Since leaving my full-time job at Microsoft to have kids and start my own business, I’ve had to learn to work in a completely new way. After some trial and error, I’ve learned some important things:
- The school day is surprisingly short, especially when you add in time for grocery shopping, laundry, errands, and volunteering.
- My most productive hours are after the kids go to bed
- I really can write code in 20 minute increments
- A lot can get done while waiting on the playground for school to let out, or sitting outside a piano lesson.
One result of this weird work schedule is a huge dependence on email instead of phone calls. Email works great at on the playground and at music lessons, especially since neither of these environments is a good place to have a phone conversation. So I use email. A lot.
Often this works just fine, but sometimes I find myself running into what I like to call The Communication Gap. There are still a surprising number of people out there who want to do business primarily over the phone, and they are the hardest for me to work with.
The other day, I needed to talk to the property manager of my building about a sticky issue. Here’s how it went:
1PM: I sent him an email asking a couple of questions I needed answers to.
4:30: He responded to my email message with a phone call, probably thinking he was offering great customer service. When my phone rang, I was paying at the grocery store – both kids in tow. Needless to say, I didn’t answer the phone.
5:30: We made it home, groceries were put away, homework and dinner were underway, I had a chance to listen to the message and check if there was something time-critical for me to do. I put my phone on speaker so I could keep sauteing the onions while I listened.
5:31: Kids start arguing loudly, I can’t hear the message and have to break up the argument.
5:32: Kids were now quiet again. I turned up the volume so I could hear the message over the sizzling onions. I played the message again.
The message was “I got your email, I can answer your questions, please call me as soon as you get a chance”.
Although I often use the evening hours after the kids go to bed to get a ton of work done, I was pretty sure the property manager would not answer his desk phone at 9pm, which was the next time I would have a reasonable chance to call him. And that meant I wouldn’t be able to make any more progress on the issue until the next day.
Hence, the communication gap:
Me: I wish he would just answer my questions in email so we could make progress on this.
Him: I wish she were more available during regular business hours so we could make progress on this.