Managing Communication

vintage brown rotary telephone on a wooden table with a bottle of perfume, a cut of tea, an open page book, and cutlery resting on a white napkin
image courtesy of  u_xbk28dh7pk via pixabay.com

One of the great things about modern technology is that it gives us communication options. We no longer have to put up with our workday being derailed because someone interrupts us with an unscheduled phone call for something that’s not relevant to the task at hand, because they want to hear themselves talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of brainstorming and tossing around ideas to find the best approach. But if someone wants to talk their way through a task, I need to schedule it, so it works within my day, rather than destroying it. Being mutually respectful of each other’s worktime and work process results in better quality from all parties concerned.

What about communication tools like Slack, etc.? I do love ZOOM, although I’m a big believer that once you’ve said your hellos in a meeting, you can turn your camera off. We don’t need to watch each other nodding as though we’re hearing Deep Thoughts. We shouldn’t have to perform in a meeting.

Play readings, rehearsals, etc. via ZOOM have really upped the inclusivity and creativity of working across miles and time zones and I love it.

I’m careful about not overbooking ZOOM calls. I have a finite number of time slots available each week; when those slots are filled, the person requesting the meeting has to push it back to the following week or whenever there are slots open. One of the positive things we learned via the remote work during the pandemic is how few meetings we really need. Most work is done in spite of meetings, not because of them. There are exceptions, but if someone has constant “emergencies” it usually indicates poor planning, which needs to be addressed.

Since I am someone who works best in large swaths of uninterrupted time, I am often in “Do Not Disturb” mode on Slack or similar tools. I check messages at specific times in the workday and respond, the same way as I used to do in the old days, when I would unplug the phone as I worked and let the machine (in another room) take a message. Phone calls are scheduled, and they are billed separately from project time, in 15-mimute increments, the way a lawyer bills. We all know that when someone says, “let’s just jump on for a quick phone call” that we’re going to lose at least two hours of our workday. That time needs to be paid.

The quickest way to get a response is to email, because I check email whenever I switch tasks. It’s my palate cleanser, as is sometimes hopping on social media. It keeps the inbox and social media (both are vital tools of my work) under control, while still giving them the regular attention they need.

And, of course, I’m still a big fan of postal mail, but I use that more for personal communication than business communication at this point in the game. The exception is my quarterly direct mail campaign, which still usually gets a high response rate.

All of this is clearly set out in client contracts and in early work style conversations, so that it’s worked out before the project starts.

Another important point of communication: if it’s something that’s important to the process and the project, put it in the contract.

What are your favorite communication tools? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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