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Handling Urgency at Work Without Email

Handling Urgency at Work Without Email
    Catch the moment by sunnyUK on flickr

    Just the other day, a co-worker was called out by another co-worker that they “weren’t answering their email quickly enough.” This comment was made even when our company employs a host of ways to contact each other immediately.

    The issue that was being discussed was urgent and had to be handled that day, but the accusing party in no way handled the work as being urgent. For some reason they expected an immediate response via email, even though email is not an “immediate response” type of tool. And frankly, it should never be considered to be one especially with the types of technology we have at our disposal.

    Email as mail

    The way that I and many others treat email is as a piece of mail. We don’t sit in front of our mailbox all day, waiting for something to be put into it, only to take it out, create a reply, put it in an envelope, stamp, and send it off. That would be ridiculous, right? So, why should we be expected to deal with email this way?

    The problem is that most people treat email this way.

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    It wasn’t until I was introduced to the GTD ecosystem that I found thoughts on email like that of Merlin Mann or even Leo Babauta. These guys saw email as mail, something that piles up throughout our day and then we process it. We then make decisions on what we are supposed to do next with this incoming mail; respond to it, make it a piece of reference material, trash it, etc. Once I was able to understand this way of thinking, email wasn’t an immediate response type of tool anymore. This kept me out of my inbox and allowed me to get more done as well as handle urgent issues the right way.

    What about immediate issues?

    I hear this a lot where I work:

    “It’s my job to respond to email.”

    What a sad state of affairs; a professional email responder. Actually, I would say that most anyone that says that truly means that their job is to handle immediate issues in their business; it just so happens that many people still treat email as an immediate response type of communication.

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    I know that we productivity nerds can’t move the immovable force of overuse of email, but we can bring some options to the table that those afflicted with immediate email action can try to employ.

    The ways to handle urgency without email

    Here are a few ways that you can help yourself and possibly others in your company deal with urgent matters without the use of a sea of email. These may seem dead obvious, but you will be extremely surprised at how little they are used for urgent issues:

    1. Use IM

    No matter what anyone says, IM isn’t just a way to chat with your friends at work (although that can be an added benefit). IM stands for instant messaging and that is exactly what it should be used for; getting a hold of someone instantly.

    If you company doesn’t use IM, especially in a company where issues with customers are of utmost important, you may want to try to talk your higher-ups and put it in place. IM at work has saved a ton of time and many email messages being overlooked.

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    2. Use the phone

    A telephone? What the hell is that? It’s that thing that is dusty, sits on the corner of your desk, and is used maybe once a day. The fact is that the phone is the best tool for getting things done quickly across far reaches.

    Yes, maybe you can type 160 words per minute, but you can’t explain problems over IM or email like you can verbally. If something is super important and needs done ASAP, the phone and the next medium are the best tools to use.

    3. Come see me

    If you are across the office and you need something done now then go and see the person that needs to get that something done. You may want to call or IM them first to make sure that they are available, but if the issue is urgent enough, then it’s totally fine to just go and see them. Once again, speaking to someone verbally is the best way to handle urgent situations.

    What’s next?

    One of the hardest things you have to do to get out of the “living in your email inbox mentality”, especially for large corporations, is try to change your coworkers’ view on how to handle urgent issues. The best way to start is to tell them that you only check email a certain number of times a day (just like Mr. Vardy with his 3 times a day rule) and if they need something immediate, then either they can IM you, call, or stop over.

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    You may run into an issue that really isn’t urgent and your coworker thinks it is, but usually if you lay out some groundwork that email isn’t the best way to get something done quickly, they will respect your avenue for getting urgent things done.

    If you work with a bunch of humans, how do you guys handle urgent matters?

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on October 5, 2020

    How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

    How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

    We are given life with many opportunities to make it everything we want it to be and more. If you find that you’ve slipped into living a boring life, it’s time to take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and what you can start doing now to make it more interesting.

    Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing and living the same life for too long, or maybe your daily routine is limiting your growth and happiness. Whatever your reason is, the following list can definitely make any day or life more interesting. Some of them are silly, while some are more meaningful, so hopefully just reading the list makes your life less boring and sparks your creativity.

    Let’s dive in the list to quit your boring life and start living an interesting (and meaningful) one!

    1. Channel Your 7-Year-Old Self

    Imagine being a young child. Life was never boring, was it? That’s because children harness every ounce of creativity they have in order to try new things.

    What would your 7-year-old self want to do in this moment? Maybe they’d pick up a paintbrush and try to paint the landscape around them. May they would go outside and build something with random materials around the yard. Maybe they would raid the fridge and put together a dish they’ve never seen before.

    Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean any of this stuff will be less enjoyable than you remember it. Give yourself permission to play and use your creativity to its fullest.

    2. Go Play With Kids

    Speaking of little kids, if you have your own (or a niece or nephew), go play with them!

    Kids are absolutely hilarious, so it’s simply impossible to be bored when you’re around them. They also keep things so simple, and we can really stand to be reminded of this and stop allowing ourselves to get bogged down in boring details.

