Limiting Words to Elevate the Point

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Years ago I stumbled upon a captivating website titled TWENTYTWOWORDS.  Every blog post had a limit of 22 words. Yes, you read that correctly – only 22 words. The title of the blog pulled me in, but the tagline captured my attention: Experiments in getting to the point.  Just 22 words to capture attention. Just 22 words to succinctly articulate a point. Just 22 words to clearly share a life altering idea. Post after post was focused, concise, and the author was committed to achieving its stated objective.

How difficult is it to “get to the point”? Have you ever sat in a never-ending meeting that wanders aimlessly to discover a nondescript idea? Have you lost an hour of productive work because an employee stopped by to ask a “quick question”?  Have you ever received an agonizingly long email only to get to the end and think to yourself, “Three bullet points and a well crafted question would have been more effective”?

The organization I work for utilizes Voxer as a primary source of team communication. Voxer is an app that combines the power of live voice and text, video, and photo sharing.  This communication tool has significantly helped us as a team, in 3 different countries and five separate locations, keep communication fluid and moving forward. The tension lies in the ease of pressing a button and just talking. You don’t have to think through a clear and concise response. You don’t have to organize your thoughts in a logical and cohesive set of talking points. All you have to do is just press the button and talk. And talk. And talk.

I find myself leaving lengthy voice messages for my team only to lift my thumb from the button and say to myself, “Wow! That was three minutes too long! I could have said that a lot more concise and with greater clarity if I would have thought through what I wanted to say first”.  (The upside is that Voxer has added a feature that allows the user to recall messages.)

There are three specific areas that every leader can focus on, which will increase team productivity and effectiveness.

PLAN FOCUSED MEETINGS

What if meetings could only consist of twenty-two words?  How intentional would you be with every thought, idea, rebuttal, and perspective shared? I understand that probably isn’t reality in your leadership context. So what if you limit the length meeting length? I read a great article in Harvard Business Review titled  The Magic of 30-Minute Meetings. It has challenged me to shorten 60 or 90 minute meetings to a focused 30 minutes.  It takes great planning and intentionality to lead a meeting in a focused discussion.

PRIORITIZE YOUR INBOX

It is not a new idea that email can lead to hours of wasted time. Check out this article in Business Insider: Email might be making American workers less productive. The average employee not only receives 304 business emails every week, but it is estimated that the average employee checks his email 36 times every hour.  That is an incredible amount of time evaporating from the work day. Now think about the amount of time wasted on poorly written, convoluted, and extremely lengthy emails. Production quickly plummets. You ask employees the insightful question, “What did you do today”? If they are honest, a vast majority of their time is not moving the company forward or innovating new ideas, but it is processing their inbox. What if emails and text messages, no matter the subject, were only twenty-two words long? And yes, what if the replies were also only twenty-two words long?  I have started setting a timer to limit my email response time.  This has forced me to focus my mind and respond in a concise way.

PROCESS THE CORE POINT

The hard work starts long before the meeting, the planning session, the creative brainstorming gathering, or the first chapter is written.  It takes a great amount of discipline to sit down, block out the time-wasting interruptions, and script out core thoughts that will guide your leadership energy.  I have started using FREEDOM to block out all social media and internet connectivity. This step of accountability and discipline has created a distraction free space so that I can focus to get things done.  My development of meeting agendas, creative brainstorming for projects, and one-on-one meetings has significantly increased because my core thoughts are clearer and more directed.

I realize the practicality of limiting a conversation, meeting length, or a response to twenty-two words might be unrealistic. The essential point isn’t focused on the specific number 22. It is about the intentionality of a leader to know “what the point is” and how to focus the team to “get to the point”.

Look at your calendar this week filled with meetings, discussions, and planning sessions. Can you write down, in less than 22 words, the core point for each item?

Maybe I should just stop typing since I have blown past twenty-two words in this blog.

(And if you go looking for this website, you will find it. But the author has long abandoned its “experiment of getting to the point”.)

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