What’s happened to our concept of doing things on a timely basis? In the old days, when we had landline types of phones, usually with some form of voicemail or answering machines, people left messages for us. Whether they were personal or business, with the exception of the rare telemarketer, we returned the calls that day or the next.

We couldn’t send pictures, animal faces, videos or anything else – just a message to please call. While I don’t miss most of that form of communication, it really was fun to come home or return to the office and see if your answering machine light was flashing, indicating that someone had called. You always had a pad of paper and pen nearby to record the name, time of call and any message.

Since that time, we have lost the urgency that was usually implicit to messages. Yes, we get voice mails now. But like the text messages that may or may not request a rapid response, voice mails are not nearly as important as they once were.

Of the many people to whom I send text messages, only two or three will respond within the hour. Have we lost the concept of courtesy that went away with answering machines (or answering services if you’re really an antique)? As a freelancer, I see it as my professional imperative to answer clients as soon as humanly possible. If I am teaching, I’ll respond during a classroom break or at lunch. If I am on the road, I’ll answer as soon as I come to a complete stop or reach my destination.

In any case, it’s simply good manners to answer a text, voice mail or email that solicits information. At least to me, waiting until tomorrow or next week suggests that I don’t consider your needs to be a priority, a message that I simply don’t want to convey.

Because I’m not afraid of technology and feel that I embrace it with open-mindedness, this is not a case of technophobia. Just like many other conventions that I perpetuate, letting you know that I received your message is standard operating procedure. If you don’t hear from me immediately, you’ll know that something serious prevented it. If you’re negligent or merely sloppy about your messages, maybe you want to rethink about your habits. Shalom.

One thought on “On the subject of time

  1. When I was working in sales many years ago, we took a business etiquette seminar and it was so interesting and helpful. One of the topics we discussed was phone etiquette. Never leave anyone on hold for over 10 seconds. Return calls within 24 hours or sooner. Wear your nametag on your right side and not your left. This has to do with reading the person’s name while shaking hands. There are certain benefits to the way we used to conduct business.


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