5 Big-Picture Practices for Streamlining Your Communications

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

Everyone knows that time equals money. That, however, doesn’t stop businesses from engaging in endless cycles of communication, keeping employees busy with lots of back-and-forth emails and memos.

This nonstop discussion means that time that could be better spent doing work is instead devoted to talking about work. To make better use of your team’s time, you need to streamline your communication and develop an efficient system for using the platforms you touch on a daily basis.

Related: The Honest Truth About 5 Email Management Myths

To get the necessary information across quickly, and get more done, use these five strategies to streamline your communication:

1. Decide the function of each communication channel early on.

With so many communication channels available, it’s never been more important to determine the purpose of each one. For example, I use my inbox as a running task list, with 20 to 30 threads open at any given time. Once a task is complete, I close the thread and archive it. Consider how you want to use a channel, and don’t stray from that choice.

All business communication should be concise and contain a specific action point -- or be in response to a specific action point. As soon as the action is done, close the thread and archive it. Forcing yourself to link communication to an action helps you avoid “argument emails.”

2. Establish a system for communication use.

Without an established system for its use, a communication channel can consume more of your time than you realize. Email is notorious for this, interrupting work with each refresh. Instead of refreshing instantaneously, set your inbox to do so at longer intervals, such as every 10 minutes.

From there, prioritize your communication. Respond to the most pressing messages first. Then, schedule time throughout the day to go through your inbox to see whether a task at the bottom is stalling. I recommend doing this twice a day.

3. Avoid arguments in your written communication.

If you’re looking for someone’s opinion, written communication isn’t the proper channel. It’s next to impossible to glean tone from the words on a screen. Rather, schedule a face-to-face meeting. Employees can’t “read into” what colleagues may or may not be saying when speaking to them directly, thereby avoiding the back-and-forth that comes with misinterpretations.

Related: If You Want to Build Good Relationships, Stop Hiding Behind Your Email

4. Reclaim your inbox.

I don’t believe robots can truly organize communication. Rather than relying on spam filters, don’t subscribe to mailing lists in the first place. The same can be said for that email “snooze button.” Deal with what’s important, and delete what’s not.

5. Reserve SMS for the most urgent matters.

You don’t have a lot of room to convey a message through SMS -- no matter how concise you believe your communication is. Leave SMS for only the most urgent of business matters.

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, the average employee spends an estimated 28 percent of the week handling emails and another 20 percent searching for internal information or colleagues who can help with tasks. That’s a lot of wasted time and productivity.

When you streamline your communication and start using the right medium in the right length at the right time, you ensure that your colleagues and clients read your communication and act on it. Put simply, you get a faster response.

What’s more, you spend less time on communication, which frees you up to get actual work done, and your communication itself comes off as more professional. This professionalism can then rub off on those around you. As your company grows, your employees will be more apt to adopt this streamlined communication style, and your business will adopt a unified voice that can cut through all the noise competing for attention.

Even if you’re not always “on the go,” it’s critical to have clear, concise communication throughout your organization. The more succinct you can be, the less time your employees and clients will spend trying to understand your message, which leaves more time for them to work to move your bottom line.