The Lack Of Specificity In Your Communication

I would be willing to wager that your voice mail contains a sentence like this: "Please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible." Have you ever stopped and thought about what that means to the recipient? What does "as soon as possible mean?" To some it might be the end of the day while others might expect a response in 2 hours... or less!

I've started being more sensitive to how I communicate deadlines or my expectations to other people. Here is a partial list from the past week:

  • I'll get back to you.
  • Let me know what you think about this option.
  • Just put it into your production schedule.
  • We need to get together.
  • You and I should meet to discuss the possibilities.
  • Let's work on that later this week.

In all of these instances, I've given no clear timeline, which means the actual time for this action to happen is unknown. If I haven't created a clear expectation or deadline, the recipient will probably not act until I ask them again or provide the needed motivation to work on it.

My goal going forward to is to try and provide a specific time frame for when I need something or when I can respond to someone else's requests. That helps me prioritize more effectively and doesn't leave the other person wondering when they will hear from me again. The phrases above now sound something like:

  • I'll get back to you by 5 PM EDT.
  • Let me know what you think about this option by noon tomorrow. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume you are okay to move forward.
  • I ideally need it by May 1. Is that an acceptable timeline?
  • We need to get together. What's your schedule look like for next Monday or Tuesday.
  • You and I should meet to discuss the possibilities. Could I call you between 9 and 10 tomorrow to set up a time? (Or-I'll send you an email with some possible times by 5 PM EDT today)
  • Let's work on this Thursday or Friday. What works for you?

I'm already finding a higher degree of accountability of myself toward others. My mind is more available to focus in the present moment because I've given the potential task a time and date. Other people are almost startled when I don't leave things in a fog. 

And my new voice mail message? Call 336-859-9862 and I'll either tell you what it says, or you can hear it for yourself.

How is your lack of specificity inhibiting your ability to manage your time?