We are constantly told about Things That Successful People Do. We see endless lists. All the time. You know the drill. Successful people always get up at 5am. They ‘journal’ constantly. They think lunch is for wimps. They always respond to emails within seconds, no minutes, no at least by the end of the day.
In the old days (3 years ago) if you sent an email at 3am, there would be a barrage of emails back in the morning: ‘I can’t believe you are not sleeping’, ‘Is everything OK?’, ‘Are you on drugs?’ Not so much now. The level of response expectation is high-alert, and this way lies madness.
But how quickly do you really need to respond to things? This is probably a question of two parts: How quickly should you respond before it’s rude and you are sacked as an employee/lover/friend/child etc. And how quickly do you yourself need to respond so as to avoid having a nervous breakdown of guilt/incompetence? There’s nothing more stressful to a Midult than a backlog, but saying that if we spend our time in response mode then we will not move forward. We will be rooted to the spot in response panic. Endlessly answering questions ‘Yes, yes, yes’. Reactive rather than active. And also, how keen is too keen?
So here is a brief Midult guide to response times:
- A text from a friend asking if you are still on for tonight: Respond immediately. This is a cry for help. Send them a lifeline by cancelling or confirming ASAP.
- An email from a colleague wanting a full rewrite of a report within 24 hours: Respond only after you have calmed down, and picked up the pieces of your shattered computer/life. Do a 3-minute meditation. Go and get a coffee and walk around the block. Then, and only then, respond with the amount of time you know it’s going to take. Plus an hour.
- An unwelcome friend request: Leave it pending for three days and then delete. You didn’t say no in the heat of the moment so you are not a bad person. You just sort of forgot about it. I am sorry what was it again? My Facebook is broken.
- A party invitation for next week: Within 24 hours; they’ll be worrying about their numbers.
- A party invitation for next month: Within the week – you are allowed to get your ducks in a row. In other words, check you are not out for more than two nights that week.
- A voicemail message – you are under no obligation to respond to this. They can – and frankly should – contact you by another means.