A simple productivity boost

Here is a simple productivity lever that most leaders ignore:

When asking a question to a colleague by email, how long do you wait for an answer, on average? One hour, a day, a week, or forever? Sure, it depends on the question. However, I have observed unbelievably long response times in most organizations.

The consequences: Important decisions are postponed. People get frustrated. Processes take longer than necessary—to name just a few of the problems. 

This behavioral pattern can result in a “culture of waiting”, paralyzing the entire organization. The productivity declines.

I hear you saying: “But we get too many emails per day. We cannot answer each of them!” Turn it around: You have too many emails in your inbox because you need too long to answer. You do not control the process.

Here is what you can do to boost your responsiveness:

  • Most emails you receive do not require a response. Remove them from your inbox immediately.
  • From the remaining emails, normally at least 50 percent of the questions can be answered with an effort of 30 seconds to three minutes. Answer them immediately. No long phrases, no greetings—just the answer in 1 to 20 words. Speed trumps politeness.
  • As a leader or manager, demonstrate responsiveness. Answer 80 percent of inquires within 1 to 90 minutes. This is possible as soon as you rid yourself of the procrastinator’s mindset.

I wish you a pleasant acceleration.


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