Minimizing the Impact of Electronic Messages

It is bad enough that a person may not focus on someone that is speaking to them, or on a topic that they should be focused (whether to be informed or provide support). Has there ever been a time when you took time and careful attention to crafting a written message and you find out that the recipient merely glanced at it, but didn’t capture the entire message?

With the busy-ness of today’s world, there are several individuals that never seem to fully read an email. Either they read the first line or two or maybe only the last line, and respond. Better yet – what about no response at all! That’s a real punch in the gut.

Granted, everyone has a ridiculous amount of papers and electronic messages that come across their desk each hour. Whether these messages fall into the delete, file, quick response, or thought-required response, there always seems to be a consistent flow of messages in and out. It can be difficult to stay out of the inbox when someone knows that for every item reviewed or worked, there are likely to be 10 or more to replace it soon after.

Instant gratification – more so with the advent of enhanced technology, has resulted in an acceleration of the flow of messages, and therefore an increased feeling of busy-ness. For managers, I imagine this is the worst, as there may be numerous members of the manager’s team, as well as peers, senior leaders, and business partners, pinging the crap out of the manager at any given time. Makes me visualize someone ducking for cover and waiving the white flag to surrender to the madness. Instant messaging and texting are amazing technological advances, but can be intimidating if you allow them that control. Have you ever sent a message and tried to patiently sit there, waiting for the little pencil or the three dots to show on your screen, reflecting that the recipient is writing a response? Think about that moment when you see the response starting, and then it stops, and doesn’t start back up within a minute or two. Arrrh!!!

When it comes to electronic messages, what can you do to minimize the impact on others and increase your chances of getting a response?

Here are a few tips for electronic communication to others:

  1. Consider who your audience is and whether they are primary to the information / request (include in the To: line), or secondary and maybe just need to have an awareness of the information / request (include in the cc: line). Identify your audience prior to writing the e-mail, but I highly recommend waiting to put their e-mail addresses in the To: and CC: lines until after your e-mail is crafted and ready to send. Think about this, how easy could it be to accidentally hit the send button amid drafting the e-mail. Even if you are doing a reply or reply to all, you can easily cut and paste the To: and CC: line addresses into the top of the e-mail body, then cutting and pasting them back up there once you are ready to send. This may be super precautious, but it could just save your butt some day!
  2. Make sure your subject line or header is clear. If you are requesting approval, consider putting ‘PLEASE APPROVE: [Topic] by MM/DD’ or ‘FEEDBACK REQUESTED: [Topic] by MM/DD’ in the subject line so that the person can quickly identify the need and urgency before the communication is opened or reviewed further.
  3. The body of your communication should be clear, simple, and to the point. Think about how many e-mails or paper documents people receive, and how great it would be if you were in their shoes, to receive a message that was simple to understand. Use short paragraphs, spacing, bulleted or numbered lists, etc. Also make sure a reminder at the end of your message as to your request or ‘ask’ (if there is one).
  4. Is an attachment needed? If so, limit the number and size of attachments. In addition, after you attach, and before you send the e-mail, open the attachment to confirm it is the correct document and most updated version of the document.
  5. For the love of all English teachers out there, run a spelling and grammar check on your message before sending. A default option would be to copy and paste the text into a Word document and run the check. Better safe than sorry!
  6. Last, if you are preparing an uber important communication, consider having a trusted source review it prior to adding your audience and sending. I don’t recommend this all the time (you are an adult and should be responsible enough to do the work you need to do), but it doesn’t hurt when there is something big and crazy important, and may be seen by leadership or many eyes, to get a second opinion before sending.

Are there other tips you would recommend when it comes to ensuring a clear understanding and response to an electronic message? Click over to my FaceBook group and share on the blog post comments there!

“Clear the Clutter, Clear Your Mind”

 

 

IMG_1015Do you have a dedicated space for homework or to work from home? Is it functional?

 

What does your bedroom closet look like right now? How much time does it take you to find something to wear each morning?

 

Is there a junk room in your house or apartment? Or has every room turned into a junk room?

 

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the questions above, you have room to create some efficiency in your life (pun intended). The phrase “clear the clutter, clear your mind” is so true! I speak from experience!

