And the only productivity hack I know for WhatsApp, honestly. Just to make things clear, WhatsApp doesn’t particularly strike me as a productivity app. On the contrary. It can be the most distracting thing in your digital inventory. And yet, many people are using it, and sometimes for good reasons. It has end to end encryption, it can do audio and video calls on top of text chat, so it covers pretty much the entire spectrum of interaction.
The downside of WhatsApp, though, is its very ubiquitousness. Specifically because it is so present, ready to assault you on any gate, it can be really disruptive. The fact that you are open to any potential chat request or call can become, slowly, very tiring. The amount of energy you spend just to keep up with your interactions will soon overtake any other type of interactions. I know, because I’ve been there.
So, to make a long story short: the best productivity hack for WhatsApp is the “mute” feature. It allows you to silence notifications for a specific chat, on 3 layers: for 8 hours, for 1 week or for 1 year. When I discovered this, after a good number of years using WhatsApp, I almost felt an epiphany. What used to be a stressful experience, suddenly turned into a fulfilling activity. Before that, I was dreading adding anyone new on WhatsApp, fearing that even the smallest new interaction will be too much.
It’s Not Really About WhatsApp, I Lied A Little
Well, the hack still holds true, but my point is a bit different. I used this analogy in order to write about another topic, namely, how do you give others access to yourself.
It’s one of the most sensitive and difficult topics out there (although, at first sight, it may not look like). It spans so many areas: relationships, communication, time management, and so on. It is also one of the most peer-pressure sensitive topics out there. A lot of what we “should” allow is socially engineered, woven into the fabric of the societies we live in. And it deeply affects our overall experience of reality and states like happiness or unhappiness.
So, how do you give others access to yourself? Are you that guy on WhatsApp who doesn’t mute anyone and strives to answer each and every message and call? Or perhaps are you the guy who doesn’t even say he has a WhatsApp account (like a modern monk, avoiding interaction all together)? Or perhaps you’re the guy that always answers two days after you received the message, right when the other person was thinking if you’re still alive?
I see two ends of this stick.
On one side, we have the totally immersed person, the people pleaser, the interaction hungry, the never satisfied, yet always tired individual. It’s that person who never finds time to spend time alone, giving a full pass to himself, any time, any place.
At the other end of the stick, we have the one who doesn’t even bother to interact. The guy that never gives access to himself, self-isolating like a turtle and shutting down emotionally. It’s the “poker face” type, the “lone wolf”, the solitaire. Cut off from the world completely.
Personally, I used to be more into the “poker face” side lately. After a few years of intense interaction, of almost non-stop, unconditional access granted to myself to almost everybody, I bounced back high, reached to a place of relative solitude and tried to stay there. In reality, none of these places were particularly pleasant. The always visible, always available period was extremely tiring, whereas the “poker face”, retraced behavior wasn’t emotionally fulfilling.
I believe that, somehow, we are all visiting these places every once in a while. We all have periods of maximum interaction and we all have times when we just want to stay inside, don’t talk and stare at the ceiling. But, on average, we are always in a specific place on that scale. That’s our “average behavior”. That place, that average behavior dictates how we exchange energy with the world.
And, with that, we go back to the title of this article. There is actually a way to pick (and keep) a good place on that spectrum, one that will allow relevant, meaningful interaction, without draining us out. A place where we also don’t have to close too much, missing any relevant emotions.
And the trick that helped me find this place is the “mute” feature.
We do have the possibility to “mute” other persons in our lives, without going to any of these extreme behaviors, and without cutting out entirely that person.
We can just take a break. Take a few steps back. Let the interaction cool down. At the end of the period, we can just reopen access and reassess. Maybe that person is in a better position now and he or she is not that attention hungry anymore. Or maybe we are in a better position to respond and to offer support (or at least a decent conversation partner).
It all boils down to the courage of saying “not now”. It’s not even a full “No”, it’s just a “not now”. It’s milder, more open and healthier.
Keep that in mind next time you open WhatsApp. Or just your mouth in front of anyone else.
Just a to make things clear: by “other persons” I really understand people with whom we interact more or less casually, not the persons that we committed to, or who committed to us. Access to those persons is, and should always be, one hundred percent.