Add more value – not more work

19 November 2009 


Word count:  500

Estimated reading time:  2-3 minutes


Let’s focus a bit more on the essence of being concise – being relevant.


Time is not on our side.  Yes, we all have 24 hours a day.  But most of us certainly prefer to spend some of those hours doing something besides our jobs. 


And while we are at work, we’d all prefer doing stuff that matters – something that creates value for our businesses and customers.


But how often do you needlessly copy emails to people, doing little more than cluttering their inboxes? 


And how often do you write reports that include so much detail that the reader gets lost in the real message?   


You’re stealing time

If you’re guilty of either of these things, you’re stealing your readers’ time.  You’re taking some of their hours every day at work and making them read stuff that does not create value. 


And after awhile, that reader will start to delete your emails or not read your reports – something with the potential for lost business, or at least the potential for creating ill will. 


Don’t be a time thief

There are two questions to ask yourself before you give a co-worker something to read:


1) Does that person need to see it? 

Sometimes I think that people copy every email (or nearly every email) to their direct manager because at one point that person asked them to keep him up-to-date.  Or maybe they just want to make sure their manager sees that they’re busy with stuff. 


Whatever the reason, you need to be absolutely certain that the people you copy emails to really do need to see them.  If you’re just trying to cover your backside, then stop and think before inserting someone’s email address in the CC box.


2) Does the information in this document support the main message I want to convey?

L-o-n-g reports that include every little detail you find about the subject are just more of those ‘cover your backside’ situations.  You think, ‘Gee, if I don’t have lots of pages of data in this report, my manager will think I’ve not done any research!’  So you just pour it all in.  This is called ‘data dump’ – where you mindlessly throw in everything you know about something.


You’ve got to get over this ‘school report’ mentality.  It’s not a dissertation!  It’s a business report – which by definition means that it should support and enhance business goals.


Carefully think about the purpose of the report and include only the data that is relevant to that purpose.


Be interesting

Remember when I encouraged you to be an interesting writer? 


Well the same applies to your reader’s ‘interests’.  And those interests have to do with adding value to the company and to the customer – not adding unnecessary work to your colleague’s desktop. 


So stop stealing your readers’ time.  Give them relevant information – when they need it – and let them get home at night before their kids are asleep.

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