Taking the Straight Line: Part 3 Effective Communication

Communication is fundamental to the human race, and yet it is something that has not only changed so much in the last decade but is often neglected today. I'd originally wanted to call this post 'Digital Communication' but quickly realised that one of the main messages I’m trying to convey is that there is absolutely clear points where face to face communication is required. Hence, the post is called 'Effective Communication'.

Types of Communication

Communication comes in many forms, sadly I’m old enough to remember the days where there was no internet or mobile devices. That world we used to live in, the scary one where we weren’t instantly contactable. In those days if you’d asked people to list various types of communication it would look much different than today. Most likely focused around people that you know and the real tangible interactions with them, such as face to face or via a wired telephone. 

These days if you were to ask the same question you'd be inundated with technology related responses. The Internet and all it’s social platforms and the big one, e-mail. Imagine for a second being back in the late 1980's, where you leave your house and you're not contactable and have no access to instant notifications of what's going on in the world or with your 'friends' until you return home and turn on the television or someone calls you on the wired landline. For some of you that will cast a huge amount of horror, but try and look at it from another angle, imagine the peace and quiet, the clarity of mind and the lack of distraction. 

Quick Fact: The average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes, and, once distracted, a worker takes nearly half an hour to resume the original task. - Gloria Mark (Leader in the new field of interruption science)

So what point am I making? The way we communicate has bloated in such a way that for a lot of us it has become so time consuming and distracting that we simply are not getting things done anymore. Communication is about knowledge sharing, interacting with people we care about, working as an effective team. As human beings this interaction is crucial but it can be both positive or negative. When the communication is negative, not required or distracting it can bring down a persons emotional levels as well as their productivity.

We need to refocus and communicate effectively and communicate more with those that support us, are always there for us and that add to our lives. Everyone else should be cut out or minimised or handled correctly if it isn't possible to cut them out.

What can we do to Take the Straight Line on Communication?

Here are a few things you can do to Take the Straight Line on communication, many of which I have practiced myself and found beneficial.

E-Mail

This is an easy one, go and read Part 1 of this series.

Social Platforms

This one is a big one, and yet one of the most simple ones to take action on. How many social platforms are you on? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Why? What purpose do these serve in your life? 

Be honest with yourself about what they provide you with, and just how many hours of your life are quite frankly wasted on these platforms when you could be achieving real tangible tasks. 

Facebook

I'm sure many of you will say you use it to keep in contact with friends and family. That's great, but how big is your friends list and who's on it? Here's the thing, my friends list at one point had nearly 1,000 people that I genuinely knew. There's a big difference between knowing someone and being friends with someone. So one day I went through and deleted everyone that I didn't physically see on a weekly basis or that were actual friends I wanted to speak to regularly. My list dropped to 90 people, as did the amount of noise and crap that I had to read in my news feed. Now I had only those people that I care about in my list and could see what they were up to. This enriched not only my time, removed distractions but enhanced my relationship with those people remaining on my list as I now had focused time to interact with them. In fact, I could further reduce my footprint on Facebook by making my friends list to only those that I speak to on the phone regularly. By default, people that I actually phone would make these the most important people to me, right?

Twitter

I used it as a way to keep up with my favourite websites and to complain to big companies when things have gone wrong. Now I just use it for the later and have my favourite websites on an RSS app to deliver to me direct noise free. If setup correctly, Twitter, can serve a function but if abused or misunderstood it can wreak havoc on your time and productivity. There are some that have removed e-mail from their lives and replaced it with Twitter. Essentially Twitter is gone from my life except for use as promotional tools and reader interaction for my websites.

See: DavidJMoore and Apple Resource 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn gained a rapid and large user base but I am still struggling to see its true attraction apart from as a platform for recruitment scams and for recruitment companies to bombard you offers that don't even fit your background for companies they won't even tell you their name until you want to apply. 

The vast majority of people I know use it as a spying tool, and as such I moved my online profile to DavidJMoore.com. I decided to move my 'self brand' online since I am my single best promoter, not LinkedIn. Whilst I still have a profile on there I have turned off all mail notifications so I am not disturbed by recruiters. Eventually I will transition the LinkedIn page to point to my site as the single point of information on me. 

The Others

The rest of the social apps I cannot comment on as I don't use them and never will, they are a waste of my life and time and they are a waste of yours too, you just need to realise that. 

In summary, social platforms have their uses, but use them wisely. Use them to keep in contact with those that really matter, not half the world that you really don't care that much about. Limit the number of them that you use to just the essentials and stop being nosey, focus your time and effort on your life and those that you care about and forget the rest. 

Mobile Platforms

This is an all encompassing title and really the device is a medium to receive the communication. However, if setup correctly the mobile platform can help you streamline your communication channels. 

Have you ever been sat on the sofa with your mobile device and notifications are blowing the device up? Distracting isn't it? Go through your device and uninstall those apps you don't use, for those that stay, go to the notification settings on your device and disable all of those that are not critical. 

You may also want to consider a 'Do not disturb' function on your device and enable it from say 8-9pm through until when you wake up. It's good to switch off and unplug from the digital world. I have do not disturb enabled from 9pm-8am, with those on my favourites list (2 people) set so that if they call me the call goes through. 

Blocking is an under utilised function of mobile devices. I've blocked plenty of people both in my personal and professional life. There are certain people that cause drama, are negative, provide you with nothing of value and are just generally annoying. Those people are prime candidates for the block function. It doesn't need to be only for those that are annoying or that drain you. Maybe you have ex's or randoms you have dated that keep creeping up out of the blue. Every time these people come back into your life they take a bit of your energy and time. Take it back, use the block function. 

Note: That in Physics the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant. In other words energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather , it transforms from one form to another.

I believe that the laws of physics apply to human 'energy', those around us either take, give or maintain our energy levels. Annoying texts, noise on Facebook or making contact again after many months of no contact are all examples of taking energy and need the block function.

Note: Wondering if you have been blocked? Check out my article on Apple Resource to know if you have been blocked by someone

Another tool that I use, that I touched on in part 1 of this series, is E-mail VIPs. In other words only those that are very important to me cause an e-mail alert on my phone. Instead of the constant 'ding, ding, ding', my phone now barely makes a peep and when it does I know that it is to alert me to something of value.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging grew to incredible heights in the early 2000's before morphing from your AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger into Apple Messages, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and KIK (amongst a few). Instant messaging can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing as it can be the major tool that avoids unneeded and unwanted e-mails, however, it's a curse in so much that some people can abuse it and go overboard with the number of messages they send and also the big one - the expectation of instant response. 

Face to Face

This is probably the most important section, I saved the best for last. In a world of digital communication we have all but forgotten how crucial Face to Face communication is! I'm sure you have all received or sent an e-mail to a colleague sat only feet away, or called someone sat one floor up. Here is a novel idea, get off your ass and go and talk to the person face to face. There will be no loss of feelings, intent or message when compared to an e-mail and you will often avoid a small e-mail to and fro in a 5 minute face to face conversation. In other words, the 5-15 mins you take for the face to face interaction will not only save you that time in digital noise and responses but it will create more value with the individual you are interacting with. One day, that investment in 'networking' could help you or even save your ass.

Conclusions

In an ever advancing world, sometimes it isn't bad to take a step back and reflect on how simple it used to be. I'm not telling you to throw away your communications devices or accounts, simply use them wisely. Take back control, take back your time and Take the Straight Line!