Technology can be a wonderful thing when it makes life easier. Unfortunately in workplace communication, technology has in some ways made it harder by providing too much. One of the many challenges managers now face is the amount of communication they are expected to deal with. Read on to learn some key techniques to reduce the communication overload.
Organise your email folders
Assuming that most people are using one of the major email applications, there is likely to be a function where you can create folders to organise your storage of e-mails in and out. If you are using Microsoft Outlook then you will have the facility to set automatic rules where certain emails move into these folders automatically. One of the delegates on our open courses uses these rules to put any emails to which he has been carbon copied (CC) into a separate folder. He treats them as low priority and only looks at them if he has time!
Only read your emails at set times during the day
Unfortunately many people are addicted to their email and every time the sound alerts them to a new email they stop what they’re doing and check it. This is a bit like sitting near your front door so that every time the postman delivers a letter you can stand up and pick up your post. Unless you work in a role where you have to act upon ALL emails there and then, STOP the alerts or pop ups and get on with your work. After an in house programme recently I noticed that the delegate had changed the auto responder on his email programme. It said something like, ‘Thank you for your message. Please note that emails are only checked between 11:00 and 12:00 on weekdays. If your request is urgent please call me on my mobile ………’ This is brilliant if you can get away with it. It sets expectations, creates discipline whilst still providing options for urgent communication.
Reduce the number of meetings you attend
Manager we work with often tell us how they waste so much time in boring meetings when the time could be better spent doing other stuff. Some firms have meetings for meetings sake and invite people who don’t really need to be there. Consider asking the meeting chair person whether you could receive the information another way i.e. brief minutes by email afterwards. See what happens if you don’t go to one where you have no great involvement.
Control the meetings you organise yourself
There are many techniques for keeping your meetings short and sweet. Enforce a time limit by whatever method you can. For example where you know meeting rooms are used regularly try to arrange a time where you know you will have to vacate the room after a certain period of time. This means you will find it hard to go over time. You can also set time limits for each item on the agenda and appoint a different time keeper for each meeting to tell you when time is up and keep to it. Once people get used to this they will learn how to talk succinctly and within the time allowed.
Encourage your colleagues to give you information in a brief format
When people are advising you of any information, tell them you would like to receive this is a shortened format. For example bullet points for emails and reports or 5 minutes if it’s verbal. If they do not conform consider not reading it or stop listening and see what happens! If it’s really important allocate the right amount for a separate dedicated discussion.
Switch off your mobile and record a personal message everyday
With smart phones being used more for social networking, texting and as a games console, it can be a great time stealer. If you record a personal message that tells people how to contact you in the office (if you want them too) then it may increase your productivity.
These are just a few examples of what you can do to keep communication from being an overload and converting it to a useful tool controlled by you. Try them out and see what works for you.
Before i sign off here are a few articles that might be of interest to you-
Head of Training
Originally published: 29 April, 2013
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