In the world of work, e-mail is “instant” as well. When the sender clicks that magic button, their message miraculously flies to its recipients. (Unless, of course, it gets snagged in the SPAM Filter along the way.) If it’s a request for action or information, the sender often expects an instant response. The same is true following the end of a meeting, a cell phone call and, even worse, following an instant text message.
If you work in a service industry, time for response and delivery has clearly become compressed. As the recipient of a message or request for your services, you no longer have the luxury of time to respond. If you don’t find a way to “Manage the When”, however, it will surely run you ragged. Without establishing clear expectations around a request, When becomes Now!
The real challenge here is that no one can do everything now and respond to all requests at once. Prioritizing and organizing are essential skills, but those activities alone don’t address the question of urgency. As the service provider, it’s up to you to create a realistic and reasonable timeframe for response and assure that you and the other party are in agreement. Occasionally the sender imposes a deadline, and some requests certainly are urgent, but those are the exceptions. If you don’t establish a reasonable time for response early in the conversation, then whenever you finally do respond will automatically be considered too late.
In confirming a reasonable time for a response, first gauging the degree of urgency is important. Is there something you can do initially to partially meet a need, while allowing sufficient time to formulate a complete response? That will help with prioritization. When it comes to what’s required to fulfill a request, next consider the time requirement and type of activities you’ll need to carry out in the process. Also consider who else will need to contribute to your effort. Factor all of those things into a realistic timeframe for a response. Then offer a date that allows you the expected time, plus a small but reasonable “cushion.”
Rather than simply offering a date, however, make sure the other party understands how you will be using the time to prepare your thoughtful response or service offering. You’ll be surprised how readily most people will agree to a reasonable date, if they understand how you are using the time for their ultimate benefit. One thing’s for sure: people won’t typically recall when you did it, but they will absolutely remember if you did it right and within the agreed-upon time. If you don’t’ establish “When”, or fail to deliver “When” you said you would, the value of your service will be greatly diminished in their eyes and your reputation along with it.
Your determination to consciously “Manage the When” will result in more pleasant interactions, less stress and greater success in our instant world. Enjoy the Journey!