August 10, 2023

Responsiveness & smart tech

One of the changes in smartphone behaviour I've learned from my two year stint away is to ignore the pull of responsiveness.

I used to treat messages like open loops that needed solving.  I wanted to reply right away.  I wanted to have conversations on WhatsApp.  If someone messaged I didn't want to be rude by not replying.

With a phone that makes no noise it was easy to not reply, because sometimes it was hours before I saw incoming messages at all.

Now, when I get a text, I feel the instant pull to reply but I have to fight it and realize now is not the time.  It's so much easier to send a quick text on an i-phone... that's one of the reasons I went back to it.  T9 texting took longer.  Messages were shorter.  However, I am very aware that the benefits of faster texting will be instantly undone if I start texting 4 or 5 times as much.

I feel this in work too - even though I use my own task board I sometimes get stuck into clearing my inbox or replying to teams messages.  It was actually noted during a performance review that I didn't engage much on a teams channel and that I should engage with a specific team more.  I didn't want to say it at the time, but that's because I think teams chat is mostly a waste of time.

If someone has a question for me I am more than happy to answer.  

If someone has a question for a group which includes me I'm more than happy to leave someone else to answer (or, usually, someone else answers before I even see it).

In an effort to "engage more" I got in a conversation on the teams forum the next day, providing advice and support. 30 minutes of asynchronous conversation later I had solved the issue (publicly).  It felt like a waste of 30 minutes.  I decided to disengage from teams again.

Phones are so addictive, intentionally.  It's hard to fight the urge to reply.  But one of the things I worked on with my T9 texting was being highly intentional on the time I spent messaging people.  I doubt anyone appreciated that intentionality - that it too me 5 times as long to write then as they took to write me - but I considered it a symbol of my appreciation of them.  I don't want to lose that because I can text 5 times faster.  

For me, texting has a time and a place, and that time & place is not dictated by what's incoming when.

(I realize this would probably extend to email if you have email on your phone too... I don't plan on having email on mine)


  1. I JUST had a conversation with a coworker (who, as an aside, just got a smartphone about two years ago. He had a pay as you go brick before that!) about this very thing. We had a client email us about a non-urgent matter and our boss prodded us a few minutes (literally minutes) later asking why we had not responded to the client yet. So my coworker and I had a long discussion about how people expect immediate responses even to mundane or unimportant things and if we start responding immediately, they ALWAYS expect that, and although today I may not be as busy, I would hate to disappoint them tomorrow if I am slammed and can't get to their issue within a few minutes.

    This segued into how I personally only check my email and texts at a certain time each day (or week in some cases. No email is THAT important!) and I leave my notifications off and my phone on silent. I actually do have notifications (on silent) for texts, but he actually has turned off all notifications and only intentionally checks each app each day or week or whatever.

    Anyway, I am on your page!

    1. I love the idea of checking email at a certain time each day or week, I am so not good about that. I don't have an email app on the phone but I do tend to be at home with my computer around for much of my life right now.

      I think setting expectations is so important with email and as you say - just because you may have time to reply quickly today doesn't mean you'll always have time. I really like your approach.

  2. My husband and I have a very different approach to text responses. If I am busy, or especially if I am with another human (having coffee, in a meeting, chatting on the sidewalk) I will ignore my phone. I try not to even register its presence. But for my husband, he is almost incapable of ignoring a text. And he sometimes gets irritated if I take too long to respond. We have had multiple conversations about how it only takes a few seconds to respond to a text, while I argue that it's disrespectful to the person I'm with if I divert my attention for that few seconds. Ugh. What's most frustrating, I think, is when I'm out with someone who has the opposite mentality, and they answer texts, or check their notifications when I have my phone stowed in my purse. I don't want to take out my phone because it feels like it goes against my... morals/values are too strong, but something along those lines. But it's also very boring to be staring at a friend who is responding to her mom's text message. Some people at least apologize while they're doing it (and I understand that there are special circumstances!), but some just don't seem to understand that it could be perceived at disrespectful.

