A New Year, another chance to do things better. Jim Butcher offers 7 simple tips to improve your productivity through communication. This post is one in a series focusing on improving productivity using better communications, apps and tips and techniques.
Multitasking may work for some, but people don’t want your divided attention. If you want to improve your productivity, and too many things are going on, you’re likely to miss important details:
- Whether you are having a conversation in person or on the phone, give them your attention.
- Put down all devices and turn away from your screen if someone starts to talk to you.
- Be honest. If you’re in a hurry or have to be somewhere soon, tell them at the beginning of the conversation. Your stress will only distract you both.
2. Remain focused
- Important conversations are rarely a surprise. Write down the most significant points you want to clarify before you start.
- Identify a couple of relevant questions and ask them before you finish. The process will make you think about what is being said and will ensure parties are fully engaged.
3. Stay in control
- Use your brain for creative and progressive thinking, not your to-do list.
- Send a follow-up email, use Evernote or text yourself, or write yourself a note. The act of writing something down helps some people to remember.
- Record action steps from the conversation.
- Try apps like Wunderlist, to share and edit to-do lists with team members.
4. Be responsive
- Read the whole email and respond to all items.
- When sending emails, keep them short and to the point.
- Use lists and bullet points to ensure your ideas are clear and simple to address.
- If you have lots to discuss, pick up the phone.
5. Know your audience
- If you know the person you’re emailing only reads the first couple of lines, only write emails with two lines.
- If they only action the first question or task, email them one at a time.
- Stagger your questions and tasks into a series of emails.
- Only send an email with three actionable tasks. Any more than that and you’re guaranteed to have to send a follow-up email.
6. Watch your tone
- With any short communication, always start with the assumption that the sender’s intentions are good.
- Before sending an email re-read it – and if it’s not urgent, don’t send it straight away. Come back to it later for a quick review and edit.
- If in any doubt, pick up the phone.
7. Manage productivity; manage expectations and emotions
- When phoning someone, let them know in your greeting how much time is needed for your conversation (I want 5 minutes of your time)
- Outline what it is you need from them first – politely, of course.
- When giving feedback, work to couch it in positive terms (‘I believe that we aren’t making the most of your talents’ OR ‘That’s a really great exploration of the issues, I’d love to hear from you an equally-detailed summary of the possible solutions’).
- When giving bad news, tell the person the possible worst-case scenario then tell them the reality: “It could take a month to do, but we should be able to do it in two weeks.” Two weeks now sounds like you’re doing them a favour!
And remember to be patient. Everyone’s in a rush to get their job done, so slow down and you will soon reap the rewards of being a great communicator and improve your productivity.