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.
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