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    3. Play Cell Phone Roulette

    You’ll need at least one buddy for this, but this is a great way to avoid a boring life. Scroll through the contacts in your phone, stop on a random one, and (if it feels right) call the person.

    You could spark an incredible catch-up session or, at the very least, remind someone that you’re thinking of them. Neither are boring.

    4. Fill out a Pack of Thank-You Cards

    This is a great part of a gratitude practice. We often forget to thank the people who do things for us, especially if we have come to expect those things. For example, have you ever thought about thanking your mom for that weekly phone call? Or thanking your sister for always sending you a homemade gift on your birthday?

    Take time to think of at least 5 people you would like to say thank you to and write out a card. You could even write them out for random people in your neighborhood, like the local librarian, a teacher at your child’s school, or the accountant at your bank.

    Anyone and everyone appreciates being thanked for their efforts.

    5. Sign up for a Class

    Nowadays, there are classes for everything. To make it as interesting as possible, try finding one that you wouldn’t normally consider doing, like salsa lessons, improv, or boxing.

    Otherwise, try to find a course on something you’ve always wanted to learn, like pottery, photography, or a foreign language course.

    What’s good about joining an interest class is that you will also meet new people, which will add even more interest to your life!

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    6. Talk to Your Grandparents About Their Lives

    We often underestimate how interesting the elderly are. You can rest assured that any elderly person you talk to will not have had a boring life! Take some time to talk to them and hear their interesting stories. You may even find that this motivates you to go out and find your own interesting experiences.

    7. Get up on Stage at an Open Mic Night

    Whether you’re funny or not, get up on stage. If you’re not into comedy, find an open mic that focuses on reading poetry or short stories and bring your own. These groups tend to be incredibly supportive for anyone who is willing to be brave enough to get up and try.

    8. Do Something for Someone Else

    Showing kindness automatically makes you feel good, but doing these small acts will also help to ensure that you don’t have a boring life. Try doing one or two things each week that are outside your normal routine.

    For example, you could make a batch of cookies for the mailperson or help your elderly neighbor organize one of their rooms. There are a million ways to show kindness to those around you. Tap into your creativity and find your own or use some of the ideas from the image below[1].

    Do random acts of kindness to avoid living a boring life.

      9. Start a DIY Project in Your Home

      If you have your own place, there is always a project that needs to get done. Many people simply pay for someone else to do it in order to avoid the hassle, but taking on a DIY project can make a boring life much more interesting.

      It doesn’t have to be super complicated. Maybe you repaint an old vase or build a spice shelf out of used pallets.

      If you need ideas, you can also check out these 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of.

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      10. Plan a Weekend Trip or an All-Out Vacation

      This will give you something to look forward to. One study actually found that most travelers are happiest before a vacation[2]. Therefore, simply planning a trip will boost your mood, even if you can’t actually take the vacation right now.

      Even if you don’t have the time or money to go on a vacation, plan for a staycation, which is also fun and relaxing!

      11. Go People Watching

      Find a bench in a crowded area (centers of transportation like airports, bus stops, and train stations are great for this!) and just observe[3].

      People are infinitely interesting. Try to imagine what their lives are like, what they’re thinking, or where they’re going. You’ll never know if you’re right, but it will give you something to focus on and also help you practice empathy.

      12. Eat Something You’ve Never Eaten Before

      You can try that new Moroccan restaurant down the street and pick the most interesting dish on the menu. Or, you can raid your own fridge and throw together a dish you’ve never made before.

      If you’re up for a trip to the grocery store, try picking up a new fruit or veggie from the produce section. You may find a new food that you love!

      13. Dance

      You can get your friends together for a night on the town or just pull up a video on YouTube and bust a move from your own living room.

      If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even dance in public or join a flash mob.

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      14. Pick up a Book and Start Reading

      Reading a good book can keep you occupied for hours. It will also transport you to a life that isn’t your own, and one that likely will be the opposite of a boring life. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn from those pages.

      Pick on of these inspirational books to start reading: 10 Best Inspirational Books That Can Change Your Life

      15. Spend Some Time With People You Care About

      Facebook stalking doesn’t count as real social interaction. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or bring a coffee over to your parent’s place and catch up. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and you’ll avoid boredom.

      16. Check out a Museum You’ve Never Been to

      Some people are bored by museums, so if that’s you, skip to the next one. However, if you love art, history, or culture, this one is for you!

      17. Write a List of Things You Desire and Truly Want

      This is a great way to help you figure out the real reason why you’re feeling bored about your life. Maybe you haven’t really done things that you truly enjoy? Maybe what you’ve wanted to do all the time has been left behind?

      Think about the list of things you really want to do, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing these things (yet). Then, start taking your first step to make it happen.

      Now, go make your life interesting and live your dream life!

      More on How to Quit a Boring Life

      Featured photo credit: Alex Alvarez via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] FECAVA: Random Acts of Kindness
      [2] Applied Research in Quality of Life: Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday
      [3] Psychology Today: The Expert’s Guide to People Watching

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