My new year’s resolution is to eliminate all the “Sent from my iPhone/mobile device” and “Please excuse any typos” apologia from my mobile email signatures, which will force me to spend more time and attention on my communications with others.
Without this prophylactic signature I will now be compelled to spend more time proofreading responses before hitting “send”, using sentences complete and correct enough that I wouldn’t look like a fool sending them from my office PC, and providing those extra words that aren’t directly needed in the answer but provide tone and context that help substitute for verbal and facial cues.
Sure, I will wind up spending a bit more time on communication but I’ll get some of it back by shifting time from emails that don’t really matter to those that deserve more attention. I’ll be more sparing about just “putting in my two cents” in large email threads, sending one word replies like “thanks” to threads that were effectively complete, sending informative CYA emails, and I’ll add more senders to my spam filter.
Multi-tasking and juggling has become a badge of honor, but I’ll strive to be a craftsman instead. A juggler dazzles onlookers and never holds onto anything for more than a few milliseconds. Two person juggling teams are miraculous – assuming the second person also wants to be juggling with you. “Zero inbox” afficianados often accomplish this feat through quick juggling of messages. Zero inbox is great, unless your zero inbox means my inbox brimming with quickly juggled, unreadable, context-free responses from you.
By contrast, a craftsman focuses on less and tries to hone and create something worth having; a relationship, an idea, or a piece of content. By crafting fewer emails rather than juggling lots of them I hope to create more long-lasting value.
Why am I doing this now? If you read this blog you know that I’ve railed against “Sent from my iPhone” before. I must now confess that I’ve continued to allow my smartphone and tablet to append those signatures to my emails. That posting resonated with a lot of people who also feel signatures that say “Please excuse terseness and typos” are becoming excuses for rudeness and that a lot of people, myself included, don’t buy into the social contract that statement presumes.
A few weeks ago this all hit home with me. I received this email on a thread from someone asking for my time:
want to make sure we reach to time shortly do we Hav oppty to vlosrr new oppty bodily in nov
– Sent from my iPhone, please excuse terseness and typos
OK. That was the straw that Broke them canmore bach fooorwshr
Communication had entirely broken down. And beyond the business imperative of the communication, I realized how it made me feel as the recipient of that message. That my time was not worth the minute it would have taken to double-check what was written and correcting it before hitting send. Or worth waiting to type the response on a real keyboard – holding that email in his inbox a bit longer instead of being so desperate to juggle it back to me.
I can’t change how people write to me, but I can decide not to perpetuate this attitude. So I’m going to remove any pre-emptive gratitude for accepting my inability to communicate.
Sure, now and then I will make a mistake, such as an auto-correct error, unintentional vagueness, or a response that is too terse. It’s inevitable. But I’ll try harder not to make those mistakes. If they occur and are brought to my attention I’ll apologize for not giving that person the attention they deserved and try harder next time. I won’t blame fat fingering, a desire to “get back to you as soon as possible”, or “stupid auto-correct.”
Communication is my responsibility and I’ll take it more seriously this year. And if, by posting this, people sending me messages decide to do so as well, we’ll all be a bit less stressed next year.