by Matt Alderton | March 08, 2018
Do you clam up when you're working on a document and hear the familiar "ding" of a new email arriving in your inbox? Does your heart skip a beat when your phone vibrates in the middle of a workday because your friend or significant other sent you a text message? Do you wince when your phone rings, or a co-worker stops by your desk for a visit?
If you do, you're not alone. As it turns out, lots of people feel anxious about unsolicited communication. And it's not because they're anti-social. It's because they're busy. Really, really busy.

"You want to connect with … people and maintain a relationship, so why does communication from them or requests like going out to lunch feel like a threat?" asks Harvard Business Review contributor Elizabeth Grace Saunders. "As a time management coach, I've found that these reactions happen because one of the main keys to managing your own time is managing expectations with others. In a society where people have the ability to communicate instantly, a quick response can become an expectation. But it's an expectation that we can't always meet, especially when we're trying to get work done. This gap between expectations and what we can actually do can lead to a lot of guilt, especially when it comes to the people closest to us. When left unaddressed, this guilt can manifest in a fight-or-flight response -- we snap at people who interrupt or simply ignore attempts at connection."

If you want spontaneous communications to bring delight instead of dread, try to build some breathing room into your schedule.

"A lack of margin in your schedule can make you cranky … Instead of welcoming human connection, you shrink away from it because you're concerned it will stand in the way of keeping up with work," Saunders says. "If this is the reason you feel irritated by people reaching out during the workday … block out times in your calendar and privately label that time 'margin.' To others, these blocks look like time commitments and reduce the likelihood of back-to-back meetings. But for you, they create space for extra work that pops up throughout the week, give you a chance to clear your head, and provide a slot for simple things like catching up on texts."

And above all else, try to keep some perspective. "Step back and recognize that if you only had one week left to live, you'd likely immediately leave work and spend every moment possible with the people who might feel like they're getting in your way now," Saunder concludes.

More Tips:

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

Contact Successful Meetings Editor in Chief Vincent Alonzo with your "How To" ideas.