How much is too much?

As managers and recruiters, we hear the constant refrain of over-communicate versus under-communicate.  But how much communication is too much?

This particular quandary is a very personal one for me … I’m an over-communicator by nature and putting my thoughts into few enough words that people will actually listen or read is a constant struggle.  As I’m sure my fellow over-communicators can also attest, there is nothing more frustrating than putting together a carefully crafted email with all necessary information, only to have the recipients come back with a litany of questions that are all answered in the email itself.

So, fellow wordy compatriots, what can we do about this?  

While these aren’t completely foolproof, some tips that I have found to be helpful are:

  • Be thoughtful with your formatting.  Bold, italics, and ALL CAPS can be useful, especially if you have a long document.  Use them to draw attention to key points.  Ask yourself, “If they only read one section of this, which section do I want it to be?”  And then make that part stand out.

  • Edit, edit, edit.  This will get easier with time and, at first, is downright painful.  But you’ll be surprised how a few simple edits (taking out superfluous words, removing sentences/paragraphs that don’t actually add anything) can cut your document in half and make it twice as readable.

  • Set expectations and deadlines - but make sure they’re always relevant.  If every email requests a response immediately, then “immediately” begins to lose meaning.  Begin your documents by giving a realistic timeframe in regard to expected responses and also let your readers know what you want from them, whether that’s a quick skim and basic feedback or detailed analysis of section 5B.

Thanks for reading … hopefully I took my own advice and you made it to the end.  :)