Length matters. I say this partly because, in the last few days, I’ve come across several items on the amount of words needed to convey news. Two in particular spurred on some thoughts:
- This post, that touched on whether the 140 character world might eventually kill traditional news media.
- A great article in Atlantic Monthly on how newspapers take too long to get to the point.
- Focused attention is a short-term response to a stimuli that attracts attention. The attention span for this level is very brief, with a maximum span, without any lapse at all, that may be as short as 8 seconds. This level of attention is attracted by a ringing telephone, or other unexpected occurrence. After a few seconds, it is likely that the person will look away, return to a previous task, or think about something else.
- Sustained attention is the level of attention that produces the consistent results on a task over time. If the task is handling fragile objects, such as hand-washing delicate crystal glasses, then a person showing sustained attention will stay on task and will not break any dishes, but a person who loses focus may break a glass or may stop washing the dishes to do something else. Most healthy teenagers and adults are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than about 20 minutes at a time, although they can choose repeatedly to re-focus on the same thing. This ability to renew attention permits people to “pay attention” to things that last for more than a few minutes, such as long movies.
- Know thine audience. If your CEO does not read more than a page don’t give him 2 pages. It is amazing how we often behave in a Procrustean way based upon a belief that we “need to take more time/space because the idea is complex.” This guy used to freak at briefing notes that were more than a page – and he is, like him or not, not a village idiot intellectually speaking.
- For oral or written communications have a time/space goal in mind before you start and adhere to it. Going about things the other way around creates situations whereby everything looks too important to cut.
- Remember that shrinkage is the way of the future. The modern desk jockey operates with so many distractions that he/she is beginning to work in a world that more closely resembles the buzzing cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet. Our attention spans are shrinking and look to continue to over time. This makes more concise the new black.
Are there other things you do to keep it tight when conveying your thoughts in a business environment?