“Stretched thin” is the understatement of the decade! I have email, Zoom, Teams, Slack, DM, SM, Facetime, and on every device, my laptop, desktop, watch, phone, even Amazon’s Alexa talks to me. Communication is coming from everywhere. Preposterously, people sending it to me–to all of us–expect us to keep up with it and to be able to ingest, process and respond, quickly nonetheless.
Though it’s incredibly difficult to do, staying abreast of communication is essential. Not doing it well conveys disorganization and can signal indifference to the senders. To get a better understanding of how people handle this influx, we asked CEOs and business leaders about their best strategies. From hiring a virtual assistant to eliminating all irrelevant communication, they gave several tips that may help you stay on top of the communication flow in the workplace to avoid being overwhelmed.
Here are 11 ways to manage the volume of communications at work today:
- Hire a Virtual Assistant
- Use The Huddle Feature in Slack for Faster Exchanges
- Create Templates to Handle Repetitive Requests
- Follow a Daily Routine
- Don’t Feel Pressured to Respond Immediately
- Use Tech Tools to Streamline Communication Tasks
- Adhere to Prioritized Communication Tasks Each Day
- Categorize Messages and Focus Your Time Appropriately
- Know When to Say No
- Centralize Communication With Tools Like HeySpace
- Eliminate All Irrelevant Communication
1. Hire a Virtual Assistant
I’ve employed a virtual assistant to help efficiently manage the flow of communication in the workplace. This assistant is an invaluable asset to my business - they help save a significant amount of time, stress, effort, and resources. My virtual assistant has proven to be a quality investment for the role that she plays in helping manage these key tasks. Employing a qualified person, sometimes two people, specifically to handle our emails, texts, chats, as well as social media inquiries, allows us to focus our time and energy on other important tasks to keep the company running smoothly.
2. Use The Huddle Feature in Slack for Faster Exchanges
Valuable time is spent every week on a myriad of emails, chats, and texts that can interrupt your work and cost you hours in writing replies. However, the Huddle feature on Slack allows you to quickly connect with one or numerous colleagues to have a fast, efficient discussion that can provide an immediate response and reduce the back-and-forth of other methods of communication. Rather than taking up time with setting up a Zoom call or scheduling a meeting, you can quickly click the Huddle button on Slack, and then have an immediate conversation that can provide an actionable strategy in mere minutes.
3. Create Templates to Handle Repetitive Requests
One way to help manage the deluge of messages is by leveraging templates. Having a few standard responses on hand can save time and effort if you receive similar requests regularly. Furthermore, they can help to ensure that you're consistently providing all the necessary information in your replies. Template creation may require a bit of upfront work, but it can pay off in increased efficiency and productivity in weeks or months.
4. Follow a Daily Routine
Most of us within the workforce experience tons of emails, instant messages, and texts throughout the workday, and it can be tough to figure out how to manage it all. One tip is to create a routine for each day on how and when to check your communication channels. Set periods throughout the day, like in the morning or after lunch, to clear through and respond to your messages. This will prevent you from becoming distracted during the workday by responding to non-urgent messages rather than spending time on your important projects.
5. Don’t Feel Pressured to Respond Immediately
Do not feel like you need to respond to all of your messages right when you receive them. You probably have enough else on your plate. Unless it is an urgent message, ensure you get back to it by the end of the day. Allocate specific times of the day to respond to messages rather than allowing them to interrupt your workflow.
6. Use Tech Tools to Streamline Communication Tasks
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to manage the overwhelming flow of communication will vary depending on the individual's work style and preferences. However, my favorite thing to do is to take advantage of technology tools that can help to automate or streamline communication tasks. For example, using an email filtering system can help to prioritize messages so that you only see the most important ones first.
Additionally, setting up chatbots or auto-responders can help to take care of some of the more trivial communication tasks, freeing up your time to focus on more important things. Finally, it is always helpful to keep a clear and concise communication policy in place so that everyone knows what is expected of them in terms of responding to communication requests. By following these tips, you should be able to better manage the overwhelming flow of communication in the workplace.
7. Adhere to Prioritized Communication Tasks Each Day
One simple rule that I religiously adhere to is to prioritize my tasks before my workday begins. It's extremely helpful during the day to know what you should do next because you don't waste time thinking and transitioning. When the list of priorities is done, start completing the tasks one by one, focusing utterly on that particular task. Don't bother if it takes even 1 hour; just get it done and move to the next task. When someone is texting you, try to not text back immediately, do it when you planned to do it. Remember, the more unplanned texting and emailing, the more minutes you waste on focusing and transitioning to what you've been doing before.
If you're really overflowed with texts and emails, then you can plan not just one but 3 or 4 moments during the day to answer them. Having a strict schedule like this helped me to decrease my wasted time on communication from 40 minutes a day to 5 minutes a day.
8. Categorize Messages and Focus Your Time Appropriately
Categorize and compartmentalize. For example, Gmail and other email applications have functions to create tags and categories that can make it easier to automatically sort through messages based on priority, topic, or sender. When incoming messages and information are overwhelming, it can be helpful to compartmentalize your time and effort by only focusing on one set of messages at a time. Set by priority first then by tag. Sorting your messages and sectioning off your time can help manage the volume of communication.
9. Know When to Say No
Learn to say no. No to emails. No to texts. No to communicating in general until you’ve spent some time doing the one thing that is most important to you. For example, is your family most important? Don’t pick up your phone or open your laptop until you’ve connected with your family over breakfast or coffee.
When we take action toward the things that matter to us most, our work lives improve as well because we’ve fed our passion first. Our bodies become energized and more productive as a result. Answering all those messages won’t feel as overwhelming too. Win-win!
10. Centralize Communication With Tools Like HeySpace
The best solution for the overwhelming flow of communication in our company was the centralization of communication in one place. To be specific, in one tool - HeySpace. We’ve created channels for every department and cross-department projects and we can also jump on one-on-one chat for a quick conversation. The response time is much shorter than with traditional email and we have easy access to our chats also on mobile phones, so it’s very convenient. We also manage our tasks in HeySpace, so we can talk about everything in one place.
11. Eliminate All Irrelevant Communication
Eliminate and block anything that is not working in your favor. Unsubscribe to all the newsletters you no longer need, block ads from TikTok and UberEats and leave all of those group chats where you don't even want to be in anymore. Your time is precious. Every time one of these notifications gets your attention you are losing seconds that at the end add up and steal time from your day. Not to mention that when you are already overwhelmed by work messages, seeing notifications like this can get on your nerves and steal your peace. Get rid of all your digital contamination.
Learn more about the upcoming training and development programs at DJA that can help you with broadening your knowledge of EDI concepts, leading change with your co-workers or bringing much needed structure and support to your organization.