Here are some thoughts that drive this post.
- Life involves other people. Even a recluse has to hire another person to do his or her grocery shopping…or communicate with a company employee who makes the deliveries when something is incorrect.
- It can be frustrating to work and communicate with people (because they just don’t always think and communicate the way we do!).
- When you live in a family or shared space scenario, work with others, or plan events with friends, you must communicate with those around you or else relationships deteriorate and nothing gets done.
- When you communicate poorly, time is wasted. If you’ve got time to waste, spend it at the beach.
- A new year is upon us. And while I’ve slowly let go of setting new year’s resolutions, I will always hold onto the power of a new day.
Considering all of these thoughts, perhaps now is an appropriate time to consider what you can improve in your future communications? I know I can always improve, but while thinking of how, I decided sharing what I already do might prove helpful for some.
The main people with whom I must communicate, work and plan are…
- MYSELF – First and foremost, I must communicate with myself. How many times have I forgotten things that I’ve only reminded myself of a dozen times? Easy. A million. If you cannot communicate and work with yourself, you will most likely not be able to do the same with others. Repeat this to yourself:
One must communicate effectively, work gently and plan realistically with oneself. – Yours Truly
- Sam – I live with this husband of mine (how lucky for me!) and since he’s the other functioning adult in our home, he needs a knowledge of what is going on with…
- Me: when my girls’ nights are, my meetings with my church youth group counselors and advisors, when I have doctor appointments that he might need to be aware of, groceries to be picked up when I don’t have the time to do it, gifts I want for my birthday (most important!), etc.
- The Kids: when they have special events at preschool, when they are attending extracurricular activities that he’s able to attend, when they have birthday parties to be dropped to, etc.
- Social Events: aside from guys’ nights and girls’ nights, Sam and I are generally accepted in the same social circles. Sam gets invited to the same stuff I do and vice versa. It’s the nicest part of marriage that others are now forced to invite me to events to which my partner gets invited. If such an invitation comes to one of us, the other naturally wants and needs to know about it so other events aren’t scheduled on top of it. Or, so the other person can veto attendance! It happens…
- Nearby extended family – With our sets of parents and even a few siblings nearby, we routinely plan dinners and holiday gatherings that we attend or host as a family. This means that we have to make sure all invited are aware of the details and nobody forgets to bring the food they promised. Or else!
- Church youth program’s counselors and advisors – they help me watch over, plan for, and execute activities for 31 girls in our Youth Program. I couldn’t do anything very well without them being on board and in the know!
- Brityn – Since we’re co-authoring this blog, we must be on the same page about pretty much e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g: do we want to do sponsored posts (not particularly)?, how often are we posting?, do we format our posts the same way?, when are we posting about such-and-such?… and so on. Despite not living close to one another any more, we keep in very regular communication through a variety of methods.
My methods for keeping the wires as tangle-free as possible.
When I’m feeling the least stressed and the most prepared, it’s because I’m taking advantage of my Pre-dawn Power Hour. Communication, working and planning with yourself require time. Face what’s coming at you, and you’ll know for what to prepare. If you can do it at the end of the day and remember everything the next morning, my hat is off to you, but for me, planning is best in the morning before my kids are up.
It’s as important for you to take time to communicate with your partner as it is to take time to communicate with yourself. Once you’re in line, get your spouse and you on the same page. You can only do this through taking time to talk and discuss what is going on and what is coming up–for me, with my systems in play, this takes about 5 minutes or less a day, however this can be difficult if you are not organized, or if you have unresolved relationship issues or just general difficulty communicating. I’m certainly no counselor, but knowing about yourself and your spouse’s personality and communication preferences can help in this department.
PAPER v. SCREEN
I used to think I had to pick between electronic organization methods and paper. That was a self-created problem, however as the reality is that I don’t have to pick–I use them both. Being a visual learner, I must almost always commit something to paper or a screen by my own hand before it begins to take root in my brain. I simply have to SEE something for my brain to process it most fully.
