Improving Digital Communications


“Oh! Look! An Email! I’ll read it during this 90 seconds I have while my lunch heats up.”

Zoot reads email

“Oh. This is a lovely email that needs a lovely response. (Or maybe: This is a question that needs a well thought-out answer.) My 90 seconds is up. I need some time to actually compose a well-thought out response. I’ll do it later.”

LATER NEVER COMES.

Zoot forgets entirely about email

This is my life. And it goes for Facebook messages and Twitter DMs and Instagram comments. I’m really bad about using small pockets of time – while waiting in line at Target, or waiting for my meal to heat up, or waiting for my kid to get out of the bathroom – to check messages and emails. THIS IS A TERRIBLE HABIT, I have decided. Because I never have time to respond if it requires more than 1 or 2 sentences and so I wait, and then eventually I forget about it. Not because the message or email wasn’t important. But because the message or email was digested during a rushed moment of “waiting” when my long-term memory is turned off to conserve energy for the task that I’m waiting on.

If it’s an email then at least, weeks or months later, I’ll go through my inbox and eventually see it and feel really bad and probably not respond because I feel so terrible. OR, if it’s some other message, I’ll miss it entirely and never remember it again. Email has an inbox where nothing gets cleared out unless I clear it out. But FB messages and Twitter DMs and Instagram comments just keep getting buried under other messages so I no longer see them, making them permanently forgotten.

SO. What is the solution? FIX ME, BLOG FRIENDS? Do I only read messages/emails/tweets/comments when I have time to respond and/or address them? BUT THEN HOW DO I PASS TIME WAITING IN LINES? Do you have designated “check communications” times? I keep my email open all day, maybe that’s the problem? Although email I at least notice once in awhile, the other methods of communications get lost after time. FOREVER. I at least address my inbox once a month or so. The Facebook messenger app is the place where messages go to die.

7 Comments

  • Jenny

    Take a screenshot of things you need to reply to then once a day scroll through your photos. Delete the screenshots as you write the replies.

  • Roseann

    I like Jenny’s suggestion of a screenshot. I also keep a running list in my notes section of things like this, but more for if it’s a larger effort. Short responses that are needed are often forgotten about, as well, like you’ve mentioned, and also like you, facebook messages are never checked again, until someone else sends me another one.

  • Colleen

    The technique that mostly works for me for email is to mark the message as unread if I read it and know I don’t have time to respond. That helps me get back to it. I’ve also learned to ask myself if a well thought out response is really needed or if a short one will mostly work. I’ve gotten better at going ahead and sending the short response that answers 75% of the question, rather than never remembering to respond.

  • Suzanne

    I am so guilty of this too! Mostly I do what Colleen does and mark messages as unread until I respond to them. That seems to help.

  • A Random Person

    I have this problem at work. Here is what I did:
    I removed from my sight all emails older than a month (face it: you are never going to respond to those emails. It is over. Abandon it)
    I then went through the remaining emails. Emails which were read and required no action: out of sight.
    Emails that required action were either actioned immediately or added to my task list.

    This took a little bit.

    Then, the daily maintenance. All emails go out of sight once they are read. If they require a response, either respond immediately or add them to your task list.

    And, of course, make sure you action your task list. 🙂

  • Ginger

    Here are the things I do for email: mark as unread if I’m on my phone until I can deal with it OR use Boomerang if I’m on the computer to send it back to myself at a time I think it’ll be more likely I’ll be able to respond. The annoyance of unread messages makes me deal with them pretty quickly tbh.

  • Julie

    This reply is from someone who basically lives under a rock in this digital age–no Facebook, no Twitter, only work email and a small amount of personal–and yet I too understand that feeling of reading an email, not responding and then forgetting about it.
    But my response is more about your comment of “now what do I do when I’m waiting in line?”
    and my thought?

    Wait in the line.
    Be present.
    Take deep breaths.
    Smile at people around you.
    Write your gratitude list for the day in your head.
    Be present.
    Take deep breaths.
    Wait in the line.

    You don’t have to feel like you are wasting time. You doing what you are supposed to be doing. Do one thing at a time.

    I actually think reading this post was a sign from the universe to remind ME of all those things I said above. Thank you!
    Julie