With a variety of client projects on the go at any one time, I am a natural butterfly.
I flit in and out of inboxes, messenger, slack, Trello, WhatsApp…. And as a mother of four young children whose social lives far surpass my own, I try to keep a firm hold of my diary. This isn’t necessarily the big stuff in life but it is important stuff. But having to build contingencies in to my life means that I don’t always get back to people for social and personal invitations as swiftly as I’d like.
To that end, I feel like I’m always saying “sorry for being so late in getting back to you”. Yet these invitations rarely have a “please reply by” date, and if they do, I don’t miss it. But I feel a constant state of nagging that I haven’t been polite in this manner and that I haven’t completed the task at hand. David Allen talks about how these open loops affect our creativity in his popular GTD methodology.
I came across this feature by Viv Groskop which explained how swapping “thanks for your patience” instead of “sorry I’m so rubbish at getting back to you” can make a difference, I wasn’t convinced. The article cited a study by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, that concluded that women apologise a lot because they are “more likely than men to conclude that their behaviour is objectionable”.I don’t know if this part is true. But I highly suspect that women worry about that side of things much more than men. (this slightly annoying video by Buzzfeed on the difference between how men and women write an email has an excellent undertone of veracity to it).
Recently however, over the past month I have stopped apologising for lateness or not replying immediately to an email or text or even when the two blue ticks have given me away on WhatsApp. I tried changing “sorry” to “thanks” as above, and it made me feel so much better for not being on the back foot. And, I have moved this into my work communications and it’s made me feel a lot more in control and closed those loops, allowing me to focus on the bigger picture stuff. Which can only be a good thing.