Wasting Time with Communication

I came across a nice article from Inc.com that I think shares some valuable information about time management.

To sum up the entire article in one sentence: We waste a ton of time by overcommunicatating things.

Those who have read The 4-Hour Workweek may remember that Tim Ferriss sets up autoresponders and manages much of his communication by conditioning people to only contact him with matters that are important and relevant to him [pg. 96-98 in the expanded edition].  Ferriss describes e-mail consumption and production as “the greatest single interruption in the modern world.”

Those of us who aren’t self-employed have a little bit less flexibility in how we handle our communication.  After all, if it’s part of your corporate culture to have email response times of under an hour, what are you going to do?  It’s hard to control how other people communicate with you (though over time, you can condition them by how you handle your response to them), but you can fight half the battle by controlling your own communication.

Before sending an email or setting up a meeting, it behooves you to consider the following questions:

  1. Who actually needs to know the content of this email or needs to participate in this meeting?  These are the people you contact.
  2. Who are the people not really a part of the project or task, but maybe they’d like to know what’s going on anyway?  Unless these people really have a role, eliminate their names from your list.
  3. Are there questions that I anticipate receiving by sending this email?  If so, answer the questions before they are asked.  Eliminate the back and forth communication.
  4. Use the “if…then” structure.  For example: “Do you have time to update the projections for me by the end of the tomorrow?  If so, please go ahead and email me to confirm when you have completed this task.  If not, please delegate this to someone who has time and have them contact me when the task is complete.”  The key is to eliminate follow-up email when it can be prevented beforehand [see pg.102 in the expanded edition].

Not only does unnecessary communication waste the time of the recipient or participant, but you waste time if you need to get people up to speed on what you’re saying.  Phrases like “for those of you who aren’t involved…” and “in case you were curious…” shouldn’t be necessary.

Stop wasting your time.

30-Day Challenge Update – Day 1 (1/26): I’m off to a good start.  No money spent on day 1!

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