Three times in one week. I know because I counted. That’s three times in one week I witnessed working executives, who happen to be family and friends, curse at their phones and threaten to hurt(jokingly, of course) whomever sent them the “life-story” long email. The email authors from all different levels and positions; from direct reports, colleagues, and yes even supervisors and senior leadership, all of them not possessing or practicing the fine art of brevity. The ability to be concise and “to the point” comes naturally for only a small percentage of people. The others must first be aware of their problem, and then be willing to address it.
My career in the news business reflects a business built on brevity. The news programs only last so long, which means every story, every live shot, every line must fit into the timing of the show. Because time is limited, time cannot be wasted. Stories are written to engage viewers, to quickly get your attention, and then get to the point. There is no better training ground for brevity than the news business.
While most all other businesses are not faced with the burden of a time-limited show, I would argue that the ability to be concise and “to the point” is a universal attribute which can be effectively utilized for any business. Think of it in these terms-can you afford to waste time at work? Would you prefer a brief and “to the point” email, or a five page version with the same content? The ability to condense information is a valuable skill set which the most effective work-place performers possess.
So what can you do to improve your brevity?
-Create a short and and simple email subject. Give me three words which best describes the email content. If your email heading is a sentence or more long, your email is much too long. I guarantee it.
-Condense. Do you really a need a full or complete explanation of everything in the email, or can that be discussed “one on one”. Think in terms of what ESPN’s Sports Center does-give me the highlights, not the whole game.
-Read and review. Don’t just send your email, read it first. If it feels too long to you, it is much too long for the recipient.
Remember, this is about much more than just being considerate of someone’s valuable time. It’s a direct reflection of your ability to effectively communicate in the workplace. Your brevity will not only be appreciated, it will improve your workplace performance. Remember to KISS-keep it simple stupid.