Five minutes later, you have another thought and fire off another email. Does this routine sound familiar? Soon, random emails clutter inboxes throughout the organization. Communication is fragmented. Worse yet, every ding of incoming email is another opportunity to derail somebody’s train of thought.
Batch those thoughts in one place
“Batching” is an old time-management term. It relates to handling many similar tasks at one time. Think about making a batch of cookies. Making three dozen is almost as easy as making a single cookie, but the results are far greater.
The reason we fire off that email is to act on the thought before we forget it. What if you had a place you could trap the thought so you wouldn’t forget?
If you organize with paper, could you run a list on a legal pad? If you organize digitally, could you create one task in your digital task manager and add each new thought in the note section of that task? Once you have enough to make the communication worthwhile, could you handle it with one email, one phone call, or one face-to-face meeting?
Organize it and make it clear
Look at the list that now contains six to ten different thoughts. Drop what now seems unnecessary. Organize the rest in a logical order. Clarity is everything. Write so people understand your intentions. The clearer you write the fewer questions you will field later.
Once you have communicated your batch, leave people alone and let them work. You will find you can do so as well without the constant email ping-pong.
Decide on the medium
What form will your communication take? I used blogs with great success. One well-constructed blog post can easily take the place of a dozen pieces of random information. Use numbered or bulleted lists. Divide the content with subheadings. Blogs also allow people to re-read older communication. Each post appears in reverse-chronological order. Blogs also allow team members to leave comments or ask questions on each post.
Google Docs (a part of Google Drive) is a great option. Construct the communication and “share” it digitally. You can grant rights to view but not edit the document. If you find an error or need to add more detail, you need not resend an email or memo. When people revisit the Google Doc, it contains the latest changes.
Evernote provides similar sharing options. Construct a well-worded note with all the needed information. Email the link to the team. Make a change to the note and the link still works and displays the latest version.
Use batching to turn fragmentation into focus.
If you are the boss…
Batching communication makes the job easier for the people you supervise. It also makes your job easier. How much time do you spend answering the same question via email? How fragmented is your day because of the random communication? Use Google Docs or Evernote to batch questions and ideas.
Create a shared document in Google Docs or shared notebook in Evernote. Give team members editing privileges. You now have a parking place for questions, ideas, and problems that you can handle in one batch.