May in New England this year has been a bit wet. Temperatures are cool, but not uncomfortable. Between days of rain, are afternoons when the sun comes out, the sky is bright and the flowers are putting on a colorful show.
If was one of these perfect afternoons recently, when I met with a group of fellow entrepreneurs for an evening of relaxation and camaraderie. For most of us, it was very enjoyable. But there were two people there who demonstrated the symptoms of a plague which is ravaging the joy out of many entrepreneurs.
It’s the: “always available habit!”
Seriously, this is a huge problem. It diverted their attention away from those sitting with them and kept them in ‘work mode.’ The message here is basically that the caller/text, is more important than the people present, and that their business has no boundaries.
This habit of always responding immediately also causes a break in any productivity, creates stress, and brings on the feeling of overwhelm. Yes, I said habit. That’s what it truly comes down to…a very bad habit. Recent studies are showing that these constant distractions are causing a drop in IQ levels, and it’s already been proven that multitasking is not efficient either.
Often, when I ask entrepreneurs about this, their response is that it’s their customers contacting them and they feel obligated to provide service. Yes, it is important to provide good service to your customers, but there is a point of going overboard. It is really necessary to respond immediately to your client about whether they should use the blue questionnaire or the red one? In all honesty, many of the inquiries we receive are almost that trivial.
So what is the remedy to this plaguing habit?
1. Train yourself! Yep, it starts with you. Set some boundaries, specific ‘down times,’ and turn off your phone notifications. Unless you have something going on that is truly under a time crunch, a child/family member you must stay in contact with, or medical concerns, set some off time.
2. Train others! Teach your clients that you will respond to emails/texts within 24-hours during your working hours. If you respond immediately to all inquiries, you are training them to expect just that. Hold yourself accountable and hold them accountable. Again, there are few jobs that truly require immediate emergency response, but this is not the case in the majority of businesses.
Going forward, as you take on new clients, be sure to write guidelines regarding ‘open business hours’ within your contracts.
Finally, be with the people who are breathing right in front of you! They are important too!