During a work meeting, have you ever caught yourself thinking something along the lines of, “this meeting really could have been an email!” We’ve all been there: the agony of sitting through an hour-long meeting, only to leave the meeting and not be clear as to why that meeting happened in the first place! This dilemma can happen as a result of a few misconceptions. One misconception is that we’ve been conditioned to believe that in-person, or more recently, virtual meetings, are always essential for company success. Another misconception is that because a meeting has been scheduled to be a certain amount of time, we cannot leave the meeting until time is up. So, what ends up happening is we spend hours of our day in meetings rather than utilizing a greater amount of time to actually get the work done.
In order to get our work done, we are increasingly borrowing time outside of conventional work hours. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over one-third of Americans are working on the weekends. In addition, the rise of teleworking is blurring the boundaries between work and play, making it much easier for professionals to work longer hours. Working long hours can be energizing if we love what we do; however, balance is key. According to the World Health Organization, longer work hours are associated with an increased risk of a stroke and/or heart disease.
A key step to getting our time back is by using time more efficiently and effectively. One way to do this is through a process I’ve coined as Output-Driven Communication. Output-Driven Communication allows you, as a professional, to properly think through why you are delivering a message and for what purpose or output. When you are clear on the why and the what before initiating any verbal and/or written communications, your communication will naturally be more intentional and more effective. Output-Driven Communication is delivering a message or engaging in a professional interaction, both verbal and written, for the purpose of advancing a task or project forward, with the final output in mind.
This form of communication is both concise and uniquely tailored to the recipient(s). Output-Driven communication requires being strategic about the details you share by reducing language that (1) does not impact the people you’re talking to and/or (2) does not impact the progression of a task or project. Most importantly, Output-Driven Communication allows you to do the following:
Before your next interaction or communication, think through these questions:
By quickly thinking through these questions before you initiate communication, you have properly thought through the why and the what: why you’re having this interaction and for what output.
Here’s an example of how you can implement Output-Driven Communication.
Take Matt – Matt is an executive assistant to Alex, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Matt is responsible for making sure the CEO is prepared for a 12:00 pm lunch meeting tomorrow with a potential client, Carol. Matt just got off the phone with Carol where she shared that she is ready for tomorrow’s meeting, but she is gluten-free and would appreciate meeting at a restaurant that accommodates her dietary restrictions. Also, Carol asked Matt if he would kindly give her a call once they decide on the restaurant to let her know where is the best place to park her car once she arrives.
Matt takes a first pass at writing an email to Alex. Matt’s email reads:
First Email / Subject: Tomorrow’s lunch
I just got off the phone with Carol. She shared with me that she’s gluten-free so today, I’m going to look for restaurants and will get back to you.
She wants me to call her once we decide on the restaurant to let her know where to park, so I’ll be sure to pick a restaurant that’s in a quiet area.
I’ll email you later today with some options.
This is a perfectly fine email, but a couple of questions pop up in my mind.
Matt thinks through his email and takes another try, using Output-Driven Communication.
Subject Line: [Request by 3:00 pm today] – Input for tomorrow’s 12:00 pm
I am writing to confirm that you’re still available for tomorrow’s lunch meeting with Carol at 12:00pm.
She shared with me that she’s gluten-free. I found two restaurants in the area that would accommodate her restrictions: 1) Rose’s Diner and 2) Jasmine’s Bistro.
Could you let me know your preference between the two restaurants by 3:00pm today?
I’ll let Carol know shortly after.
Matt thought through the questions Alex could have and chose to answer them as best as he could by:
As a result, Alex will be able to provide Matt with exactly what he needs in very little time.
As busy professionals, we often wish for more hours in the day. Knowing that we don’t have those extra hours, let’s make the best use of the hours that we currently have. What if it wasn’t about having more hours, but making better use of the hours we have, so we have the hours we want. By implementing Output-Driven Communication, you’ll get back the time you deserve. Spend it how you’d like!
Janae Bell, Guest Blogger & Founder of Owness Coaching
Janae is a coach, speaker, and trainer in the self-and business development space with a focus on purpose-aligned success. As founder of Owness Coaching, she is commited to supporting others in “owning” their journeys and living in a purposeful, aligned, and fun way.
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