Successful writing at work requires more than typing a lot of emails. It requires solid writing skills and a focus on clear and concise communications. And it’s harder than it sounds.
In part, that’s because you might be lacking the three business writing skills no one taught you, as I’ve said before. But you’re also up against the culture of our time—a culture that worships busy-ness and task saturation. And you know what kind of work writing comes out of a culture like that? Sucky writing that wastes time and fails to communicate.
That’s why successful writing at work has to include dropping out of the cult of busy-ness.
How the cult of busy-ness gets in the way of successful writing at work
Here’s how I think the cult of busy-ness takes a toll on our writing…
First, there’s the status symbol of being busy. If you’re busy, then you’re important. That’s the story we’re told, anyway. The number of emails in your inbox is directly related to how busy and therefore important you are. The same is true for the number of meetings you attend. Busy, busy, busy = important, productive and necessary.
Sadly, all that busy-ness puts pressure on us to go ever faster so we are spending even less time on our writing. Then our writing doesn’t communicate because we dash off an email in haste without thinking it through. Or we are busy responding to the deluge of emails we receive because the senders write without thinking…or both.
An example of emailing when part of the cult of busy-ness
Here’s a typical example of the kind of sucky communication that happens within the cult of busy-ness…
When I was working as a freelance copywriter, a client sent me seven emails within a 30-minute time span. Each email consisted of one or two sentences. It was obvious she was dashing off emails on the fly as thoughts popped into her head. That both cluttered up my inbox and made it impossible for me to reply in an efficient way. Can you imagine the back-and-forth mess if I had replied to each of her emails individually?
Instead (once I realized what was happening), I waited until the deluge ceased, then I gathered her different thoughts together by copying and pasting, and I replied to all of them with one email.
If she had simply slowed down enough to think through what she wanted to communicate to me, she would have sent one email and that would have saved me time because I could have replied with one email—without the copying and pasting from hers. And we probably would have had better, more productive communication as a result.
Hurrying works against your goals
Hurrying through the task of writing rarely equals effective writing. Yes, I want you to learn to be a better, faster writer by subscribing to my newsletter, reading this blog, and taking my online classes. But the faster part comes after the better part because the better your writing skills, the faster you can get it done—with better results.
When you drop out of the cult of busy-ness to slow down and focus on your writing, you can be successful writing at work. You can be a better, faster writer.
Wait, there’s more: interruptions are part of the cult of busy-ness
However, going fast because you’re busy isn’t the only cause of bad business writing. The cult of busy-ness also results in interruptions, which also hinder our successful writing at work.
What do I mean by interruptions? I mean being interrupted by emails, texts, phone calls, instant messaging, noises, visitors, etc. Anything that stops you when you’re focused on a task is an interruption, and these many interruptions take a toll on our work and our writing. And we have a lot of interruptions because of all the busy busy busy going on all around us.
As reported in the New York Times,
“Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.”
That means you get 11 minutes to focus on your writing before you’re interrupted. And that means it will take you 25 minutes to regain that focus…and then you’ll get interrupted again.
Obviously, there are ways to fight against the interruptions, like ignoring your email, turning off your phone, hanging a Do Not Disturb sign, wearing noise-cancelling headphones and the like. But first you have to be aware of the many interruptions, especially if you think they are acceptable simply because they are a part of the cult of busy-ness.
Choose a better way
When most of the people around you are participating in the cult of busy-ness, you might (like me) feel like an oddball by choosing to slow down, work deliberately and not be part of it. But the result will be more fulfilling and productive workdays—as well as successful writing at work!