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Your back tenses. Your eyes dart. Your mind races.
No, it’s not caused by an impending animal attack or even a scary e-mail from your boss. It’s receiving a text from a close friend, seeing your significant other on your caller ID, or a coworker dropping by to chat during your workday.
Why this reaction? You want to connect with these people and maintain a relationship, so why does communication from them or requests like going out to lunch feel like a threat?
As a time management coach, I’ve found that these reactions happen because one of the main keys to managing your own time is managing expectations with others. In a society where people have the ability to communicate instantly, a quick response can become an expectation. But it’s an expectation that we can’t always meet, especially when we’re trying to get work done. This gap between expectations and what we can actually do can lead to a lot of guilt, especially when it comes to the people closest to us. When left unaddressed, this guilt can manifest in a fight-or-flight response — we snap at people who interrupt or simply ignore attempts at connection.
You and Your Team Series Emotional Intelligence But you can adjust your behavior, so you can find a happy, healthy in-between where you can focus at work and show that you value your relationships. To do so, you must increase your skills in three areas: communicating boundaries, building margin into your day, and keeping perspective.
Communicate boundaries. One of the biggest reasons you feel threatened by unexpected communication is that there isn’t a sense of safety — the underlying trust in relationships that you are doing the best you can to be responsive alongside the freedom to decide when you respond based on the present circumstances. If you don’t have this sense of safety, you feel pressured to respond in a certain way or by a certain time, or else you will feel guilty or make the other person upset.
Your speed and degree of response will vary greatly depending on the situation — a text from your child requires a far different response than a message from a LinkedIn connection. But it’s still OK to set and communicate boundaries. For example, you may explain to your significant other that on certain workdays you need to put your full focus toward meeting a deadline and will only be available for calls if there’s an emergency. Or you may want to explain whether text or e-mail works better than a call for reaching out to you at certain times of the day. It also can be helpful to note when you are typically free and available for personal commitments. For example, people close to me know that after 6 pm is usually the best time for us to connect either in person or over the phone.
Reduce time pressure. A lack of margin in your schedule can make you cranky. When you feel like you go from meeting to meeting or task to task with no time to eat properly or even clear your head, you can get so task-focused that you lose sight of the people around you. Instead of welcoming human connection, you shrink away from it because you’re concerned it will stand in the way of keeping up with work.
If this is the reason you feel irritated by people reaching out during the workday, create some breathing room in your schedule. Block out times in your calendar and privately label that time “margin.” To others, these blocks look like time commitments and reduce the likelihood of back-to-back meetings. But for you, they create space for extra work that pops up throughout the week, give you a chance to clear your head, and provide a slot for simple things like catching up on texts. If you find that this time is still being interrupted by colleagues, leave your desk. Go to a conference room or visit a coffee shop to get a little headspace in the middle of your day.
Keep perspective. Sometimes we react badly to the people closest to us because deep down, we want to connect with them just as much as they want to connect with us. We feel guilty that we don’t have the time and space to do so. We can even feel like we’re failing them because they have more capacity at the moment than we do.
When you feel stressed, pressured, or angry and your initial reaction is to avoid the person you care about or lash out with a curt response, take a moment to be grateful that someone cares for you and wants to connect with you. Give yourself some time and space to breathe and get perspective. In the moment, work can feel most urgent, but when it comes to overall health and happiness, meaningful connections with people who you care about and who care about you are far more significant. Step back and recognize that if you only had one week left to live, you’d likely immediately leave work and spend every moment possible with the people who might feel like they’re getting in your way now.
Then choose your response based on your bigger truth. Maybe it means sending a quick text to say, “Thank you so much for the call. I appreciate you reaching out. I can’t talk right now, but I’d love to connect tonight.” Or it could mean letting a coworker know that you’re not free for lunch today but can set something up for next week. Or maybe you can’t reply right away, but you can reach out once you’ve wrapped up what you’re doing in an effort to connect.
When we’re pressed for time, friends, family members, or coworkers reaching out to us — even in the nicest way possible — can feel stressful. It’s essential that we make a daily, intentional effort to keep our time in order and to respond well using these three essential skills.
via Harvard Business Review http://ift.tt/2D4cAG8