Dealing with the Communication Debt

Dealing with the Communication Debt

Hi team, Mary here! After almost a year of living in the pandemic, many of us are still finding ourselves burnt out, exhausted, and maybe even unmotivated. I’ve been asking myself how I can be feeling more burnt and stressed out than when the pandemic began, when I read an article discussing the communication debt. Communication debt isn’t a new concept, but it’s become much more severe as we have all entered working spaces that are far more digital than they once were.

Communication debt is, essentially, the negative emotions you feel when you are unable to respond to communications, whether they be emails, texts, direct messages, or even group chats. “Communication” refers to the various types of communication you receive throughout your day, and “debt” refers to the growing mound of responses you have to get to at some point. This can usually create feelings of anxiety or avoidance and can cause issues in productivity. Dealing with your personal communication debt will take some time, practice, and willpower. Below are our top tips for dealing with your communication debt.

Put the “No” in Notification

By this, I mean, turn off your notifications (I just couldn’t resist the catchy sub-header). You don’t always have to keep your notifications on. For me, it really disrupts my deep thought work if I see a message bubble pop up on my screen from Microsoft Teams or I hear an email come into my inbox. We discuss the issues of multitasking a lot on The I in Team Series, but even if you’re not intending to multitask you can experience the same issues of multitasking because of the communication debt. If you become distracted by a group thread, either on your phone personally or one you are included in at the office, that line of communication is forcing you to multitask as you either think of a way to respond or worry about having to respond to that later (adding a task to your to do list).

The best way to combat this issue is to silence your notifications! Utilize the technology you have to work with you and not against you. If you have children or those who depend on you for emergencies, set a special ringtone for them to go off only if they call you (and set this expectation that calls during business hours are for emergencies only). Use Do Not Disturb on your phone and anywhere else you can (I love DND on Teams). You don’t have to be available for everyone 24/7 and you shouldn’t be! This is where communicating healthy boundaries comes in.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries so that you can deal with communication debt more easily is better for everyone. When you set boundaries, you protect yourself and ensure you are getting what you need to be your best self. One example of a set boundary that is universal is the closed door. When someone’s door is closed, you know they are in Do Not Disturb mode. However, we don’t have the luxury of closing our door when we are all working from home and connected solely via technology. One way you can offset this is by either blocking time for yourself to answer emails and only answer emails during that time, or by blocking time for yourself to do deep mind work and then alerting everyone to those times. Be sure that if you block time for yourself to do deep mind work that you also set reminders for when that time block will end (or, ask someone to get you at a certain time).

Again, set the expectations you have with those around you. Healthy individuals will respect these boundaries and work with you to ensure all needs are taken care of on everyone’s terms. Sometimes you might have to sacrifice a little bit for the sake of your own comfort, but that’s okay! As long as those around you are doing their best to respect and acknowledge your boundaries, you are in good company. Plus, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is always encouraged to promote personal growth!


You might already have a system for tackling your communication debt, like zeroing out your inbox or unsubscribing from junk emails, but you’re always going to have more communications to respond to. Therefore, you need tactics to lessen the severity of the negative influence of the communication debt. First, you need to know yourself. Who are you and what do you need? Second, you need to love and respect yourself enough to set boundaries, including saying no to notifications. Finally, practice self-love. The world around us is becoming increasingly more demanding as we all work harder and longer days to keep up with that demand. If you practice self-love, know your worth, and strive to have a positive influence, you can tackle the negative effects of communication debt.

The Problem with the Golden and Platinum Rules

The Problem with the Golden and Platinum Rules

Hi team, it’s your friend Mary with The I in Team Series where you can find, be, and build your positive influence! This week, I want to discuss my personal opinion on the Golden and Platinum Rules. To review, the Golden Rule is, essentially, “treat everyone as you would want to be treated” and the Platinum Rule is “treat everyone as they want to be treated.” While these both offer great guidelines for hopefully treating others with love, kindness, and respect, I think they miss a huge component of humanity: Mental Illness. I know when I’m depressed, anxious, or in the pits, I don’t want to be treated well; more so, I don’t feel like I deserve love and kindness because my mind tells me I don’t. This is the primary problem I see in the Golden and Platinum Rules, but before I propose my solution, I want to dive into these rules a little further.

The Golden and Platinum Rules

The Golden Rule, in some variation, has been written in religious text for centuries. It essentially reminds everyone to stay mindful of how they treat others lest someone treat you the same way. It promotes a sense of empathy and social awareness. Although, it is a bit egocentric. It’s a rule that tells you to treat others the way you would want to be treated, assuming you believe you deserve to be treated well. I know that for me and others who suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, not everyone feels that they are worth being treated well all of the time. So, for example, if I followed the Golden Rule while in a depressed state, I probably wouldn’t treat others very well. Why? 1) Because I feel horribly about myself and the world and 2) If I were hypothetically following the Golden Rule, I would treat everyone the way I felt I deserved, which I’m certain nobody wants.