Paper has the potential to stick in my brain longer, assuming the children don’t take it or eat it, as a screen can instantly switch to a new tab or web address or incoming phone call. However, a screen, or rather the electronic platform, into which you are inputting information can be accessed from just about any phone, tablet, certain watches, or computer. It’s kind of a miracle when you think about it, and especially when you forget to bring your planner with you.
For all events which require my presence or acknowledgement, or events that are shared with others, they are first committed to screen via Google calendar. However, each Sunday the goal is to sit down and transfer these electronic calendared events to my paper planner. Having the paper accessible at the same time as a screen, or not, is critical to my brain remembering the events and to-dos after removing myself from them. I try to reference my planner every morning and once in the afternoon, Mondays-Fridays.
Events input to Google calendar will pop up with reminders on my phone for whatever length of time beforehand that I determine. For major events, I make sure to give myself at least a couple hours for a reminder. For most events, I switched my default reminder time to be 30 minutes as that is how long it takes me to get my kids in the car and get to most of the places I go.
For my church work, I use a separate, shared/group Google calendar (here’s how to add one and how to share it with others) to keep track of our events, leaders’ and girls’ birthdays, assignments, etc. All of the leaders are able to check it from our phones at any time to see what’s coming down the pipeline.
When friends or family tell me in advance that they’ll be in town, but are unable to plan an event yet, I put it into my Google calendar as an all-day event. If I see those days when planning out my week, I can schedule less on those days and be more available to do something once they’re ready to get down and plan something specific. I always invite Sam to these all-day events, so he’s prepared (regardless of whether he’s going to see whomever is coming) for a difference in schedule that day. If out-of-towners are asking to stay at our home, I owe it to Sam, and vice versa, to call him before accepting them as our guests. If he agrees, I send it to his calendar.
I make the most important lists (groceries divided by store, upcoming gifts for others’ birthdays, progress on a home project) on an electronic list app called Trello. I LOVE Trello, because it isn’t just multiple vertical lists. It is a platform of boards that you can title whatever you want. Within those boards, you can have dozens of vertical lists, side by side to each other. For my Shopping Board, I have about 8 Store Lists and all of the items I need to get from each of those stores within their associated Lists. Best of all, I can share the Board with another user and add pictures.
This translates into Sam being asked, “Hey honey, can you grab the items on the Kroger list on your way home from work?” and Sam can say, “Yes!” confidently, because he does not fear my wrath of him not knowing exactly what’s in my brain. You see, my brain now exists on this Trello list, so Sam is a celebrated hero when he returns from the store! #MarriageEnhancer
Note: Wunderlist is another popular list app that Brityn uses in addition to Trello. Just a visual preference thing!
Here’s where I really get a lot of mileage out of my paper planner. I love the ability to write notes, think and plan things out, and physically scratch through a to-do item on PAPER. Ahhhh…it’s a glorious feeling!
Any repeatable to-dos that I don’t feel like writing over and over each day are programmed through my iPhone (android option) and pop up as often as I tell it to do so. If you care to know, the things I struggle to remember each day are flossing and applying CeraVe to my eczema each night. Exciting!
I have yet another shared/group Google calendar specifically for the blog with Brityn, showing what’s being posted each week and by whom. Brityn can also see this from her phone or computer. For proof-reading one another’s posts, we vary between emails, phone calls, and making changes in red within the draft of each post.
Outside of our phone calls, we keep a visual record of our brain storming and upcoming blog post ideas in a shared Trello board. We keep important information we both need access to on there as well. We also have a shared Pinterest account for ideas not quite as flushed out as what is on the Trello board. On Pinterest, we can Pin things that strike us in some way, but without having a specific use for them yet.
One of my biggest pet peeves is people who just can’t seem to communicate or often use inappropriate communication methods.
