My friend Matt recently wrote a great article about Limiting Yourself.
Don’t despair, the second solution is within easier reach. Limit yourself. Limit the number of inboxes you have, limit the amount of data coming into those inboxes and then limit how often you check those inboxes. Do this regularly enough and you’ll spend less time in your inbox and more time working, creating or doing whatever it is that you do.
Matt makes a great point about limiting your communication. Write shorter emails. Get to the point faster.
I think he misses a crucial tool in being more effective with communication.
Email is not the only form of communication.
I hear what he’s saying and I’m sure you do as well. We’ve all recieved 800 word emails that cover 3 topics on a project from a client.
Then we write back answering the questions with few additions.
Then the client writes back and adds 2 extra questions.
No we’re dealing with 2000 word emails that aren’t focused and take 20 minutes to read through. Then you answer the questions and you need to spend an extra 15 minutes reading back to make sure that you didn’t miss a question.
Despite the extra effort, you did miss something which makes you look unprofessional.
It’s easy to say that short emails are the problem here, but really the problem is the medium of communication.
Choose the medium
Like I said above the biggest problem with email is that we try to use it for the end all be all form of communication.
We loathe to pick up the phone and call someone, because it ‘interrupts’ our day.
The fact is that often a 5 minute call will resolve things faster than 10 email replies. It took less time as well.
That client email thread I cited above is a prime candidate for a properly organized project management system.
Each question gets it’s own ticket or task or conversation (since each system calls it something different). You can read one question and reply to one question.
Each conversation is centered. It’s focused. You don’t have to spend 20 minutes reading through 800 words to see if you missed a single question.
The biggest thing here you need to have is diligence. It’s likely that you or your client simply isn’t used to choosing the correct medium for conversation.
They feel it’s easier to just email the questions without really thinking about how much time email takes.
Clients I’ve worked with on multiple projects still end up putting 3 questions for 3 different tasks on the same card in Trello.
Every time I see that, I stop and divide them up in to 3 different cards and keep each conversation centered on a single topic so it can be resolved.
The more I do this and explain why, the more my clients end up doing the same thing. There is then less I have to manage in regards to communication channels, because clients buy into single centered conversations.
When you dive in to a project or communication make sure you choose the right medium. Don’t just stick with email because you don’t want to get on the phone.
Use what’s most effective and gain some time back in your day.