(and what that has to do with how we run our businesses)
A funny thing has happened to me, and I am almost embarrassed to admit it but here it is: at some point over the last years, I have become “addicted” to the Immediate Reply.
It began (innocently enough) with email.
Gone were the days of waiting for someone to actually take the time to pick up the phone and reply to the message you’d left on their machine. And certainly the days of awaiting a reply to anything via post were long gone (which is not to say that I don’t vividly remember the joy of receiving letters in the mail from my pen pals around the world!)
But no…now there was email. And with a click of a mouse and a clack of the keyboard, presto bang-o, a reply would miraculously and marvellously materialize in my inbox and all was right in my world.
I was fulfilled. Instantly “gratified” with that reply from my colleague or my friend, my mom or my client.
Now there are arguments that email didn’t ruin us, exactly, though certainly no one can tell me that the advent of running our lives via email really made us all that more efficient. In fact, if that were the case, then why are there all these studies and books written about the exact opposite?
No, I do think it could safely be argued that email bogged us down and limited our efficiency in some cases…but overall I think I managed this shift in technology pretty well.
Until texting came along and I realized that my problems “all began” with email…
Because now here I am, admitting that I have this massive problem…and that it began with email and has gotten worse now with texting…and I am embarrassed to talk about it but it really needs to be said: we are each becoming addicted to the Immediate Response.
At this point in our technological adventures, because email has come to bog us down, we anticipate an email reply within 48 hours or so.
But a text message? Heavens! We expect an Immediate Response and when that does not happen, weird things happen within us. We begin to stare at our phone and check to see if it is “on.” We look to see if that message really did get sent. We double-check the time at which we sent it, compare that to the time it is now, and mentally calculate the likelihood that indeed it could potentially have really taken that long for the receiver to get our text. And as time goes on, we make up stories about what it could “mean” that we have not heard back. Perhaps the receiver didn’t like our “tone.” Maybe they didn’t understand the little emoticon we used to soften our message. Maybe they are going to quit using our services and just don’t have the heart to say so! Maybe they don’t like us anymore!! Maybe they’ve had a car accident and are dead on the side of the highway!!!!!
Oh yes, the stories grow and grow until we are convinced that for sure, some terrible “thing” has occurred and so then, in desperation, we text them again. Just to see. Just to check.
And this is where the crazy gets crazier. Because if we didn’t get a reply to our first text, why on earth do we anticipate a quick reply to the second? Do we expect that the receiver will stop everything (including their death process at the side of the highway) and say, “Oh my! That’s two texts in a row from Rebecca! I better get back to her right now because she must really be worried!”
You bet that’s what we expect!
Because we have become addicted to the Immediate Response! And when we don’t get it, like the mice hitting that magic button to get more food out of the container in that famous study, we hit the same darn button ourselves! Over and over! Until we get it.
And then we can say, “Oh, good, everything is alright,” and get on with our day.
Now…let’s take a moment and really think about this.
Because if this isn’t “inefficiency in motion” I do not know what is!
Think about all the time and energy that we have lost in double-checking our phones, and in imagining all of those potential (negative) possibilities for why we have not heard back.
Our brains have been racing and we’ve been puzzled and then we were upset and afraid and then terrified all within the span of minutes! All because we have become addicted to the Immediate Response!
Imagine for a moment “back in the day” when letters took months (months!) to cross the ocean from Europe to America…when an “immediate response” was 6 months or more. Imagine how the potential reactions were then far more drawn out…how at 7 months without a reply you may begin to wonder if the letter got there at all…how by 8 months you may begin to doubt if they still loved you…how by 9 months you might then, and only then, consider the worst case scenario. Heck, that entire sequence used to take 9 whole months! And now it takes, what? Nine minutes? At the most?
And in those 9 minutes we’ve done nothing but spin tales in our brains which distracted us from any and every other thing we were meant to be doing. And we’ve lived 9 months of stress in 9 minutes, and that just cannot be good for any of us!
So here’s my thinking (because I have recognized that I need to shift this for myself…I need to break my addiction): I am going to stop this cycle. I am going to quit sending important “stuff” via text.
Oh I know, this sounds crazy, but this is what I am committed to doing. I am going back to email. To give myself at least the grace of an expected 48 hours response time, so that I can spread my reaction out from 9 minutes to 48 hours.
AND you know what else I am going to do? It’s crazy, I know, but when I do require an immediate response, I am going to pick up the phone and CALL.
Yep. I am going back to the good old-fashioned telephone because if someone doesn’t answer their phone, I never think: “Oh, God, they’re dead!” No. I think, “Okay, they’re just busy. They’ll get back to me when they can.” And I go on with my day.
And if I am really hoping to hear from them, and really concerned that my phone message may not reach them, then I will follow up that phone message with an email. I will “double-down” on my approach when it really is that important (but only when it truly is THAT important.)
Because I am tired of living 9 months of stress in 9 minutes. And I am tired of this addiction. And if you’ve ever felt that you, too, may share this addiction, then I invite you to join me! We can support one another to break this cycle of Immediate Response Addiction!
Just don’t text me to tell me you’re doing it, too. Email me. And enjoy having your stress response spread out over 48 hours instead of 9 minutes. We all have to start somewhere after all!