Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Slow Down Your Email

I’m doing a couple of things differently in my digital life this year. You already know that one of them is to unfollow all of my Debbie Downer friends on Facebook, and I have to say that that has improved my quality of life immensely. But there’s another thing I’m doing, that I think should benefit not just me, but the people I interact with also.

I’m slowing down my personal email.

What do I mean by this? Well, I mean that unless it absolutely requires an immediate response, I’m slowing down my response time to personal email.

Remember back in the old days of letter-writing, with envelopes and stamps, that once you wrote the letter, it would take about two days for it to get to the person, then they’d read it and spend another day or two writing a response, and then it would take another two days after that for the response to get back to you? It was a nice, leisurely six-day cycle that gave you time to do other things between letters.

But nowadays [and would someone please tell my 12-year-old daughter that it’s nowadays, and not nowendays?] we’re so accustomed to the ability to get an almost instantaneous response from someone, that we get all bent out of shape if we don’t hear back from them in the next hour. And if we haven’t heard from them by the end of the day, they’ve forgotten all about us, and we’ll never hear from them again. And the pressure’s on us too, to respond in a timely manner…where “timely” means “right now,” and without really taking the time to think about what we’re saying.

And to this, I say “Stop!”

It started with a conversation on Facebook that I had decided was taking up too much of my time and effort, as I tried to respond to every post by this one person the moment it appeared. So instead, I deliberately sat and wrote my response in Microsoft Word, went back to edit it a few times, and then posted it at midnight. He got one response from me a day, and suddenly, my life seemed to be back under control. I wasn’t responding to his posts every 20 or 30 minutes. Instead, I’d take a look at what he had written all through the day, write a one-page response in Word later on, go back and look it over a few times, and then post it. It slowed the pace of the interaction down, especially since it gave me time to look things up; and I got what felt like a large portion of my life back.

And so I decided to do this with my personal email too. But here there were two reasons. The first was to slow down the pace so that neither one of us felt under pressure to respond immediately (and poorly). The second is so that we’d each have email to look forward to on another day. You know…sort of like waiting to get a letter?

It’s funny…people say that the art of letter writing has died with the advent of email. They obviously haven’t read some of the messages I send to my friends. Yes, it’s true that many of them are really the electronic equivalent of postcards…just bringing you up to date in 25 words or less…but many of them are full-fledged letters that rival anything from the old quill pen days. The difference is that now I have copies of both the letter I sent as well as the one I received.

And…I don’t have to hunt down an envelope and stamp when I’m ready to send it

But, in any event, unless it’s something that needs an immediate reply, and some things do, I’m giving myself two days to reply.

And maybe we all should.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Does It Always Have to be About Winning?

It was the regular argument over whether or not Cheryl was too sick to go to work. You see, for me, there are two things going on here. The first is the fact that nurses and teachers are the worst two groups for admitting that they’re sick and calling in. I know from my 19 years as a teacher that it’s often easier to be wheeled in on a gurney and teach than to write stand-up for someone else…especially in a class that’s largely personality-driven, and has no textbook. With nurses it’s always the knowledge that they’re understaffed to begin with, and not wanting to “let the team down” by calling in with the plague.

The second is Jim Henson. I remember very well that Jim Henson “wasn’t all that sick” and didn’t want to put anyone out of their way when he died at age 53. I live in constant terror of Cheryl being “not all that sick.” I’ve told her that if she dies from not being willing to admit that she’s sick, I’m gonna be soooo pissed. Jim Henson was a general tragedy. Cheryl would be specific and extremely personal.

But then she said something that made me change my mind about her going in to work when she obviously wasn’t well:

I work in a hospital. If I’m that sick, that’s the best place to be, because I’m already there.


Excellent point.

I hadn’t thought of that before.

And then I said the three words that are the reason that I’m writing this:

OK. You win.

I wasn’t expecting what came next. I was expecting her to graciously accept the fact that I had conceded defeat on that point. Instead, she said, “Why does it always have to be about winning and losing for you?”

Whoa! Wait a minute. My sister asks me the same thing. Thing is, though, that it’s not always about winning and losing. Many things, in fact, probably most things are simply differences of opinion where it doesn’t matter either way. Can you really win or lose over whether Applebee’s or Chili’s is the better restaurant? It all depends on your personal taste; although, you can win or lose the coin toss over which one to eat at that night. However, in the things where it is a matter of winning and losing for me, they notice, and think that I’m that way about everything.

But I’m not. This one seemed like a very simple case of someone being right and someone being wrong. She was right about the hospital being the better place to be if you’re sick in the first place, so she won. Makes sense to me. Had we been talking about going to work in a salt mine when you’re sick, I’d be right, and I’d win. Or at least I should win.

As I said, not everything in my life is a matter of winning and losing, but the things that are, clearly are. What are some other examples?

How about when you’ve been emotionally abused, stabbed in the back, had your heart ripped out and stomped on, been thrown under the bus by people you trusted; or any combination of these…leading you to be left as metaphorical roadkill…and then not only merely survive, but thrive? To me, that comeback, that being able to say, “Ha! You thought I was down for the count, but now I’m doing better than ever!” is a definite, and much-needed win. I’ve had my share of those, and I suspect that it’s my talking about those wins that make some people think that for me it’s always about winning or losing.

But they’re wrong.

And if I can convince you to agree with me about this, then I’ve won.