Is it acceptable to let go of the pressure to participate in back-and-forth work-related conversations? Cal Newport, computer science professor and author of A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload, suggests practicing messaging “triage.”
In a recent paper, researchers concluded that constantly attending to emails, texts, Slack messages, and Zoom requests can lead to cognitive overload that “may result in ineffective information processing, confusion, loss of control, psychological stress — or even an increase of depressive symptoms.” When we practice triage, we make practical real-time decisions about which messages warrant an instantaneous response, which we need to think about before answering, and which aren’t really worth our attention.
Triaging may feel uncomfortable at first, but you can start small by cutting back on reply pleasantries like “thanks for the update” and “hope you are well”…which might be considered communication clutter. As Newport argues, “In the context of digital communication, the sender often prefers avoiding the receipt of additional messages when possible.”
If you don’t reply immediately to a message during your downtime or vacation or even when you are just preoccupied or exhausted, Erica Dhawan, author of Digital Body Language, says, “Don’t apologize. Just reply when you can. Or don’t.” Still feel uncomfortable? Daniel Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute, which offers etiquette advice, says, “You have to be a civil and decent person, but you don’t have to give your time and attention to everyone who asks for it.”
Do you ever choose to ignore work-related messages and what are your criteria for doing so? Have there been repercussions? To join the conversation, click "comments" above (just below the picture). We’d love to hear your feedback!