The Platinum Rule was proposed and developed by Dr. Tony Alessandra and Dr. Michael J. O’Connor. On Dr. Alessandra’s website, he writes,

“The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. The focus of relationships shifts from ‘this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing’ to ‘let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.’”

Dr. Alessandra and Dr. O’Connor were absolutely correct to propose a rule that focuses on the other person more than the self. This ensures you are attempting to give someone what they want, but it leaves out what people need. Sometimes people want things that aren’t good for them, as I hope you understand by now with the example above. While we want to accommodate the feelings of others, we also need to be mindful that sometimes the people closest to us don’t know what they need to feel better and in those moments we should offer them love and support with no strings attached.

How I Approach Treating Others

To be honest, I didn’t know what to call it. But, the way I approach treating others is to, “Treat everyone the way you would want someone to treat the person you love most in this world.” Perhaps, this is redundant, as many people’s favorite person is themselves. Personally, this rule works for me. I don’t always have the best mental health and reminding myself to treat others the way I would want someone to treat Spencer, my fiancé, is really helpful. No matter what kind of mental issues I’m battling, I always want Spencer to be treated with love, kindness, and respect. To be honest, I just can’t say the same about myself, although I know those thoughts aren’t true, the mind can be tricky.

I believe following a rule like this will help everyone be more socially aware. Spreading a positive influence is the best way to combat the negativity of the world. If we can increase our emotional intelligence, do our best to realize when we aren’t feeling so great, and strive to treat others the way we would want someone to treat those we love the most, I know we can increase our positive influence. Maybe not every day, but we aren’t meant to be perfect every day. Life might kick us down, or we might have a bad day with a negative influence, but we just have to keep going forward, learning from our mistakes, doing our best, and striving to remain uplifted and positive. If we can do this, we can spread love, kindness, and acceptance in all areas of our lives.


These rules have always been meant as guidelines for treating others with love, kindness, and respect, and in reality, all three rules are saying the same thing with different wording. One is centuries old, derived from philosophy and religion. One is a more recent thought pool, used to increase others’ empathy and social awareness. And one is used to recognize that people these days have mental illness and we should remain mindful. It doesn’t matter your race, age, or sexual orientation; all human beings deserve a chance to be treated with love, kindness, and respect. We all deserve to live in a world where we are free to be our most true selves. In a diverse world, we all flourish, so spread positive influence to those who are similar to you and those who are vastly different. We are all important in this time.

How Your Environment Influences You

How Your Environment Influences You

Hi team, Mary here! Welcome to 2021. It shouldn’t come as a shock, considering 2020 was one environmentally influencing year, but your environment plays a huge role in what influences you every day. It affects your mental health, including your outlook on life and stress, depression, and anxiety levels. Understanding what in our environment influences us and how is the first step we can take towards combatting negative environmental influence.

Types of Environmental Influence

There are a few types of environmental influence that could be affecting you, including physical and social factors. Physical factors are things having to do with your body and your physical environment around you. Social factors include your family, friends, coworkers, and wider community.


Check out some examples of physical environmental influence below.

  • Your Home, Office, and Car: These are among the top places you spend your time. How these areas look (meaning, how clean and organized they are) influence your mental health daily. Living in a clean and organized home can increase your positive outlook on life because your immediate surroundings are also positive. Note: When we say “organized” we don’t mean you have to Marie Kondo your home! You might have a ton of stuff and keep it organized in a way that suits your needs. Your process of organization doesn’t have to match others’ processes.
  • Pollution: In case you don’t know already, air pollution affects your health! Psychology Today reports in this article titled The Impact of Air Pollution on Mental Health that air pollution can increase suicide risk and depression.
  • Sleep Deprivation: When you’re sleep deprived, your mental health declines. A good night’s sleep can boost your immune system, act as a light painkiller, prevent weight gain, increase heart health, increase your positive mood, reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve memory. Read more in this article titled 10 Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep by VeryWell Health.
  • Weather: Bad and extreme weather can influence your mental health! Dealing with snowstorms, constant rain, lack of sunshine, and freezing temperatures is never fun for anyone. Seasonal affective disorder, anyone?
  • Smoking: You already know the risks associated with smoking.
  • Eating Habits: If your doctor hasn’t told you already, what you put into your body has a direct effect on your mood and health. Check out this article Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food by Harvard Medical School.

These are just a few examples of physical factors that can influence your mental health. Try to remain mindful of these influences, even if they are negative. What other physical factors do you encounter daily?


