Communications Framework

Let's start with the variables

Every good problem is multi-variable and how to effectively communicate with others is no exception.  Here are the primary variables in our situation.  Yes, there are additional ones (strength of relationship, any sensory impairments, company email retention policy, etc) but I'm going to set those aside for the purposes of this article.

Proximity between parties (allowed values: co-located (room or building), remote)

Urgency of communication (allowed values: urgent, not urgent)

Importance of communication (allowed values: important, not important)

Then look at the tools available to us

No shortage here either.  I'm not going to differentiate between video messaging on FaceTime vs TikTok.  Pick your favorite vendor.  For the purposes of this article, I'll focus on categories while giving a few vendor examples to make sure we're on the same page.

Email (e.g. Outlook, Gmail)

Text message (i.e. on your phone)

Chat (e.g. Slack, Teams)

Phone (you know...the least impressive part of that thing in your pocket)

Video chat (e.g. FaceTime, Slack, Teams)

In-person conversation

A brief reminder on the Eisenhower Box

James Clear wrote a helpful article on this from which I'll borrow his visual.  The basic idea is that a 2x2 of urgency vs importance can great help in deciding next step for a given to-do.


Bringing Eisenhower into the 21st century

Each of the boxes above could involve communication.  Doing something may involve others for collaboration.  Delegation may involve knowledge transfer.  Deciding may involve others in the decision-making process.  Deleting may involve a funny cat video that you MUST share with others.

Let's overlay the typical Eisenhower box with how to communicate within each box.


What's not in each box is as if not more important then what's in the box.  Let's notice a few things:

1 - Chat (e.g. Slack/Teams) should not be your primary communication method

2 - If it's urgent, you should not use email or chat

"There are only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users’, one is of course IT, the other is the illegal drugs trade…"

- Edward Tufte

Scott's Rules of Responsible Meetings:

  1. Technology works for me, not the other way around

  2. If I can't succinctly explain what a technology does for me ON A DEEP LEVEL and prove it does so, it's gone

    • Good Example: "My printer makes me happy by printing documents for me.  I can prove it by printing a coloring page for my kid which makes him happy."​

    • Bad Example: "Instagram makes me happy by showing me pictures of my friend's incredible lives.  I can prove it because after I look at Instagram, I find myself more discontented with my life than ever...wait..."

  3. Default to a dumphone; purchase a smartphone only if you must​

    • And let me tell you right now, I'm a software professional that is responsible for websites that display on mobile phones around the world.  I also regularly travel and am a father of three.  You still think you need a smartphone?​

    • If you're convinced you do need  smartphone, remove all apps that aren't tools you open, use, and close.  Put your phone into black/white mode.  Silence all notifications.  You decide when you interact with your phone; not the other way around.

  4. Default to no social media​; leverage it only if you must 

    • Lots of research already done on the effects of social media.  It's not pretty.  

    • There are times where it may be necessary (e.g., you're in news and expected to tweet) or provide utility (fb marketplace is a nicer way to sell things to strangers than Craigslist)

    • If using social media, take one day off a week, one week off a month, and one month off a year to gain perspective and check any addictive tendencies

  5. Be comfortable with boredom​

    • This is a lost art.  It forces you to open your eyes and see the world around you.  To get comfortable in your own skin.​

  6. Prioritize in-person over virtual​

    • The world is right around you.  It's not on Reddit, IG, Twitter, fb, Snapchat, or any online forum.  Want to prove it to yourself?  Don't log on to any of your favorite platforms for a month.  See how many of the usernames you'd come to think of friends come looking for you.  Crickets...those aren't real friendships.  Real friends go looking for each other when you go missing.  Anyone ever filed a missing persons report because someone hasn't logged on for a while?  Didn't think so.​