Take Your Time

Effective communication requires time and bandwidth. When we communicate on autopilot, we contribute to the typical fragmented, shallow communication that most of us find frustrating. 

In this issue, we focus on three activities in which we don’t typically invest the proper time. If we just slow down and create the space to think before we engage, whatever we communicate will have more impact. 

Time to Process Emails

One of the most common questions about workplace communication is what’s the best time to go over your inbox or how frequently we should do so. That’s not the right question.

There is no optimal time for going over your emails. Nor is there an optimal frequency. It depends on the nature of your work, the typical emails you receive, and the organizational expectations. All these aspects must be considered, but none of them will affect the quality of this task. To communicate effectively, you must create a setup with sufficient time to process the emails and respond to them intentfully. 

Eventually, this is highly subjective. The only universal truth is that if you rush into this activity, you will not be able to process what you read and come up with an effective response. At least not constantly. 

Experiment and close dedicated time slots for email processing depending on your inflow of emails and the average time you need to process and decide whether and how to respond to each.

Time to Prepare for a Meeting

A meeting is one of the most costly communication activities; the more people invited, the greater its cost. Effective communication is all about having a positive Return on Investment: gaining more value from the interaction than it costs to communicate. 

Many of the meetings you have in your calendar shouldn’t have been scheduled in the first place. Some might be important, but you don’t necessarily have something meaningful to contribute to them. But when you plan to attend a meeting believing your participation is needed, any minute you dedicate to prepare for the meeting will increase the potential ROI. 

Make sure you understand the context of the meeting and its goal. Ask for the relevant material or compile it yourself. Take the time to process it and develop your ideas and insights based on the goal and the data you have. Share the information you have and your thoughts before the meeting. 

As more people do that before a meeting, our discussions will become more effective. Instead of starting from scratch, you and your colleagues can invest the costly meeting time in discussing the real issue and achieving progress toward your predefined goal. 

Time to Plan Your Communication 

For many of us, communication is an afterthought. We are social creatures, so we communicate naturally and don’t think much about it. Until we realize something is wrong, that is.

Effective communication cannot be done as an afterthought. It has to be intentful and carefully crafted depending on the context and what you aim to achieve. Email is not the problem or the solution. Instant Messaging can be great or can lead to a disaster. A meeting is an investment, but it is not the best platform for every communication need. 

Only after you define what you aim to achieve in a particular instance of communication can you craft an effective communication flow, identify who should take part in it, and find the right tools for the task.

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