As the founder and CEO of a PR and media relations company, I always make sure that I’m prepared for and take extra precautions when I communicate and go about business during Mercury retrograde.
What Is Mercury Retrograde?
Several times a year, the planet Mercury appears to slow down, stop and then begin moving backwards, which is an optical illusion. This event is called retrograde, and according to astrologers, it can cause havoc on Earth, particularly with anything concerning communications.
Why? Well, if you work in tech and usually couldn’t care less about astrology, Mercury retrograde is something you should probably consider marking on your calendars in the future. It happens three to four times a year and in this go-round, it begins April 21 and ends May 14. During these cycles, we can expect and oftentimes experience delays, miscommunication, accidents, confusion and other strange activity, especially relating to technology.
It’s no secret that startups experience communication issues and technical difficulties. It happens to the best of us. Just look at Netflix. A tech snafu in mid April prevented the service from airing the highly anticipated Love is Blind reunion, leaving millions of viewers confused and annoyed. I view that incident as a warning for other tech companies of what could possibly come your way if you don’t prepare for the chaotic cosmic shifts that Mercury retrograde can cause.
Mercury retrograde is the perfect time for startups, known to rush everything, to slow down, revisit and improve communication to media, employees and customers. Here are five practical tips to help you do just that.
Seriously. Slow down. Whether it’s an email, newsletter, pitch, press release, Tweet or any external communications, just wait before you click send. Even with Gmail’s undo feature, do your due diligence and triple-check everything.
I sometimes even write a draft and address it later on to make sure it makes sense to share. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on a mailing list from a company and my name is either misspelled or I spot a typo in the subject line. Both come across as sloppy, rushed and uncaring.
Mistakes happen, sure. But knowing that Mercury retrograde can affect communication with pretty much everything, it’s worth paying extra attention to what you’re saying so that you can avoid mix-ups and misunderstandings.
Listen More and Don’t React
I have a habit of saying what I’m thinking and being as transparent as possible. It’s definitely helped in my career, but also has backfired, especially in my jobs in corporate America if I didn’t do so carefully.
If you have any immediate thoughts on something that was said, take a few deep breaths and pause before responding. Whether in a group team meeting or an intimate 1-on-1 with your manager, this is a great time to work on listening skills.
Be more mindful of your word choices and their power during Mercury retrograde. As hard as it might be to not react right away, do your best to not just blurt out what you’re thinking without a filter. Try to speak only when necessary, stop interrupting people and don’t ramble. Get to the point and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Update Apps and Charge Your Devices
Mercury retrograde is associated with haywire and hiccups with technology and devices. For tech companies and startups that don’t want a repeat Netflix situation, do your best to make sure everything is working properly and not malfunctioning.
We’ve all witnessed bad product rollouts and demos and crashing websites. Ask yourself: When was the last time you protected your communications, tech and software? Are you insured from hackers or malware? Is everything functioning as it should? Make sure that apps you use every day for communicating and doing your job are updated.
Nothing is worse than rushing to a Google Meet or Zoom call that you’re responsible for leading after already being late and having to re-sign back into your account all while forgetting your password.
Also: This should be a no-brainer, but ensure that everything is saved or backed up to the cloud.
Arrive Early to Meetings
In my role as CEO, I’m often required to travel and meet face to face with clients and journalists. So when it comes to Mercury retrograde, which almost always negatively affects travel and causes all sorts of delays, I allocate even more extra time commuting to my destination.
Whether you drive, catch a Lyft or take public transportation, anything goes with Mercury retrograde. Be as flexible as possible and if you can, ride a bike or even walk to your destination. If you’re taking a flight, avoid waiting in long lines and checking your bags if you can help it. You never know how much time it will take to get through customs or airport security.
Call. Don’t Text.
If you want to save yourself time and a headache, pick up the phone and call. Stop texting and hiding behind Slack to communicate important or complicated topics and conversations.
I’m big on limiting unnecessary calls and meetings. But I’ve realized that connecting quickly over the phone helps get to the bottom of an issue much faster and can prevent anything being taken out of context that you didn’t intend. It’s extremely difficult to capture someone’s tone over a text, Slack message or email, and that's where and when frustration usually sets in. Do yourself and everyone else a favor, and call.
Mercury retrograde is always on my radar and it should be on yours, too, whether you own or work for a company. In fact, I quit my toxic corporate job and launched my now successful PR venture during Mercury retrograde.
Mercury retrograde is a time startups can use to revamp communications, handle unfinished business and map out next steps for engagement. Preparing and more importantly, embracing the chaos that comes with Mercury retrograde can help you during each cycle.