I pride myself in being responsive. If someone emails or calls, I try to get back with them right away. However, text messages make it difficult to maintain my standard.
Just this afternoon, I suddenly remembered Roger, a business associate, had texted me—last week! Unfortunately, this is happening with increasing frequency, and I am embarrassed each time it happens.
The Problem with Text Messages
The truth is, I hate text messages. With the exception of family and close personal friends, they are one of the biggest obstacles to greater productivity. Here’s why:
- They interrupt my workflow. Sure, I could mute my phone, but I hate to do that. I want my family to be able to reach me if necessary.
But this also leaves me vulnerable to interruptions. I don’t multitask well (no one does), so this pulls me off-task. Usually it takes several minutes to regain my focus.
I can’t forward them. I believe in delegation and practice it. Dawson Trotman said it best: “I don’t do anything that others can or will do when there is so much of importance to be done that others cannot or will not do.”
For example, I don’t manage my calendar. If someone makes a request for my time via email, I can simply forward it to my assistant. There’s no easy way to do that with a text message, so I end up doing what I have hired her to do.
I too easily forget them. This is exactly what happened with Roger. I was sitting in my dentist’s office when I got the message. I made a mental note that I would need to deal with his request when I got back to my office.
And, as often happens, by the time I got back to the office I had completely forgotten about Roger’s message. I only discovered it by accident as I was scrolling through my messages.
I get why people love text messages. It is often much easier to get a response. But I still prefer Slack for my internal team and email for everyone else.
These tools allow me to stay focused on the task at hand and process them when it is convenient for me. I can also delegate requests to my assistant and I am also much less likely to forget about them, especially since I practice Inbox Zero.
The Solution to Unwanted Text Messages
You may disagree with me. You might like text messages just fine. If so, great. You can stop reading now. But if you agree with my reasons above and want a simple solution, here are three easy steps for dealing with text messages.
First, I wish Mac Messages app had the ability to set an auto-responder, but it doesn’t. Here’s the next best thing—a semi-automatic solution:
- Create a canned response. Mine says this: “Thanks for your message. However, I am no longer reading or responding to text messages. Crazy, huh? If you want to know why, you can read this short post: http://michaelhyatt.com/text-messages.html. In the meantime, if you will send your message via email, I will happily respond at my first opportunity. Thanks.”
Save a shortcut to your message. You could use any kind of keyboard macro program to do this, but I simply used the Keyboard Text Replacement feature on my Mac. (You can get to this by going to System Preferences … | Keyboard | Text.)
Hit the + key to create a new entry. On the left side of the screen (“Replace”) type “tmr” or some other easy-to-remember shortcut. (For me, this stands for “text message response.”) On the right side, copy and paste in your response. Now, whenever you type your shortcut, your Mac will replace it with the full message. If you want to do this on your iPhone, select Settings | General | Keyboard | Shortcuts.
Respond to text messages with your shortcut. I just started using this. So far, I haven’t had any pushback. I think people probably assume my message is an automated response.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I still want to communicate with people. My friends and business associates are very important to me. However, I just want to do it in a way that better insures I will be responsive and less frustrated.
Question: Could this solution work for you? Why or why not?