Example 1, for failure to communicate: I leave a voice mail message for someone and he texts me later saying, “What did your voicemail say? I don’t check voice messages”. Oh, interesting. If you only want to text with people, get an iPod touch!
Example 2, for failure to communicate: I email someone details of an agreed upon assignment, a week goes by and I hear nothing. Perhaps something happened, but during the second week, I call the person to check on her and she tells me, “Oh, I’m sorry! I don’t really check my email very often.” But I told you I would be emailing you the details! And it’s 2017! If my mortgage company ONLY emails me instead of physically mailing me statements, then I need to check my email as often as my mailbox. Sometimes important stuff shows up there. Sometimes it does….
Example 3, for using the wrong means of communication: I’m driving down the road on my way to a meeting and my phone’s text messaging alert starts going crazy. While stopped at a light I read, “I’m sorry, but I’m unable to make it to the meeting. I obviously won’t be able to bring _________ (something that was agreed upon earlier), I hope that’s OK!?”. No, it’s really not OK, because I’m not even supposed to be looking at my phone while in traffic, but I am because you chose to text me instead of call me…at the very last second. Thanks!
Example 4, for using the wrong means of communication: someone sends me 10 text messages trying to delineate details of an event you’re planning together and naturally, they are out of order. Ok, this is crazy. Let’s talk on the phone about the ideas and then you can email me with agreed upon logistics. Long texts almost always add to the confusion in a horribly auto-corrected way.
I could go on, but what might be faster is providing my very own flow chart for proper communication for those times when you just don’t know how to do it properly. I really hope you’re reading this with a sense of humor, by the way! However, I dare you to test the chart and see if your communication doesn’t improve.
My own personal points on the matter.
First off, answer your phone when you are able. When someone calls you, please don’t reject the call only to text a person asking her, “I’m busy.” or “What do you need?”. Clearly you’re not that busy, because you were able to hit reject and then respond with your hands through text.
Secondly, please, please, please set up your voice mail. When I try to leave a voice message and I cannot, I get uber frustrated. I’m trying to communicate and you’ve basically told me I have to try another way. It’s a waste of my time and it makes you look incompetent.
Finally, check your voice mail once a day, assuming you’re not in a hospital or on your dream vacation.
For the love of ALL that is good in this world (seriously, think of the children!), check your email at least 3 times a week. Did you know it’s potentially dangerous to not regularly check your email? I had a CTO tell me of an experience just last week where he checked his personal email to discover Google was trying to confirm whether he was in Russia or not. Apparently a person in Russia was trying to access a related, but separate Google account tied to another business venture of his. Google wasn’t requiring his response, but because he quickly responded, they shut down the Russian’s access to the account. He then changed his password and moved on with his life.
Keep your inbox as clean as possible, so you can see items that need responses. Hit that group select and report SPAM as soon as it pops up. Get it out of your inbox, people!
Oh, texting…such a love/hate relationship. It’s fast, it’s instant and you know people are getting your messages in real time, because everyone has their phones glued to their hips, right!? Except when they don’t. Not everyone spoons with her phone in bed, so be respectful and keep texting to short, clear messages that are not urgent or particularly important. Sometimes messages don’t even get through, making the time to text your personal adaptation of The Vagina Monologues utterly wasted.
MESSAGING THROUGH APPS LIKE SnapChat OR Facebook
In the words of Tobias Funke regarding never-nudes (Google it if you’re unfamiliar with the glorious TV series Arrested Development), “There are dozens of us!” who are opting to turn off social media app notifications so that we don’t have to be bombarded with near constant communication that is often not urgent nor important. I like to check SnapChat every 2-3 days, so please don’t ask me important or time sensitive questions in these apps.
These are all my own thoughts and opinions, and I cannot claim to be perfect at communicating–so don’t get your panties in a twist if you disagree with them. Luckily for all of us, there is no communication police! I’d actually love to hear what you think about my post in the comments below. Thanks for reading, friends!