Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Stay Productive While Being Sociable

This past weekend, while at a regional conference for my fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi), I repeatedly heard close friends complain about how difficult it is to get up with me. They said that if they call, they get no answer. If they write, they get no reasonable response. With all of the means of communication available (Twitter, Facebook, cellphone, email, etc.), I am far too elusive. Have you ever heard that?

Personally, I understand why many feel this way, it's because I guard myself from distractions. If I'm going to get anything done, I have to turn off the cellphone, get off Twitter, close my email, and simply disconnect from the world around me. Is that bad? I don't think so.

Ideas for Resolution
After chewing on the issue for a day or two, I realize there are somethings I can do to alleviate the problem. Below are a few ideas:

Schedule time on the calendar
While avoiding distractions is important for getting things done, one must also remember that we are social creatures and we need to interact with others. Similar to blocking time for projects, don't forget to block time for friends, family, coworkers, and employees. To ensure that you do, put a date on the calendar and invite someone to share that time with you.

Use down time to connect
Identify when you have unencumbered time and use it to connect with others. Earlier, I noticed that I have down time while commuting in the morning and afternoons. For me, that's around two hours per day that I could use to talk with people.  I also find meals are conducive to engaging dialog. Why not invite a friend to breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

Invest 5 minutes
Not every encounter needs to dominate your day. Sometimes a brief "hello" will suffice. Consider strenghtening your relationship with a quick 5-minute visit, telephone call, e-mail, text message, or direct message (preferably in that order). 

Respond in a timely fashion
Maintaining control over your time is a crucial part of being productive. This means removing all distractions and focusing intently on the task at hand. However, when you come up for air, respond to people. This means returning phone calls, emails, text messages, and tweets. While you may not have time to engage in a deep conversation, you can inform them when there is a more appropriate time.

Some suggest answering phone calls, emails, and other messages immediately, but schedule a meeting to reconnect, when time permits. While I can appreciate this idea, I find it too distracting and borderline rude. If it's important, leave a message and I'll get back with you. 

Excuse yourself
One of the hardest things for me to do is to tell people "No!" I'm the guy who will listen to you for as long as you continue to talk. I don't like to be rude nor rush people when they're passionate about something. However, there are many times when I have things to finish but allow someone to eat into my time, which may explain why I avoid engaging in the first place. If this is you too, then the best thing to do is learn how to excuse yourself.

For me, this means being flexible and attentive to people, but ending a conversation when you have to end it. The easiest thing to do is leave because you have "another appointment." This appointment can be with someone else or a self-imposed task. Whatever the situation, consider the "appointment" as a way to end a good thing.

So, what do you think? Do you have a problem being productive and being social? If so, do you think these ideas would help? Do you have some other tips that work for you? If so, let's talk about it in the comment section below.

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Photo credit: wandërlust∞


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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