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Managing IM

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  • Managing IM

    I really never liked IM, but a few of my bosses and peers do, so I suppose I'm going to have to deal with it one way or another. In general, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm in a non-GTD, but very successful, company, and IM-ing each other is part of a somewhat urgency-addicted culture.

    I would say most of the IMs I've received don't really deserve interrupting my attention... but what can you say to someone IM-ing you?

    Maybe I just don't *get* IM. Almost everyone has a cell phone or has their email, ... why do you really need IM?

    -- JoeGuitar

  • #2
    IM is useful for very brief questions that require an instant response. For instance, if I'm on the phone to a travel agent and need my husband's credit card number, I'll use IM. If I'm making a dinner reservation and want to make sure the time is okay, I'll use IM.

    But the key here is that
    * I need an immediate response, otherwise I won't be able to move forward.
    * It's an easy question for him to answer, and so a minimal interruption of whatever he's doing.

    I'll also use it to see if the other person has time for a longer conversation. Used in this way, it's the equivalent of sticking your head over the cubicle wall, and all of the same etiquette should apply. Including the target having a right to say, "I'm really busy right now. When is a good time for us to talk for real?"

    Finally, I'll use it as a second channel in a phone conversation. It's useful for passing along URLs that I want the other person to look at, for instance.

    So IM is useful, but like anything else it can be abused.

    Good luck!



    • #3
      clarify the use

      I'd say that if a) you have to (or want to) be available via IM, and b) you're getting interrupted too much, then it may be useful to have a conversation within your group to decide a protocol - when it's OK to interrupt, how to indicate it's not OK, etc. Other thoughts: Is it possible to block out times when you're not (or are) available? (This may run counter to the idea, though.) I like the idea of being clear when you are messaged: If it's not a good time, say so (like when someone pops his head in your office).

      Interesting topic!


      • #4
        The fact that e-mail/IM/voicemail delivers instant messages doesn't mean to me that I have to reply instantaneously.


        • #5
          This may sound strange but I suggest you use IM but set your status to a custom message such as "Busy with a project right now" or simply set it to always show that you are "Away". This way you have a little more control over answering IM's.


          • #6
            Well, you don't really _need_ IM, but then what do you really _need_?

            At my job, IM is useful to get quick information when someone else is a significant distance. If I'm in the middle of something and need a password, an IM is quicker than e-mail, less disruptive to others than the phone, and less disruptive to the other person than walking over.

            It is just a tool, though. Non-essential but potentially useful.


            • #7
              Presence Information

              I've found that for my team, IM is useful for indicating presence more than for messaging. We're split across several locations and seeing that someone is at their desk can be helpful. We use mostly short exchanges like "can I give you a call?" or "I just faxed you ..." and the like. We'd rather converse via phone than have long dialogs via IM.

              Using meaningful status messages helps a lot, and having an understanding between team members that it's expected that you ask permission when interrupting someone AND that it's OK to say "I'm busy right now, let me get back to you".

              It comes down to setting clear expectations with your group. Tools can help you be more effective, or they can hurt you. It's all in how you use them.



              • #8
                Im etiquette

                Don't feel obligated to get into a lengthy discussion on IM. Very quick responses, even abbreviations, are the status quo:..... learning them will make it less disruptive. "Y" - yes; "N" - no; "BRB" - Be right back;.... etc.

                Here are some more abbreviations, which may or may not be in use at your co.