Resetting Expectations

7 Mar

I was enjoying my morning ritual of coffee, newspaper, and favorite morning talk show when the host brought up the topic of our 24/7 work lives. He used the term “reset expectations.” My ears perked up. This is such a great phrase. Let’s face it, the lines between “work hours “and “personal time” have become blurred by the accessibility that mobile technology provides. We have become inextricably connected to our jobs and as such, we begin to respond to every email regardless of the time of day or the level of importance. So, how do we regain control of our lives and our jobs? We reset expectations.

What is Resetting Expectations?
If we answer our emails within minutes of receiving them regardless of the day of the week or time of the day/night, then we have set an expectation. Our clients, friends, colleagues, now expect to receive a response immediately. If they don’t, they will send the infamous “did you get my email” email reminding us that we usually respond within seconds of the “read receipt.” Furthermore, we begin to feel guilty or negligent if we don’t respond right away. Well, unless someone’s life or safety hangs in the balance, that email can probably wait until I’m back in the office tomorrow. We need to “reset expectations” so we can regain balance in our lives.

Triage Your To Do List
I think we can all agree that the volume of email requests, text messages, and comments from our social media connections inhibits our ability to manage our time most effectively. The first step in resetting expectations is to establish a triage process. The dictionary defines triage as: (1) “The determination of priorities for action in an emergency.” (2)”The process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.” We’re probably all more familiar with the medical application. If we go to the emergency room, the first place they send us (after collecting insurance and verifying payment) is to “Triage.” In that room a nurse makes an assessment of the urgency of our situation and prioritizes our condition relative to others.

In medical triage, we wouldn’t want someone awaiting a rhinoplasty procedure to go into surgery before a patient in need of heart bypass surgery. While the person awaiting their nose job thinks it’s pretty important, of course everything can’t be equally important. If we want to reset expectations we need to triage our requests from friends, family, clients, and colleagues to ensure the most important things are getting done first and the most important emails are being answered first. It doesn’t mean we don’t love everyone equally, it just means that we need to be more efficient, healthy, and at peace.

Communicate Expectations
Of course we can’t reset our expectations in a vacuum. We need to communicate with our clients, colleagues, and family so there isn’t any misunderstanding. Suggestions:

  • Evaluate the scope of services you have with your clients and ensure you communicate and mutually agree upon the times you will be accessible. Set/reset the expectation of a reasonable time frame for discussions, deadlines, and status updates.
  • Use your auto-reply. Don’t just say you’re out of the office. Instead, be specific about the day, date, and times you will be unavailable and leave emergency contact information.
  • Show some self-discipline. Just because you can answer that email quickly, don’t. Unless you’re sitting in the dentist office with nothing else to do, chances are it’s an interruption to what you’re doing at the moment.
  • Put down the Blackberry and iPhone during family/social time! We all do it subconsciously. We reach for our phones, glance at our emails, look away from our conversations, and convey (though unintentionally) the message that something may come across our phone that’s more important than the person/people we’re with at the time.

Warning: I’m going to try to reset my expectations. While I am eager to receive your comments, feedback, and most of all suggestions, I will not be checking my blog via phone during dinner this evening.

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One Response to “Resetting Expectations”

  1. Ed Tates March 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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