After writing this post, I re-read it and I realized that I sounded like I was up my own ass with self-importance. But I assure you that I don’t have these rules for myself. If it was up to me I wouldn’t talk to most people. I’d build awesome things by myself, for myself. I have these rules so that I can do awesome things with you and for you. Help me help you.
I’m always refining how I communicate with people, and how I ask others to communicate with me. Here’s where I am at the moment:
- Do not call me, ever. This is an extension of my previous attempt to ditch my phone number. Why do I hate being called on the phone? Simply, it’s a massive distraction, usually when I’m at my most concentrated. The best description of my feelings were written by this guy. Your five minute phone call will probably cost me 20 – 30 minutes. I can not tell you the last time I received a truly urgent phone call.
- If you are asking me to do something for you, make it easy for me to say “No”. This might sound counter intuitive. But if I am sent a bunch of emails and my initial response to each one is “Maybe. I’ll archive this and look at it when I have time.” guess what? I’m never going to have time to look at any of those emails. If I have time to say “Yes” to you, it’s because I quickly said “No” to ten other opportunities or obligations.
- Pester me when I don’t respond, but not too frequently. I truly try to give every message (email or text) a response. I am married to inbox zero. But sometimes I forget or don’t triage an email correctly and it falls through the cracks. If I have not responded to you in seven days, feel free to message me again. Furthermore, feel free to keep this up indefinitely until I either respond or filter your message straight to the trash (this is very rare, and usually is an automated email).
- Don’t contact me to contact you. I received this email recently:
I read the contents in your link XXXXX and would like to discuss them with you. My phone number is XXXXX.
You just emailed me; you already are discussing something. Tell me what you want in the email. I am not going to call you to. This doesn’t do either of us any good.
- Don’t use proprietary communication tools unless you have good reason. If I need to have an account on some network just to talk to you, then I am probably not going to do so. I use a select few tools that anybody can use to reach me and I can use to reach anybody. I don’t have to stop and ask myself, “I need to message Kevin. Which social network is he on?” These tools are: phone, SMS, and email. As I said I limit phone calls, usually to people who’s voice I genuinely want to hear (aka family). Email is my “official” communication tool, meaning I won’t ever let anything slip through the cracks and I’ll always have an archive of our communication. SMS is good for casual conversation. Don’t expect me to remember to respond to an SMS though.
The few proprietary tools I use are carefully selected and always up for revision. Right now those two tools are Slack for work and Signal for private things. Don’t expect me to respond to (or even notice) a message through Facebook, Twitter, the direct messaging feature on some website, or that email account you setup for me because I’m a customer (I’m looking at you Comcast).
- If you are scheduling something, make it easy for me to say, “Yes”. Pick some dates and times that work for you and ask me to pick one. Better yet, pick an exact time and email me. Inbox does a great job of “finding” dates in emails and asking me to add it to my calendar. I have learned one thing about myself: if something doesn’t make it onto my calendar, guaranteed I won’t remember to show up. If you pick a time that doesn’t fit my schedule, I’ll quickly say “can’t make it, plz pick another time.”
Calendar invites follow the same rule about proprietary tools. Don’t invite me through Facebook. I will not see this in time. When I find out that I missed something important because you invited me via Facebook, I will be mad at you.
If we work together you have access to my work calendar. Go ahead and schedule something and put it on my calendar. My calendar is setup to not allow times outside “normal” work hours.
- If I agreed to be somewhere at some time and I’m not there, call the National Guard. In the case where I have agreed to be somewhere and I’m not, it’s entirely because I forgot or turned off my phone on accident. In this case feel free to get a hold of me by any means necessary. Basically all other rules don’t apply in this situation. If I decide to skip something, I’ll say so. It might be last minute but I won’t no-show without warning. If I said I wanted to be somewhere and I’m not there, then I still want to be there. I will be glad that you reminded me. This applies to work as well as personal things, including bike rides.
I don’t just ask the people who contact me to follow these rules, I try to follow them when contacting others too.