Try making less noise

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 27th November 2017

My upcoming book, Smart Teams is essentially about how we work together more productively, and how we reduce the friction we cause each other when we interact. One of the main ways we cause productivity friction is when we communicate using tools like email. We may not mean to, but we create way too much noise for our colleagues, and they create way too much noise for us.

This noise consumes a great deal of our time and energy, and may even distract us from our core priorities. And it’s not just email that is to blame. We are distracted by other communication tools like Instant Messaging, Enterprise Social Media, and project tools like Slack and Giro. They all serve a purpose, but come with a level of noise that is unacceptable in my opinion.

In Smart Work we looked at strategies the receiver of emails can employ to reduce the volume of noise showing up in their inbox.  In Smart Teams I explore strategies to reduce the volume of noise caused by the people generating the emails. This has a positive productivity impact across the whole team, and gets to the root of the problem.

So, what can you do to reduce the noise that you are generating when you communicate? Here are a few tips that will help you and your team:

  • CC with purpose – Think carefully about who you copy into an email. Always consider when and why.  For instance, will the other person benefit from being included now, or would it be better to loop them in later?
  • Reduce one-liner responses – It’s not necessary to respond to every email your colleagues send. For instance, a genuine “thank you” for great work is a no-brainer, but you don’t have to say thanks as a standard response to everything.  To remove any doubt for the receiver, consider adding NRR (no response required) at the end of your subject line.
  • Avoid hyper-responsiveness to emails – Do you jump on every email the second it shows up in your inbox? This type of hyper-responsiveness generally leads to an increase in the number of emails being ‘transacted’.  And if everyone in your team does this, the number of emails generated grows exponentially.  This is one of the reasons it is better to batch together when you check your emails.
  • Use the right tool for the job – Email isn’t always the best way to communicate, especially if the issue is time critical. For something very time critical, get up and talk to your colleague, or make a phone call.  Perhaps a short IM will get you the information you need faster than if you had emailed.  To reduce email overload, it is important for everyone in the team to agree that, for most emails, an instant response is not expected.

So, nothing ground breaking or revolutionary here. Just plain old common sense. But are you doing these things? Are you communicating in a mindful way that helps your colleagues to maximise their productivity? If you change how you communicate with them, they might change how they communicate with you. Win-win I reckon.

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