Off the Grid

Make sure your technology works for you, not the other way around.

Today, we didn’t have internet in our office until 3:00 pm. And it felt amazing. My fellow editor kept lamenting that she couldn’t get anything done without it, but I’ve never been more productive. It’s because I’m usually trying to prove to myself that I can do 15 things at once. It’s because of—in a word—e-mail. E-mail is a complete time suck, and studio owners know this just as well as magazine editors.

Today I learned that messages can wait, because sometimes they must. Without the option to answer numerous logistical e-mails, I was free to do an essential (my favorite) part of the job: write. For studio owners, I imagine this is like the times when you get to just teach. It feels great, doesn’t it? It’s important to make real, uninterrupted time for this kind of work, not only so you enjoy it, but so that you do it well.

I asked Cindy Clough, owner of Just Fox Kix—the dancewear company and several successful studios—how she keeps e-mail from taking over her busy life. She has a few tips:

  • Overload clients with info. Clough keeps as much current information as possible on her company’s Facebook page and website. “I try to be as detailed as possible in my communications,” she says, “so they don’t have to contact me as much.”

  • Send one-way messages. Clough uses an app designed for classroom teachers called Remind. You can send a mass text to a group of contacts, and no one can reply to it directly. In that sense, it functions like an alert: “Due to snowy weather, preschool classes are canceled today.” Boom. Done. If someone really needs to reach you, they can e-mail or call you separately, but it’s not quite as easy as clicking “reply” on the message.

  • Manage expectations: Reply less frequently. In addition to running her own studio, Clough coaches a high school dance team. When she took on those extra dancers, she began replying to the students and their parents just once a day instead of immediately or hourly. “I work with a lot of high school dance coaches, and they get bothered [if the internet isn’t working],” she says. “I tell them I coached before the internet. It really does eat up your time. Checking it less often is important.”

There you have it from the veteran businesswoman. If she can manage to take a step back, we all can.

Photo: Thinkstock

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