5 Ways To Communicate Well

good communication

I’ve been away (did you miss me?).

I had a lovely, well-deserved, trip home to meet my new nephew. But as usual the drive south was eventful. Every time I hit the Forth Road Bridge (not literally), once I get over the water, I head down the wrong road. It’s been made worse in recent years due to new roads and roadworks but, honestly, every single time I head south I take a wrong turn. And I’ve been doing it for the last 18 years. You’d think by now I’d have managed to get to grips with it. This time we ended up heading towards Edinburgh city centre.

I don’t have a satnav, so I use road signs to direct me and, to be perfectly frank, the signs towards the south from the Forth Road Bridge are the worst I think I’ve encountered. There’s the M8, M9 and A720 to navigate, but very rarely do the signs direct the driver to The South. This time, for some reason, we ended up heading down the A90 rather than the M9. But hey ho, it only added an extra ten minutes onto a 12 hour drive, so it’s no real problem.

But it did set my work brain tingling.

Communication is the key to everything, without it everyone gets lost.

question marks, lost communication

From crappy road signs to instructions for flat pack furniture and company guidelines, if information isn’t communicated correctly it can cause problems for customers, clients, users and everyone else in-between.

So here are five tips for business communication. Whether you are a small business, a large conglomerate or a sole trader (or in charge of signage somewhere), this stuff is important:

  1. Be Clear.

If the information isn’t clear enough to understand, then the user won’t benefit from your expertise. What is the point in taking time to create documentation if no-one can understand it? Unless your audience is an audience of experts:

              Keep things simple.

              Avoid jargon.

              Use plain language.

  1. Avoid Bad English.

You may have made your documentation easy to understand, but bad English will make your work less credible. To communicate effectively you need to make sure that your English is correct. Check for pesky spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Have your work edited and proofread. Make your writing the best it can be.

  1. Don’t Talk To The Wrong Audience.

When writing you have to make sure that you know your audience. Who exactly are you writing for? Different audiences will have different expectations and subject knowledge. There’s no point going into minute detail when writing about your latest innovation if the readership hasn’t a clue what you are talking about. Pitch your writing at the correct level and communication will be less bothersome.

  1. Don’t Assume Intelligence.

Linked in to knowing your audience, never assume intelligence unless you are writing for a team of experts (and I mean this in the nicest way). Don’t dumb down, but keep in mind that your audience may not have a clue about the subject and is approaching it for the first time. Don’t treat them as idiots, but make things clear to your readership to allow them to digest the information without having to do background reading.

  1. Take Things Step By Step.

If you are writing instructions, be clear and make sure that every single step has been covered. Don’t miss anything out, even if it seems obvious – it won’t be obvious to some people. If you are writing documentation for a product or service, make sure that everything that needs to be covered has been. Check your document to make sure everything is logical and in the right place. By taking it one step at a time your readers are less likely to get lost.

So, there you have five quick tips for effective communication. It isn’t rocket science, but will help you when there is writing to be done. And if you feel like hiring a writer, you can always contact me and check my availability.

 

Bullet Journals Arent Too Shabby

Pink journal, notebook

How do you organise your working notes?

Do you use Word docs, notepads or lots of pieces of paper? Or perhaps you use desk planners, whiteboards, wall calendars, big diaries, little diaries or the calendar on your phone or computer. There’s also the floor, the wall, the dog and anything you can stick Post-it notes to, or attack with a sharpie.

Keeping track can be a bloody nightmare.

Personally I’ve always wanted one of those clear stand-up walls that you see in those CSI type programmes – what the hell do you even call them? I Googled ‘clear stand-up perspex board for writing on like CSI’ and it came up with nothing. Nada. So I extended my search to include anywhere in the world and Google came up with instructions on how to actually make one! Yaas! It also had a link to the ACTUAL company that makes the real deal, the ones you see in the crime series … but it’s in America … and I seriously can’t afford one of those beauties.

markerboard Numbers

I will never understand the numbers, but would love a markerboard.

