Friday, February 20, 2009

You’ve Got MORE Mail

I’ve noticed that the more promptly you answer your emails, the faster you get a response. For me, this can be very motivating. I thrive on feedback. But it can also create false priorities and inappropriate urgency. Keeping up with the new stuff tends to mean letting the older stuff get older.

As a result, I wonder what my correspondents think of me (if they think of me at all?) Were we to poll them, some would probably say, “That Marti Smith, she is so helpful and responsive!” and others would say, “It was just a simple question, and I’ve been waiting for months…” And of course both perspectives are equally valid: I’m tremendously responsive and tremendously unresponsive – consistently inconsistent!

And phone messages are harder, because I tend to lose any social skills or finesse I may have when I talk on the phone. Even as things tend to get resolved more quickly on the phone, and it's a better way to get to know people than over email, it's not a better way to get to know me; it's me at my worst. I'm always at least a little upset at being interrupted, put on the spot by receiving the call or having had to make it, and that tension shows. Something inside me freezes. I'm so much better on paper or in person.

Well, about a week and a half ago I tried to dig out, on the email side at least. By writing 45 emails on Friday, and 30 on Sunday, I got my inbox considerably cleaned out. So, now, with my messages flooding the inboxes of others, I suppose I am either (1) a blessing, or (2) part of their email problem!

Monday felt good, but I logged in the next morning to find 31 new emails.

Maintaining communication networks is both wonderful and stressful. I have a love/hate relationship with it. Sometimes it feels like an addiction. I need to lay down some ground rules for myself to make sure I’m being responsible and responsive, but also finding some peace and balance.

(With this, as with any struggle, I find only one thing that's really effective in dissolving my tendency to make things more complicated than they have to be. It's my friendship with Jesus. Some of my more secular readers might not understand, but if you've experienced this, I guess you know what I mean. It's as if he just takes my hand and says, with gentleness and love, "Get up. I'll go with you.")

See also Jon Swanson's post of a few weeks ago, Friday Morning.

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