The way you respond to email broadcasts your communication preferences. If you respond immediately, you’re saying: “If there is an urgent issue, send me an email.” Problem is, an urgent email is mixed in amongst possibly hundreds of other email messages that are not urgent. It becomes your job to sort through all your email to find the one message that needs an immediate reply.

Better Option

Instruct your clients, employees, and subcontractors to send you a text message if there is an urgent situation. Your phone’s text inbox is probably not filled with spam. Your text inbox is still sacred, still only used by people whom you’ve invited to text you.

Or why not just tell them to call you? It may sound old-fashioned, but you need to decide how you prefer to be notified about an urgent situation. What form of communication has the best chance of getting your attention? What form of communication uses time most efficiently?

In some ways email has made us less efficient. We’ve come full circle; telephones used to be less efficient because we had to go through secretaries and gatekeepers and we’d spend days playing phone tag. Therefore, we found it easier to use email to ask questions, set priorities, and do routine business. But efficiency has dropped as email volume has increased. Quick questions can be answered immediately, decisions can be communicated faster, and information can be shared more quickly on a phone call than via multiple email messages. Instead, use email for follow-up and confirmation.

Think about your communication style and pick up the phone and talk, or send a text message!

—Leslie Shiner, owner of The ShinerGroup, and Melanie Hodgdon, president of Business Systems Management, provide management consulting and coaching for contractors. They co-authored A Simple Guide to Turning a Profit as a Contractor.