Three Ways to KISS – Keeping it Short & Simple

Our workdays are bombarded by endless interruptions and distractions.  They cause us to lose focus, feel more stressed, and reduce our productivity.  Much of my work centers on ways to create quieter work environments (internally as well as externally) so that people can get more focused, get more done, and get more work/life balance.

Once we can quiet the cacophony of the modern work place, the next point of attack is to increase productivity (and it’s cousin – sense of accomplishment) by making the way we actually get work done more efficient.  And, like most things, it’s all been done before.

Texting is Great Practice for Good Communication

Much lamenting is heard about texting.  How we are “disengaging” from our surroundings to remain digitally linked to persons distant.  We also talk about how our use of the English language is suffering from the cryptic abbreviations used in texts.  And let’s not forget the ~ping~ that sounds each time a new text arrives.

These things are all true, but they’ve all been said before about other technological innovations.  What if we looked at some of the positive aspects of texting – specifically, at how it might be making us more efficient communicators?

The 140-character (soft) limit to texting is great practice for achieving the Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.) philosophy of life.  It’s even more beneficial if we alter the K.I.S.S. philosophy slightly – Keep It Short & Simple.

Texting is a terrific way to communicate in one line and/or one sentence bursts.  So, if we look at texting as a practice ground for good burst-communication, we’ll find many applications in our daily work life where this skill can reap rewards.

Three Ways to KISS

Here are three applications of this newly reconstituted KISS philosophy as enhanced by good texting mechanics:

1.  Subject Lines. Subject lines appear in many electronic technologies; e.g., E-mail, Appointments, Tasks just to name a few.  If we leverage those one-line blank fields by creating robust Subject lines, we’ll be able to communicate very effectively in 140 characters.  For example, what if our e-mail Subject lines looked like this:

Big & Large – Firm Retreat – September 23-25, 2050 – QuietSpacing(R) Proposal – Executive Summary

or our calendar Subject lines looked more like this:

QuietSpacing QuickStart Demo – John Doe (206) 555-6666 & Paul H. Burton (503) 680-9872 – PHB Initiates

or our to-do Subject lines looked more like this:

ODP: Finance – Deposits – Cybersource thru 7/28 – Google Checkout thru 7/25 – PayPal – Amazon on 10th and 25th

Each of these Subject lines convey a tremendous amount of information without even opening the underlying e-mail, calendar event or task.  Moreover, they are easier to find and file which makes the workflow processing run more smoothly each day.

2.  New Style Short-Hand. We all take notes. Whether it’s in a meeting, on a conference call or when we’re working alone, there are numerous ideas and to-dos that get jotted down along the way.  You may use old school technology (pen and paper) or new school technology (laptop or tablet), but in the end, the notes get recorded in some fashion.  One way to make note taking more effective and efficient is to create a short-hand dictionary to avoid re-writing words most often used and to indicate items of particular interest by category.  Here are a couple of examples to consider adopting when taking notes:

  • M = Meeting
  • C = Call
  • T = To-do

Just start a note with the applicable letter and jot down the subject matter.  Later, we (or our assistant) can quickly peruse the notes to pull out the actionable items before filing the notes away for archival purposes.

3.  Bullet Points and Bullet Points + Narrative. The final suggestion is to continue leveraging our newly acquired brevity skills right in the body of the communication through the use of bullet points.  Though bullet points may have led to Death by PowerPoint, it’s not their fault; it’s the fault of the PowerPoint user.  Bullet points are great ways to list the key points in any communication – if not be the entire communication.  The next time a long(ish) e-mail must be written, consider starting with a list of bullet points that identify the main points before launching into the narrative description below.  It might just be that the bullet points alone suffice!

Mick Jaeger Once Said

One of my favorite quotes is from Mick Jaeger.  Decades ago, he said (paraphrasing), “All the cords on a guitar have been played.  Now, it was just a matter of arrangement.”  Much of what we can do to “fix” the ills of modern technological over-connectedness and consumption is to apply some old behaviors in a new way.  Diligently remembering that technology is a tool and not a set of chains and seeking to Keep It Short & Simple will generate the kind of results that we all want – more done in less time.

2 thoughts on “Three Ways to KISS – Keeping it Short & Simple

  • This is what I do: I take notes on a piece of paper that has a color version of my firm logo – looks sharp and custom in a meeting. It has a graph-paper grid on it that looks like a moleskine page and is occasionally useful when I’m making drawings. I annotate it with tags:

    (+) is something I have to do
    (#) is something someone else has to do
    (p) is a personal note I have to make in a contact file, e.g., Biff has two kids and likes to breed ferrets
    (docket) is something that needs to be put in my firm’s docket system
    (time) is time that I need to have billed.

    After my meeting or notetaking session, I give the sheets to an admin who scans them, puts the document in a directory on my network, sends me an email with a link to the document, and includes all the tags and associated text in the email, along with confirmation that they have updated the firm docket and entered my time. It’s glorious. Then I just take the tags and dump them into my Quietspacing/GTD system. Boy it would be fun to do a seminar with you sometime. I’m for sure a good person to sing the Quietspacing gospel, and perhaps nice for you to have a live case study on hand.

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