Quick response
My pet peeves include people who don’t return calls and people who don’t respond to email. How much effort does it take to listen to a voice mail, jot down my number and nature of the call, and return that call within a day or so? How much effort does it take to click “reply” on an email and write a two-sentence quick response to a simple question?

Here’s my experience: The busy (and productive) people generally respond within a day. Those with not much to do take their own sweet time. Those who have convinced themselves they are busy (but never have anything to show for it) need constant follow-up.

Does this situation sound contradictory? Wouldn’t you think highly-productive people are too busy with their own projects to get back to you? Here is why I think the busy (but productive) people are more apt to provide a quick response:

  1. Busy people know there’s always more. The to-do list for day-after-tomorrow may only have five items on it right now. Two days from now, that number may be several dozen. The phone will ring, projects will appear, and problems will happen. Busy people know they can’t mortgage the future with simple tasks they could have knocked off today.
  2. Busy people like to touch things once. Don’t read too much into this statement. Paperwork often gets moved through a process. Projects have many steps. They can’t be completed a single touch. But busy (and productive) people don’t listen to a voice mail and then re-listen two days later because they didn’t record the number the first time. If a busy person can listen to a voice mail or read an email and respond without having to revisit it, they do so. That doesn’t mean they jump on every email as it comes in. On the contrary, they ignore the phone and email while focusing on something of importance. But then when they handle the voice mail and email, they handle the whole batch. It’s done before they ever have a chance to put it on their to-do list. Tomorrow will bring more. The last thing they want is for today’s little things to snowball and become next week’s crisis.
  3. Busy people hate being the bottleneck. When you have direct reports, they often need your approval or feedback before they proceed. The next step is you, and they can’t move forward until you respond. Productive people hate having their progress put on hold because of someone else’s inability to follow through. They vow never to be the bottleneck for someone else. They respond to “yes/no” questions with a firm “yes” or “no” and don’t leave others hanging for an answer.
  4. Busy (and productive) people have a wealth of resources. They have a network of people and refer you to the right person who can help. They have a wealth of reference information and send an on-point article that solves your problem. They have handled questions or requests just like yours before. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel to help. They re-purpose knowledge.
  5. Busy (and productive) people under-promise and over-deliver. Their reputation precedes them. Others know there’s no need to interrupt progress by asking for a “progress report.”

Where do we go from here?

If this article sounds like you, be proud and keep it up. If this article inspires you, thanks for reading. If this article reminds you of a productive and responsive person in your life, thank them. If this article reminds you of someone who needs constant reminders, print this article and slip it on his/her desk anonymously.