Check out some examples of social environmental influence below:

  • Stigmas: People experience racism, sexism, ageism, and other forms of prejudice that can have a serious impact on their mental health.
  • Relationships: Friends, family, lovers, co-workers, and strangers are all part of your relationships. The people you choose to surround yourself with has a major influence on your mental health. Don’t surround yourself with people who will mentally, emotionally, or physically abuse you. Choose relationships that lift you up and make you feel more positive about life.
  • Community: The community in which you live has a tremendous influence on you. Impoverished communities versus wealthy communities have different influences on human beings. No matter where you come from or where you are now, you absolutely have the capability to be a positive influence and have a positive outlook on life.

Social factors influence your mental health so pervasively because humans are social creatures! What other social factors influence you daily?


Realizing that our environments can influence us may help us overcome the negative side effects that can come from negative environments. Your environment doesn’t have to look like someone else’s to be positive or make you feel content. Part of your environment is your outlook, and if you can try to remain mindful of what influences you, you can try to remain mindful of how you see the world. Just remember, it’s okay to have bad days! It’s okay to feel negative and emotional. It’s how you pick yourself back up that defines you. Don’t let your environment drag you down! Instead, lift everyone and your surroundings UP with your positive influence.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Hi team, Mary here! With 2021 right around the corner, now is the time people start considering their New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I prefer to call them New Year’s goals because I think goals are easier for people to deal with, they are less likely to be given up on because they are adaptable, and they can feel more rewarding when reached. Additionally, I think New Year’s resolutions have a negative connotation to them; roughly 80% of people give up on their resolutions by February, so it seems societal norm is to create resolutions but not stick to them. If we start planning goals, perhaps we won’t give up on them. With the new year right around the corner, let’s start creating our S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals now.

Choosing Your Goal

Some of the most common New Year’s goals are:

  • Go to the gym regularly
  • Lose weight/diet
  • Work on mental health
  • Get a new job
  • Buckle down on finances
  • Manage stress
  • Improve a relationship
  • Quit smoking/drinking

So, does that mean you have to set a common goal? Heck no! Choosing your goal is personal and should relate to how you want to grow. It can absolutely be a common goal, because making our minds and bodies healthier is a great way to grow, but it can also be an obscure goal that means something to just you. You may want to learn a new style of cooking, read a book series, go back to school, climb a mountain, run a 10k, practice or learn a new art, or anything you want it to be. Your goals should reflect who you want to be and how you want to grow.

My 2020 goals were to figure out grad school, read for an hour every week, write and release one song, and finish my crochet blanket. I’m happy to say, I did figure out grad school! With the help of some trusted friends and loved ones, I enrolled for my master’s in organizational leadership. However, once I realized how hard learning to write music was, I adjusted my goal to continue learning about music. When my hand started cramping up from crocheting, I adjusted my goal to work on my crochet blanket (it’s massive, like king-sized, so finishing it is going to take a long time). I didn’t read fiction for one hour every week, but I didn’t give up on the goal; I still read every week for at least one hour and read my fiction book when I can fit it into my schedule. Don’t be afraid to adjust, but don’t give up.


Once you have decided on your goal, it’s time to make your goal specific! Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Who is involved in this goal?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this goal?
  • Where will this goal be achieved?
  • When do I want to achieve this goal?
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?

It’s vital that your goal is specific, otherwise you might lose sight of what you are working towards. It also needs to be specific enough to follow the rest of the S.M.A.R.T. process.


If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. Making sure you have metrics to measure your goal will help you reach your goal. It will also propel you forward towards the end. If you don’t have a way to measure your progress, you may become discouraged half-way through and give up. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, what would your metrics be? For one, you can weigh yourself and tangibly see your weight loss, but you can also measure your calorie intake and how many calories you burn during exercise.

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • How many/much X will I need?
  • How will I know I have reached my goal?
  • What will I use to be an indicator of progress?


Your goal should stretch your abilities without stretching you so thin it makes the goal unattainable. For example, I could set the goal of becoming an astronaut. Becoming an astronaut is certainly attainable. In the S.M.A.R.T. process, attainable and realistic go hand-in-hand so be sure to keep a close eye on these sections. Yes, becoming an astronaut is technically attainable because other people have done it, so I could do it too. But is it realistic?

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Do I have the funds/resources/capabilities to reach this goal?
  • If not, what am I missing or how can I get it?
  • Are there any roadblocks that could prevent my goal from being attainable?


Setting a realistic goal means setting a goal that can be achieved given the resources and time you have. So, continuing our example above, I could, technically, become an astronaut. However, am I in a position to become an astronaut? Am I astronaut material? Am I willing to go back to school, start my career from scratch, and spend more than a decade trying to reach my goal? Probably not. It’s not a realistic goal because I’m not willing to dedicate the time to achieve the goal, I probably wouldn’t be that good at advanced science and math, and even then I may not even get up into space so I would have to be content simply working for NASA or another space related company.

