There’s a kind of priority that goes with the mode of communication. Think about the expected response times here:
- Phone call – Instant
- IM/Chat – Near-instant ( < 5min)
- SMS (text message) – Quick (5min – 1 hour)
- Email/private message – A While (1day – 1 week)
- Snail Mail – Slow (1 week – 1 month)
Obviously, your expectations may differ; these seem to be some general guidelines that don’t steer you too far wrong. For someone as overscheduled as me (and probably you, too), those delay times are a vital part of scheduling our day.
Think about the GTD “2 minute rule”. I can whip off a quick response to most messages in about two minutes. No problem.
It suddenly becomes a huge scheduling problem when that person instantly replies “Oh, I’ve got another question.” Suddenly that two minute block has become five minutes, twenty minutes, a half-hour. In my experience, no chat lasts less than a half-hour timeblock, and usually more.1
During that time, I cannot engage in other work. Most of what I do is linguistic – words. I have a very hard time processing two linguistic streams at once (and you do too, unless you’re Bob Milne) – and the time demands of chat/IM are fast enough that it’s hard to have enough time to refocus. (Multi-tasking is a myth, people.)
It’s not that I don’t want to talk to the other person. Or that I mind chatting – I’m a fast enough typist that it’s not the mode of communication that’s the problem. It’s that I’m usually doing a quick run through my inbox on Facebook and trying to address as much of it as possible (via a modified GTD process).
Thanks to Facebook’s process of making chat and IM essentially the same thing, I’ve had to reprioritize all Facebook “communication” to “Do I have the time to engage in a half-hour chat with this person?”
Unfortunately, the answer for that is almost always “no”.
1 The same effect happens with e-mail sometimes when one person keeps responding right away.