    I am also rolling my eyes so hard at your boss wanting you to engage more on teams. What a waste of time! Aren't there other ways to engage with your team?!?!

    1. I just want to second your sentiments about keeping your phone in your purse when you are spending time with another person. It definitely feels disrespectful to be "put aside" while the other person responds to what is likely NOT something important. I think whatever it is can wait 30 or 60 minutes most of the time and it just sets a bad habit to not prioritize and/or compartmentalize your time better.

    2. I would get annoyed if my husband didn't answer his phone or cal me back if I call but I can't imagine getting annoyed at not texting. For me it's not about the amount of time it takes to send or read a text, it's about the disconnection from whatever I'm doing at the time. I have occasionally had to text before while with other people and I'm always so embarrassed and apologize.

      I find it so awakrd to sit around with people while they are on their phones. I think it happens a lot when we have guests - because we live so far away from family when people visit they tend to get comfortable on the sofa and pull out their phones in the evening. I'm never sure what I should do then... get a book and start reading? Go somewhere else in my house and keep doing what I would do if I didn't have a guest? I am more than happy to sit and chat in the evenings but If someone is really into their phone then it doesn't leave much room for conversation.

  3. I am a big proponent of "DO NOT RESPOND IMMEDIATELY to messages unless it's an actual emergency, but in that case; CALL ME!)
    I think the expectation that you should respond within 5 minutes is ludicrous and we need to work against that.

  4. To me, the entire benefit of email and text vs a phone call is that I can ignore it and reply when it is convenient for me to do so. If someone calls me, it may be urgent and I will answer it. If someone emails me, I don't have notifications set up so I won't see it until I check my email. If someone texts me, I will generally look at it even if I am with someone, but unless it NEEDS answering now, I will just put it away and reply later. I only check to make sure it isn't urgent.

    Work is different, we are expected to reply right away. I do have notifications set up there. When an email comes into our team, we have OneNote set up so we can list who is taking care of it, so we don't have duplication of effort. And thankfully, no one cares whether we participate in Teams conversations unless they come to us directly. Whew!

  5. I think about responsiveness at work all the time. I feel like with my job, people expect me to have answers, so I should respond quickly - somehow I had it in my head that knowledge is an asset and it reflects well on me to answer right away. But I think I've arrived at a place where I feel like it's okay to *not* be the first to answer an email, particularly a group email - give it a few hours to see how things play out; I usually have a sense of whether or not an email is urgent and also, there is usually at least one other person who can answer something or if I wait long enough someone else will solve the problem. And even if they don't answer it the way I would have, it's absolutely okay. Sometimes I worry that this approach makes me less of a presence or a leader at work, making me seem passive.
    I do worry with texts, though, if I don't respond right away, I will forget - so maybe I need a method of cleaning out my text inbox regularly.
    I'm a little confounded as to what your directive to "engage more" is supposed to mean, though...

  6. Ohhhh that old chestnut. I can relate to what was written above. I do feel pressured to respond to a text but not email. Probably because my emails don't show up but regular texts and WhatsUp do. I need to set the boundaries to check once in the morning and once at night. Definitely food for thought.

    "Engage more" is what I do in WhatsUp. I created my own mom group in the neighborhood that chats all the time, with big things and small. It could be anything from "how are you ladies doing today" to "what do I with [insert kid issue]" I only check that group twice, sometimes once a day. Those connections are valuable to me because they are all moms that I met in person that all have some kind of connection with: preschool, playground, nearby house.

  7. For many years I have turned off noise for incoming messages. I have a lot of chats and conversations off push so I only see I when I take the time to check. I hate the content noise and alerts.
    And I agree it is not healthy to constantly write messages back and forth.
    I personally try to write message is in block. So one message with paragraphs instead of each sentence another message. It might be. either for me too. send. But it is so freakin annoying getting those strings of messages. That is a tiny thing I can do for Peter messaging etiquette.

  8. 30 minutes of asynchronous messaging is such a pet peeve of mine. Let's get on a call and figure it out! And then the person I helped can post to Teams how we resolved it (so hopefully it will stick). -Kat