Why you should email your colleagues, even if they sit right next to you
For every task or activity you’ve started in your whole life, there is always a warm-up period needed to get “in the zone“.
Always, no exception.
The “warm-up period” could range anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before you are up to “full speed” working on your task.
This could include physical preparation.
Think about a painter just opening the paint pot or preparing the brushes before the first stroke of paint.
Or it could be the roofer preparing everything to get safety on the roof.
Or the architect just starting up his or her computer and opening a drawing tool application and loading up some heavy files.
It could also include mental preparation.
If you are designing your next building, you have to “load” all the constraints into your head, like the situation and circumstances, before you can really become productive and start working.
That means, that if you start a task or activity, the first 15 – 20 minutes are mostly just “warm-up time”, (aka. overhead.)
Once you hit full speed, and typically during the next hour of uninterrupted time, you’ll be very productive.
Most (if not all) people always want immediate attention when they are blocked (by someone else) or when they have something to share or to tell.
If you are in the middle of something and you are blocked (and your colleague has the key to unblock you), you are probably tempted to get that bit of information ASAP, and call your colleague so you can continue your task.
Yes, that’s egocentric, but that’s how we humans are.
If you achieved something (you finished a rather difficult task), you are happy and want to share that happiness. Likely, in your excitement, you’ll call your colleague to tell him the good news.
In most businesses, Fact 1 + Fact 2 = inefficiency
Just imagine the following situation.
You are in the middle of calculating the details for a new RFP.
It’s a challenging one, so you are concentrating deeply. Finally, you think you’ve found a way to make a good proposal, given the client’s complex case.
Just as you begin to enter the information in Excel, your phone rings.
A colleague has another customer on the line, and they are checking the invoices, there seems to be a discrepancy.
The colleague asks you to pull a report of all incoming payments of that customer for the past 3 years, to see if they match with the invoices.
“Oh, but btw“, your colleague continues, “…this is not really urgent since the situation has been like this since a few months already. Take your time!”
All momentum you had for the RFP is gone.
Isn’t this totally inefficient?
You are now totally “out” of your original flow, and have to start all over again with the RFP in order to figure out again how you would structure it.
At ArchiSnapper, we prefer asynchronous communication as a default. If that is not possible, we would switch to synchronous communication as soon as needed.
Asynchronous communication is:
- email a colleague for a not so urgent question
- use a project management tool like Trello (or any of the hundred other similar tools) to inform someone of a piece of non-essential information
- use Slack
- send a text message or Whatsapp
Synchronous communication is:
- call someone (and immediately call back if they do not respond)
- tap on someone’s shoulder in the office
Asynchronous communication as a default is how it should be most of the times, but in most business people (unfortunately) start off most of the time with synchronous communication (aka: me first).
The result is that interruptions are endless!
This, plus the fact that you need 15 minutes to get “into the zone”, makes business (especially big ones) very inefficient.
Don’t get me wrong.
Synchronous communication is needed sometimes – but be cautious about it being the default setting.
At ArchiSnapper, the default for alignment or support is typically per email – asynchronous. Most of the support questions are not urgent, they are just questions.
We try to answer support as quickly as possible, but at the same time we try to stay in the zone as long as possible to ensure we are being the most productive. That means, that if a customer has to wait a little more, that’s OK.
50% of our support is done by a technical person (e.g. a developer). If they can never get “into the zone”, they’ll never be able to work at full speed on the next feature or improvement.
Of course, if the case requests synchronous communication, we are more than happy to give our clients a call.
But we don’t allow anyone (not our company founders, not the marketing team, not our sales guys…not even our clients) to take our developers out of their “efficiency zone” for non-urgent support.
I challenge you to try this out in your company or team.
You might feel silly sending an email with a non-urgent question to your colleague who is sitting right next to you, but as a team, you’ll be MUCH more productive.
Not calling and tapping on shoulders all the time, also shows some respect to other people’s work and time.
By tapping on a shoulder, you are indirectly saying: “My work is more important than yours since I’m allowed to disturb you, you have to pause your job and listen to me!“.
Now, have a nice day!