Action-Oriented Note Taking Taking notes is a good way to capture and digest the content of a meeting. It also increases focus on the subject matter at hand, as the notes preserve the salient points. Here is a list of abbreviations for use when taking notes to make them even more productive: A is an[…]
The irony of the modern world is that we have more tools and information at our disposal than ever before, but we’re getting less and less done. Sure, there’s a lot more activity, but it’s productivity that matters – advancing the cause, moving the ball down the proverbial field.
There are many reasons for this and possibly as many suggestions for solving the problem. We’re going to focus on making one small slice of time – odd-lot time – more productive.
Making Odd-Lot Time Productive
Examples of odd-lot time include
- those minutes between when the meeting was scheduled to start and when it actually starts,
- the small (or large) slice of time commuting, and
- that brief period on the plane when everyone else is still finding their seats.
You’ve no doubt hear of the six-word memoirs? If not, take a minute to check it out at Six-Word Memoirs. There are some amazing contributions. In a similar vein, Mike Davidson founded Five Sentence Email several years ago. The idea is simple: write shorter emails to reduce the increasing burden everyone is experiencing with email[…]
Buying a car ranks high on the list things we dislike doing. There are dozens of makes and models, option lists are daunting, and haggling with the dealership is a nightmare. In spite of this, we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy pursing the best decision about the choices before us.
However, we spend very little time choosing what vehicle we’ll use to communicate. Today’s defacto vehicle is email, regardless of how effective it is. Consider the following alternatives the next time you need to communicate with someone: […]
Part 1 of Making Email Better observed that how we use email significantly contributes to its negative effects on our productivity and sense of satisfaction. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on a UK study that found up to 80% of email traffic is a “waste!”
Better Mechanics and Better Messaging
We established that focusing on Better Mechanics – use of the tool – and Better Messaging – the manner of communicating – makes email more effective and productive. We covered three best practices suggestions for each. You can review those here.
Swimming in Email
We are overwhelmed with the flood of email. They flow into our inboxes unabated like the ocean tides. We struggle to keep up, often ending the day feeling that we’ve only treaded water.
How can this situation get better? Technology solutions, like spam filters, have helped. But what about all the email that we legitimately receive? What can be done to stem the rising tide?
We are Them – A Dichotomy
The irony of our situation is that we’re doing it to ourselves. This is not the work of auto-bots. Other people are sending us email, and we are sending them email. Focusing on receiver-centeric behaviors – managing the inbound flow – can only help us so much. Receiver-centric efforts are like putting a bandaid on the problem. […]
Bruce Turkel is a nationally recognized expert on branding. He’s also a prolific blogger, one that I follow. Bruce recently wrote about his serendipitous early arrival to the airport in a post titled “Early To Bed. Early To Rise.” It’s a worthy read.
I commented on his post, focusing my message on the importance of being on time. It’s what I call Making Time To Be On Time. Here’s the way I see it.
Why Being On Time Is Important
Being on time – in any form and for any purpose – is important in three specific ways:
- Leadership – Being on time demonstrates leadership. It communicates that we command our schedule and we fulfill our obligations. Others follow those who lead, resulting in more people showing up on time.
- Respect – Being on time respects other peoples’ time. Forcing others to wait for us is impolite regardless of the reason. They’ve made time for us and we are professionally obligated to make good use of that time.
- Productivity – Being on time is productive. As obvious as this seems, many miss the point. Gathering people for a meeting consumes two valuable and limited resources – money and time. When meetings start late and, as a result, run long, time is lost, productivity is lost and money is wasted. The aggregated effects of that loss can be staggering.
- the global and ubiquitous availability of e-mail,
- the ability to communicate asynchronously, and
- the use of e-mail to replace other forms of communication, namely, telephone calls and face-to-face meetings.
Our use of and reliance on e-mail is largely positive. We accomplish much more now than even a few years ago because we can communicate with others on our schedule and they on theirs. However, some of our e-mail habits are big time wasters from a recipient’s standpoint. Some of these habits have been covered earlier in this Credo, some merit repeating, and some of the suggestions below are new. The objective here is to ask e-mail senders to consider—be mindful of—the recipient’s time.
Here’s a simple question to ask: Is the e-mail I’m sending a good use of the recipient’s time? Remember, they are like you. They get too many e-mails a day, just like you do. They are pushed for time and need to get a lot of things done, just like you do.
The R in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Recipient Focused. Effective use of e-mail requires focusing on how your recipients will receive your e-mail and what they need to know to be fully informed by it. We might term this empathetic sending because we need to put ourselves in the recipient’s shoes to ensure we are communicating effectively with them.
Transferring the information in our heads to our recipient is difficult in any medium. Leaving out important context, background information, and companion information leaves the recipient without all the pieces of the puzzle. Including the pertinent information increases the effectiveness of our communication and reduces the inefficient back-and-forth required when clarification is needed.
E-mail is particularly susceptible to the risk of insufficient supporting information. It’s a silent form of communication—the thoughts we are communicating start in our head and transfer to our fingers. Our fingers will never work as quickly as our thoughts do. Thus, there is the inherent risk of information loss along the way. Moreover, we treat e-mail as a quick form of communication, and quick does not guarantee effective or inclusive.
Author’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles advocating that people and their organizations adopt the S.M.A.R.T. Email Credo. The Credo focuses on the sender’s role in the email overload problem. Better sender behavior reduces the time spent by and the stress on recipients when handling email. An explanation of the what and why of the Credo can be read at the beginning of Part 1 here.
What Does the A Stand for?
The A in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Addressing. Effective use of email requires focusing on who your recipients are and where to place them on the recipient list – To, CC or BCC.
Email is a terrific and often effective communication tool. However, its overuse is the cause of email overload. There are several aspects to this overuse, including over-reliance on the tool and misuse of the tool. Focusing on the recipients of the email we send speaks to the misuse aspect. By limiting the recipient list of an email to only those who need the information being transmitted reduces the number of emails received. Fewer emails received equals less overload.