The Anatomy Of A Long Ignored Message Or Task.

I’ve been trying for awhile now to improve my digital personal communication skills. I’ve tried organizing and flagging my inbox or leaving messages unread. I’ve tried a lot of things but basically – what it all boils down to is that there are a LOT of messages I get from people in a LOT of forms that I never respond to and forget about forever.

I’ve decided recently that I need to figure out the cause and maybe that will help with the solution.

Too Much Crap In My Head Fighting For Attention

First and foremost? It’s the same thing that caused me to constantly lose important stuff growing up. I lost sunglasses and jewelry, I lost wallets and purses, I lost jackets and uniforms…it drove my Dad CRAZY. He would get SO MAD that I would actually try to hide that I had lost something until I could save up money to replace it. (I did this with a pair of Ray-Bans he bought me for a birthday present in 8th grade. He never knew I lost the original pair.) However, as angry as it made him, he would calm down later and say, “It’s because you always have too many things on your mind. So where you put your [insert lost item here] gets lost in the shuffle.”

My adult manifestation of a similar problem is Not Responding To Your Message/Email/Text/Tweet.

Most of the time if I’m at the computer, I’m working. So, if I see a personal message come through somewhere, I read it to make sure it’s not something that needs immediate attention – and then I put it aside “until later” because – obviously, work gets top priority. And then this is where Dad’s theory comes into play. I assume I’ll get to that email “later” when I’m not working, but there are so many things going in my head that the Message That Needs A Response just falls to the wayside. If you are a high-stress, high-anxiety person you have stupid crap floating around your head all the time that is trying to get you into FULL PANIC MODE! So, things that don’t make you panic? Like emails or Facebook messages? Sometimes get pushed back and ignored to deal with the things that are pushing you to CODE RED! mode. Sometimes it’s work but if I’m at the computer it could also be things like File Taxes or FASFA forms, or maybe getting in my daily blog post (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD) or watching the latest Vlogbrother’s video (Yes. Not important to you. VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.) Either way – there are things I’m tending to at the computer that my brain says: PRIORITY! PRIORITY! PRIORITY! in the panicked voice that my brain has.

(I really wish my brain had the calm Mary Poppins voice, my life would be so much easier then.)

Other times I’m on my phone looking at messages, on my personal time with no anxious tasks looming before me. I’ll scroll through social media or read emails and I think I just don’t feel like responding to this on this tiny keypad, I’ll do it later when I’m at the computer. This is very valid! No one likes typing long responses on their phone! But then, of course, I’m at the computer and I’m working and…well…we’re back to the paragraph above and the anxious voices in my head and little things like personal messages in any format get pushed back behind whatever I’m doing for work and then they just get forgotten.

Inevitably what happens on things like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram is that my current feed pushes these messages I forgot to respond to out of the top of my list so I simply forget about them forever and they’re lost in the ether. Once in awhile something will trigger a reminder of the message and I’ll panic and think: OH SHIT, I NEVER REPLIED TO THAT!

There Is Never Enough Time

Another part of the underlying problem is my need to allow myself time for things. And this is why a LOT of things don’t get done in my personal life. I haven’t painted E’s bathroom yet because I haven’t had a block of uninterrupted time to do it. I was supposed to do it when he left for college LAST YEAR. I feel like if I can’t give something the time it deserves to complete the entire task, I shouldn’t even start. So, if the message or email requires thought I’ll put it off until I can really give it the time it needs.

SPOILER ALERT: There is never enough time.

I’ve got a task I was supposed to complete for some extended family back in DECEMBER. I did the first draft a few months late because I COULDN’T FIND THE CHUNK OF TIME! I may have 30 minutes free here, or an hour there, but this task would take several hours. And instead of doing it piece by piece and maybe having problems caused by stopping and staring repeatedly, I just never started. After I finally got the late first draft sent out, I’m back to the SAME PROBLEM AGAIN. I can’t find a big enough chunk of time! And now my entire extended family probably has crowned me the Queen of all Slackdome.

Just like anyone with any email or message I never responded too. They see me writing blog posts or Facebook statuses or watching videos and sharing them on Twitter…But I don’t have time to respond to that email? Or finish that family task?

Well…there’s time…but not enough time in that one sitting!!!

A concept that only makes sense to me, I know.

So, now what?

I’ve done a good job lately trying to figure out WHY I suck at personal communications and tasks, but how do I fix it? Here are some of my ideas I just need to figure out how to implement.

  • Set aside PERSONAL computer time. Time where I’m deliberately NOT working. Where I’m sitting down to respond to personal messages or handle personal business that requires the computer. When you work from home it’s hard not to switch to WORK MODE when you sit at the computer. So, instead of surfing social media on my phone before bed, I should sit at the computer and do the same thing. Then I have the full keyboard to respond to those messages I ignore because I hate typing on my phone.
  • Accept that there’s not going to be a large enough window of time to start/complete an entire personal task or respond to a very lengthy message. Accept I’ll have to break things up into smaller chunks.

Now, HOW do I teach myself to accept using smaller chunks of time. And HOW do I keep messages/tasks fresh in inboxes and feeds until I sit down for personal computer time? That’s the bigger issue.

How do you do it? How do you respond to messages/emails etc LATER, and not forget about them or lose them to the digital ether? Do you write them on your To Do list? Do you “Mark As Unread” until you can respond? What about tasks that require large chunks of time? Are you like me and put them off forever until you find the time? Or have you figured out how to do it piece by piece?