As we move more aggressively into the network society, increasing our use of digital technology to manage our relationships, the issue of how we manage our connectivity is an important one to resolve. For me, the main issue is one of managing expectations (mine and of my connections). There is an expectation that ones responds instantaneously to whenever a message is received. And we have so many connections through which we can receive messages. The result is that I find myself spending a lot of time dealing with messages and less doing productive work. So I have been thinking of ways to manage my connectivity such that I can actually try to get some work done.
First step – making a list of my connections to my network.
- email (work and personal)
- SMS and whatsapp
- instant messaging – Skype and Microsoft messenger
- telephones (work and mobile)
Regardless of the connection – and its affordances – there was an expectation of instantaneous, if not near instantaneous, response. The most curious aspect of this to me was the fact that only telephony is synchronous, in that its a call and response type of technology. Yet, overwhelmingly communication technologies that are asynchronous, in that a communication can happen independently of the receiver. To put in simply, its impossible to have a telephone conversation when there is no recipient present while sending an email does not require the recipient to be there at that moment.
The second step was, in terms of trying to establish a more productive approach to managing connectivity, thinking about my habits, how I use the technologies at the moment and how do I actually need to use them.
- Email – Review in the morning before work and during lunch. Apply 2 minute rule to replies. Before leaving work for the day, answer all emails, document follow ups in Omnifocus and inbox =0.
- SMS and whatsapp – Review immediately. Apply 2 minute rule unless action requires shift to another technology such as email. Resolve all messages before going home and document follow ups in Omnifocus.
- Instant messaging – This one is fairly simple. Only connect when I am looking for connections – regardless of device.
- Telephones – Switch off phones (or at least place on mute) when doing productive work.
- NB: The other consideration is through which devices I access the above. So, to that end, I have decided to disable the email application on my iPhone. The other consideration is – is whatsapp the same as SMS or IM? For me, the way I use it more akin to SMS than to IM.
I am going to trail this for the next 2 weeks and hopefully it will help me manage my connectivity and hive off some time so that I can do productive work. I find that this not just about time-management, but also about freeing my headspace and finding space for quiet.