We like to think that when we write in snippets, we are faster and perhaps even more concise than in a longer message, but how much time are we saving?

Here is what frequently happens. Cindy sends Sam a short sentence, maybe two, in a text message about the agenda for the upcoming board meeting. Sam reads it and writes back, “Do you think we need to add topic X to the agenda?” Then Cindy responds, “I deliberately omitted it because of reason Y.” And then Sam comments on the ramifications of not bringing up the topic.

Back and forth they go, when, in fact, Cindy probably knew at the beginning what Sam would need to know and what questions he would have. This presents two problems:

  • Cindy is repeatedly interrupted to read the incoming message and respond, and the same is true for Sam.
  • If the discussion continues over the next couple of days, as more messages are exchanged, it will become increasingly difficult for either person to remember which message contains a particular detail they might need. How much time do they waste going back through individual messages trying to locate that information?

The emphasis for years has been on delivering information in short bursts, but no one seems to be computing the time (and time is money) spent putting those bursts together. Nor do they consider the inconvenience and the loss in productivity when we are interrupted frequently to read and respond. In some cases, it might be more efficient to send someone a more in-depth message, highlighting the essential information and telling the person to read the rest when they get a chance.