I just don’t have the room (or the cash), or believe me, I’d have one!

Anyway, I digress. Keeping track can be a pain.

I know some of my colleagues use online trackers, or excel spreadsheets.

Some use Toggl for tracking time, but I have a spreadsheet I’ve set up that works just as well. I just open the timesheet for the job I’m working on and with one click I start tracking my billable hours and I can see how long I’ve worked on a certain part of the project at a glance.

But what I’m talking about is the time-tracking that shows you what jobs you have lined up, where you are with each job and what you need to do each day, week or month.

Some people use Trello or Evernote and they look pretty good, if you like everything on the computer. But I spend ALL DAY on the computer. Honestly, some days I can be staring at a screen from 9 am–10 pm, not always working (no-one can work for that length of time) but always plugged in.

I need something physical, that I can carry with me, that I can touch.

And that’s where my newest fad comes in.

Everyone has heard of them by now, so it will come as no surprise to you that I have made myself a bullet journal.

image

My journal, at the beginning, when I had a week off.

If you haven’t heard of them, basically a bullet journal is a notebook that you customise with months, weeks and days, a bit like a traditional diary. But you put in the details that are most useful to you. I’ve got a section to see at a glance what work I have lined up, there’s a page or two for useful websites (you know, the ones you write down on the nearest envelope, which is promptly lost when you need it), and for writing ideas.

I know, I know … you’re probably thinking what I thought – duh, it’s just a diary with room for notes. But actually, the way you customise that blank notebook makes it useful to YOU. It’s yours to do with what you will, and you can customise it to get the most out of it.

It’s a stupidly simple idea. Someone just had to put a name to it to give us the newest productivity fad. That person was Ryder Carroll, and you can check out the system on his website.

Strangely enough though, it works and although I’ve only had mine since mid-January, it’s something I’m finding incredible useful. There are pros and cons though:

Pros of a bullet journal

  • Forget reaching for your laptop, your journal is right there beside you so you can quickly pick it up and see where you are, add notes, or just admire the colour (I picked a cheerful cerise for mine).
  • It unplugs you, even for a little while. It grounds you in the real world.
  • No more searching for bits of paper/envelopes/bills that you’ve written on. Everything can be put in your journal.
  • It’s more personal than a computer app. Pick a nice journal that appeals to you and set it out in a way that works for you. Use colour, or just a ballpoint. Use tape, stickers, ribbon bookmarks, doodle in it, write randomly in it, just make it yours.
  • Everything is all in one place. This, for me, is the most important. Instead of hunting for notes, to-do lists, my calendar, important things that I need to remember and work incoming and due dates, it’s all there in one little book. It organises my tired little mind.

Cons of a bullet journal

  • If you are hooked up to your phone you may have everything you need right there (it’s just not as pretty or tactile).
  • Forget about all the pretty bullet journal images you see on Pinterest. Seriously. Unless you are supremely arty, have a few days to play with it, or like to use lots of stickers and washi tape, you are never going to get it looking as nice as those YouTubers do.
  • You need to take time at the beginning to set out your journal and write bits in there. In our times of instant gratification this could get you annoyed (I dashed mine out and you can tell. It’s not pretty).
  • You start getting journal envy when you see all the lovely variations out there. If you’re a perfectionist you might want to throw it away and start again, to make it pretty, or more useful.
  • Unlike a computerised to-do list, once it’s written down it’s there. If you aren’t careful it can become a messy blob of coloured pen.

Whether you have a bullet journal or not, the most important thing is to be able to keep track of your work and your time. I just like the fact that it’s a notebook. I like notebooks.

I’m forever grateful to my colleagues for showing me this new shiny way of keeping up with my world, and for this Buzzfeed article for breaking it down for me.

Now that you’ve heard how useful they can be, why not watch the video by the master, and let Ryder show you how to make one:

Have you jumped on the bullet journal fad? Do you find it better than all the computerised bits and bobs or do you find it hard to pull away from the technology?