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Is my goal realistic?
  • Is this goal worth my time?
  • Is this goal worth my money?
  • Is this the right time to try to reach this goal?
  • Does this goal match other efforts/needs?


All goals need a definitive start and end date. If there is no timeline, there will be no sense of urgency; hence, less motivation to reach the goal. When I set my 2020 goals, they all had a deadline of the end of the year. Looking back, I didn’t create all my goals around S.M.A.R.T. or I would have known that releasing a song would be nearly impossible. However, my hand cramping up during crocheting is not something I could have foreseen, so I adjusted my goal’s timeline. Your timeline should be in line with what you need from that goal.

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Does my goal have a deadline?
  • When do I want to achieve my goal?
  • What else is going on in my life that could prevent me from hitting this goal in this time frame?


Now’s the time to start planning for your 2021 goals and I want you all to feel like achievers in reaching your goals. Don’t follow society and set goals for yourself just to never see them fulfilled. Doing so will just make setting goals harder and more discouraging because you train yourself to not meet your goals. You literally program yourself to think it’s okay to set goals and not meet them. I promise, once you set a goal and meet that goal, you’ll be changed. Looking back at your past self and knowing you made it is a reward worth having. Trust me, I’m so happy to be in school and at the beginning of 2020, I was sure that was a goal I would give up on.

Showing Gratitude

Showing Gratitude

Hi team, Mary here! We have had a pretty crazy year. Between the pandemic, civil unrest, and elections, it seems emotions are always running high. But in the month of giving thanks, I would like us all to reflect on that which we are grateful for. In times of uncertainty and stress, it can be easy to look at the past or future and wish for better, but that takes us away from the present moment. I implore you to focus on that which you do have, in the now. Showing gratitude for the positive parts of your life will help you remain positive and content overall.

What is Gratitude?

Most individuals believe that showing gratitude is the same as showing thanks. While being thankful is synonymous with showing gratitude, there are some subtle differences. Being thankful is when you acknowledge what someone or something has done or given you. For example, when your co-worker brings coffee to work for everyone, you may respond with, “Thank you!” Gratitude, on the other hand, is a feeling that is much deeper. It goes beyond the simple, verbal “thank you” and involves having a deeper appreciation and love for that person, event, or thing. It’s a deep emotional response that you feel down to your core, and the feeling lingers much longer than the “Thank you!”

If you’re someone who doesn’t have or express a lot of emotions, the differences between showing gratitude and being thankful might be difficult to grasp. You can still show gratitude and be mindful about how you conduct yourself in showing thanks while not feeling the deep emotional sense of gratefulness. Showing gratitude for the things and people in your life requires that you remain mindful of yourself and your surroundings. So, if you’re someone who has difficultly feeling or expressing emotion, meditation and mindfulness might be the solution for you showing gratitude.


Mindfulness is a school of thought that can be expressed in several ways but boiled down it’s just about remaining aware of yourself, how you’re feeling inside, and remaining cognizant of the influence you have. Some people practice mindfulness by meditating while others may practice mindfulness by reading self-help books or engaging in self-education. Mindfulness is kind of what you want it to be, as long as you can stay grounded in who you are and how you influence the world around you. Staying mindful just means that you stay aware. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect because none of us are. It means that if you identify an opportunity for growth, you try to grow positively.

Being Humble

Being humble goes hand-in-hand with showing gratitude. If you are boastful, you are certainly not being mindful. You might have a little or you might have a lot, but no matter what you have, it’s important to remain humble in those feelings. There are always going to be those who are less fortunate than you. Remaining humble and showing gratitude for what you do have in life will help you remain more content. Instead of constantly chasing greener grass or looking back on better times, find peace in where you are at in life. By showing gratitude, and feeling the weight of that gratefulness, you will inherently become humbler. Gratitude itself is a humbling feeling.


Focusing on what we do have rather than what we don’t have is how we can all live more content lives and spread a positive influence. When we feel grounded with where we are, we feel better about ourselves. When we feel good, we spread that good feeling to those around us. In the month of thanks, take some time to show deep gratitude towards those who have positively influenced you. You may even show some gratitude towards those who have been a negative influence in your life; sometimes negativity can make us better as humans and that is something to be grateful for. If you’re looking for more ways to be a positive influence and help spread the love, check out our Influence page! We have tons of examples of positive influence for children, your professional life, and your personal life.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to anyone out there who has read this blog, our book, followed us on social media, watched our vlogcast, and supported our efforts to spread a positive influence by teaching people how to be better leaders. You’re the reason I get up in the morning and why the sun will shine again tomorrow. You give my life purpose and meaning, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to help anyone grow in their positive influence. So, how about you? What are you grateful for? Namaste, team.