don't get back as promised, they are quick to reply with an "... I left a msg but never heard from you" note.

kylesellers said...

I read this post a couple years ago here: http://occamsrazr.com/2007/08/29/dr-pepper-cured-my-inbox/

You should probably give some credit to the guy since you essentially copied his article, word for word.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi John,
Agreed that it does come with the corresponding task of keeping track of callbacks, and then remembering to actually return the call/text/email.

I do this by keeping an index card on my calendar, which sits beneath my keyboard. It's Old School, but it works for me.

Thanks for writing,
Reba

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Kyle,
Well, first thanks for writing and letting me know about this. I'll be writing the guy/girl you're referencing in the link tomorrow.

However, I didn't copy this post - hadn't ever heard of this site or this person - before reading your comment in the moderation email.

I didn't plagarize anyone. This is my own writing, written about 5 minutes before the post gets published.

As for the time tip, what I wrote about is what I do, the words came from me. I really do check at 10, 2, and 4. I really do put this warning in client intro emails. I really do drink Dr Pepper, and have since I was a very small child.

I may not be the only one on the planet that's doing this, but I didn't rip this post off from anyone.

Thanks for giving me the heads up,
Reba

Reba Kennedy said...

Update:

I have gone and read the post that Kyle has referenced, and I've found that while Dr. Pepper's clockface of 10.2.4 is followed by both writers, the ideas aren't exactly the same - and the words definitely aren't.

The other writer is sharing his idea of checking his inbox three times a day, scheduled according to the Dr. Pepper logo. Great idea.

What I'm sharing is blocking all communication except for three short chunks of time during my workday, so I can focus on my work, and how I try to do this without offending clients or hurting loved one's feelings. Sure, I suppose a part of that is not reading what's in the inbox. However, that's not what I'm sharing here.

After total shock that someone would suggest that I "essentially copied" something "word for word" - I'm calmer now.

The Dr. Pepper 10,2,4 logo was a time tip at the get go. Stop for a break, drink a soda. If two people on the planet have both found ways to incorporate that idea into managing their day, then good. Maybe we both can look forward to emails from the Dr. Pepper people.

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