 

Let’s start with the bedroom closet. There are 2 humongous walk in closets in my master bedroom. One could have been turned into a small bathroom with a stand up shower, had the original owner added that feature (or us, if we felt the urge and found the money to do so). My husband took the smaller of the closets, the long and narrow one; whereas I took the larger, more square shaped closet. I’ll tell you about my closet space and experience, because his still sits piled high with baskets and boxes of clothing and other stuff. I decided to tackle cleaning up my closet last year, and was able to fill 6 large trash bags with clothes to donate and 1 bag with clothes to trash. I made room to add shelves, a necklace hanger the hubby made for me, and 2 dressers – one small and one large. It is quite nice now, and I can easily find what I need quickly, without much searching around. It’s also much easier to put clothes away after washing, as everything pretty much has its place. So, how did I get it from piled high and not able to step in the doorway anymore to cleaned up and manageable?

 

The first step I took was to get two large boxes and write ‘Keep’ and ‘Donate’ on separate sheets of paper and tape those to the boxes. I also got a large trash bag and hung it on the door knob for trash. I started at the first pile near the door and began to sort. If I couldn’t decide where something should go, I either put it in ‘Keep’ or put it on the bed so I could decide later. This process took many hours and was broken up into several days. When I was overwhelmed and ready to take a break, I stopped, piled the boxes on top of each other in the corner of the room and took the trash out. One rule of thumb that can be used is, if something hasn’t been worn or used in 6 or 12 months, donate or trash it. This was helpful to me, and other than a few sentimental items, made it easy to sort. While it is a tiring exercise, it is well worth the reward at the end – the ability to use that space and find what you need to keep moving throughout your day! Consider all the other things you could be doing during the 30 minutes it takes you to find the perfect shirt or pair of pants to wear in the morning.

 

I have tried several times to arrange a work space within my larger spare room that made it inviting to work in and spend time in, especially outside of a work from home kind of day, when I needed to concentrate on writing a blog post or other Beyond the Stone Wall business needs. I used to have two 8 foot tables that met in the corner of the room. This provided me with a significant amount of desk space, but swallowed up much of the room and ended up getting cluttered very quickly. I started throwing extra boxes/buckets/etc. on the floor and piling up papers on one end of the desk. It became extremely uninviting, and I ended up working from home several days during that time at the kitchen table instead of in the dedicated office space I had! I took the same approach to my office space as I had my closet, with the two boxes (keep or donate) and one bag for trash. I decided to take out one of the 8 foot tables, install shelves for my books (and remove the three large bookcases that were crowding in the room, and added a cubed shelving unit (3×4) and a half-sized bookcase unit with doors for my printer.

 

Although it sounds like I added a LOT, I took out so much! I had to make sure that what I put back into that room wasn’t nearly as much as what I took out (or I’d wind up in the same predicament). With the pieces of furniture, I have now, I was able to hide my ‘keep’ items nicely. Not only did I remove three large bookcases, I narrowed down my book collection to what would fit on three 6 foot shelves. I also went through all of the scrapbook and crafting materials I had, and filled my entire trunk full of items to give to a friend for her two young girls to enjoy. Even recently, I went through two file cabinet drawers (that are in the office closet) and purged about 80% of the paper there. A majority of that was from my undergrad and graduate classes – notes I had and papers I wrote. I kept a few, but realized I would NEVER look at the rest (and had not really looked at them since I graduated with my MBA in 2006)!

 

The feeling I had when I was able to use that space again was amazing. It is much easier to keep clean, I make an effort to put things back in their place after using them, and trash items that are only temporary or no longer needed. It is a space that I enjoy spending time in, and typically go to when my husband is at work. Instead of watching TV in the living room, I enjoy spending time in the office with windows open, a candle lit, music in the background, and surrounded by an organized area. It has allowed me to focus on what is at hand, instead of holding on to the stress of a pile of paper here, or boxes of junk in the corner, bookshelves gathering dust, etc.

 

Have you taken the time in the last six months to do a good cleaning of a space in your home or apartment? I’d love to hear the process you used, and how that space makes you feel now!

 

After pictures of my home office, and how it remains today (including the one at the top of this post)…

 

IMG_1013

desk pic

Episode 95 Beyond The Stone Wall with Dr. Tracy Shroyer

So excited to share an awesome interview that Gail Foley​ from One Awesome Community​ provided me with the opportunity to do this week! I had a great time talking with Gail and hope that you enjoy this podcast interview and also subscribe to get Gail’s podcasts sent via email to you daily! She is so energetic & puts a smile on my face every morning on my way to work.

Episode 95 Beyond The Stone Wall with Dr. Tracy Shroyer.