Please give a warm welcome to our guest blogger Chandra Clarke who is the founder and president of Scribendi.com.
It’s cool to complain about “information overload.” It’s less cool to realize you’re a big part of the problem.
When we think about information overload, we tend to think about web sites, RSS feeds, videos, and podcasts – things other people produce. But you know what? You produce information too. Tons of it. Go have a quick look at your outbox. How many e-mails, memos, manuals, and reports have you sent out today?
Know what else? Nobody is reading it. Here’s why:
1. You talk too much. You reply to the 10 e-mails in your box about project X, and then you answer each one of the replies to your replies individually, even though they’re all going to the same group of people. Wait until the end of the day, and write one e-mail. Bonus: this also saves you time.
2. You talk too much (part two!). You don’t need to write an opinion or rebuttal for every little thing your colleagues say. Save your pearls of wisdom for the things that really matter.
3. You talk to everyone, all the time. Yes, it’s a good idea to keep people “in the loop.” But the rest of your department does not need to see every bit of back-and-forth your team has over a project. If they want play-by-play, they’ll turn on a football game. Communicate externally only when something has been resolved or decided. If you really feel that the thought processes or methodologies need to be captured for posterity, then make use of a wiki or project management board that outsiders (or management) can refer to if they really feel the need to find out how you arrived at your decision.
4. You don’t say enough. In reports and manuals, you assume everyone knows all of your department’s procedures and initiatives, or you’ve had your head so far into a project that you know every detail and forget what might be new to outsiders. Get an objective third party to review your documents and point out what needs a quick and to-the-point explanation (or better yet, references other documents so interested parties can choose whether to investigate).
5. No one knows what you’re saying. Run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation, poor word choice, and acronym overkill… people shouldn’t have to (and simply won’t!) read your documents more than once to figure out what you’re trying to say. If you have the time, set the document aside for a while and then come back to it fresh. Make the delete key your best friend. If you don’t have the time, or have seen the document too many times, get someone else to review it.
George Bernard Shaw said it best when he noted, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Perhaps it’s time to check your assumptions with respect to the way you communicate, either in person, or via the written word.