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When is it appropriate to respond to an email, text, phone call or piece of mail?

Development of communication technology is a double edged sword. The glamour of being able to stay in touch round-the-clock is fast being replaced by an irritation at having to respond to every ping of a new message. The message could have arrived via any of the forms of communication it could be an email, text or phone call; technology has made it possible that you are alerted of its presence the second it arrives. The only saving grace seems to be the snail mail, which unfortunately is the last method of communication used today.

How does one draw the line? When is it alright to not respond to an email? How do you avoid responding to emails without causing offence to the sender of the email? With improved technology like ‘delivery alerts' the sender of an email or text message knows exactly when a message has been delivered and accepted. The age old excuse of not having received a particular piece of communication can no longer be used.

In the "Seven Habits of Highly Successful people" Steven Covey Explains that the non-personal means of communication allow us a very specific level of control over our daily lives and the time we can allocate to various tasks. It is up to the respondent to decide when to respond, allowing for that person to be most effective by not being distracted by a call here and a call there, an email, a text, IM etc. Dr. Covey's premise if that for you want to remain in control of your daily life, you must allot a specific time of your daily schedule which is dedicated to responding to emails and messages. This increases the quality of productivity.

Define your schedules to your clients. Everybody respects advance intimation. It is the way of the world to expect more from the one who is willing to give. Respect your own privacy and define your own timelines. Once your clients and your work correspondents realize that you are available only on a particular schedule they will organize tasks to work around it.

This in no way means you have the liberty to leave a message or an email unattended. You are responsible for all the communication directed towards you. Take time out and respond to all of it even if it means that you have to politely but firmly discourage further communication from a particular individual or business.

In order of the urgency of the response the communication maybe forwarded to you using one of the following means:

*An IM or a Text Message*: Usually this form of communication is resorted to when the need for response is the highest. If anything requires immediate attention an instant message or text might be sent across.

It is considered impolite to not respond to an instant message or text immediately. This could hamper your business relationship. Respond to an instant message or a text as soon as you can. In the event that you feel the urgency of sending an instant message has been violated reply with a message which states firmly that a text message or an instant message should be sent to you only in case of emergencies

*Emails*: Emails are the most widely used form of communication. They alert you that a communication has arrived. Depending on the nature of the email you can either decide to respond to it immediately or prioritize it as a work email and respond to it in the time you have allocated for work emails. Even if an email is marked urgent respond to it during your working hours. You can always prioritize to respond the emails marked urgent first. There is no big need to sacrifice your family and personal moments for work emails. An organization, unless you are the one who owns it, will not grind to a halt with a couple of hours of delay. Always make sure that people you are corresponding with are aware of the work timings you have set for yourself

*Phone calls*
: With emails bearing the brunt of most of the communication phone calls are usually a luxury availed by personal contacts. If someone is trying to reach you via a phone call, do answer it or respond to it by saying you will return the call. Usually a phone call demands an instant response. There are a lot of marketing companies which try to make phone calls a source of marketing communication. Feel free to not respond to any or all such calls

*Snail Mail*
: Correspondence which relies on postal services in the day and age of technology are either highly personal or do not demand instant attention. You can make it a point to respond to mails at your own personal discretion

Communication technology has been upgraded to ease life and increase the pace of day to day correspondence. Do not let it become a tool which interrupts the peace of your personal life. An email can easily wait till you have spent some time with your family and loved ones. It is alright to occasionally get caught up with extra work; it is a completely different matter to let work correspondence dictate moments of your private life.

Take a break from technology every once in a while. Don't ruin a family vacation by staying constantly glued to your phone or laptop or tablets or any of the modern gizmos which promise uninterrupted communication. When on a vacation, use technology to put a vacation responder and free yourself of the pressure of instant responses. There are more important things like family and friends who need your time.

Spoiling a party or ruining the fun of a get together just because your phone has beeped with the arrival of a new message or email is rude and impolite. You need to prioritize your communication such that you can devote time equally between business affairs and personal matters.

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