Monday, December 17, 2018

How Texting Can Ruin Your Career -- and What to Do About It

Everyone knows you shouldn't text and drive, and several cities (such an Honolulu) make it illegal to text and walk. The reason is clear: people driving or walking distracted are not only a danger to others, but to themselves.

But there is something equally damaging going on in workplaces today that has to do with texting. It's texting too fast. It's responding immediately to a text, rather it's a question from a colleague, a request from a boss or a complaint from a customer.

The result -- and you know deep in your soul this is true -- is that we become more stressed, more exhausted and more distracted when we respond right away to texts.

What would happen if you waited to respond to a text? If you didn't jump every time a text pinged? If you phoned the person who asked the question? Or walked over to her desk to respond?

There's a reason meditation and mindfulness have become multi-million-dollar businesses, and that's because they are necessary for all those people who are being crazy about responding to texts. These people are so tied to their phones that they cannot simply unwind during their workday and so are in a heightened state of awareness to their phones and feel constantly rushed.

"Pauses can be really productive if we re-center our attitude towards them," says Jason Farman, author of "Delayed: The Art of Waiting From the Ancient to the Instant World."

He explains that innovation needs time. It needs people to be able to daydream, to sit and do nothing without the interruption of texts demanding immediate responses. Without that ability to disconnect, we risk losing our creativity, our ability to think more deeply about how to solve problems or challenges.

If you're looking for a way to end your addiction to texting too fast that may be harming you, think about:

1. Turning off notifications. Just as with email notifications, that ping is distracting and ruins your concentration. It takes about 25 minutes for you to get back on track after an interruption. Is it really the best use of your time to respond with "K" after a colleague texts you where to meet for lunch? Or, could you work steadily for 30 minutes or an hour and then check your texts?

2. Realizing how it's hurting your career. Research has shown that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an electronic one. If you're really going to get what you want, then turn away from texts or emails and make your request to an actual live, breathing human being. When a boss or colleague or customer indicates they are ready to talk to you, don't respond with a text. Call -- or better yet -- talk to the person face-to-face.

3. Understanding you're likely to make a mistake. Autocorrect is the bane of my existence. It does things like type in "dud" for "did." It sends a message in the middle of a sentence if I hit the wrong key.  That's why it's much better to wait until you can at least email the person or phone or talk in person. Texts are too informal, messy and brief to sound professional. That extra time you take to think of what you want to say will ensure that your communications are clear and not portraying you as confused or immature.

Studies have shown that constantly being "on" is detrimental to our emotional and physical well-being, but it also hurts those we love. A partner who is watching you text work-related matters at home will start to also feel less job satisfaction and performance for both people will suffer.

If you don't think you can turn away from texts, try small steps. Try putting your phone in your office drawer for 10 minutes, then work up to 20 minutes, then try one hour. You may find that when you change your mindset, you break free of a lot of stress and become more creative and productive.

Let me know how it goes....

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