Less is More

Distractions are all around us. Seems now, more then ever, our attention is pulled in a hundred different directions every single minute. There are emails to write and answer, texts to send, phone calls to make, and let’s also not forget the distractions of social media. Whether you’re browsing multiple news feeds, posting, liking, sharing, etc.—all beg for your immediate attention. All of this on top of the demands and responsibilities of your workday. It goes without saying time is precious and attention is limited.

I’m sure all educators can agree the attention span of students is narrow. When I used to teach 8-10 year olds I had to ‘hook’ them within the first minute or two otherwise they tuned me right out. In the event I was able to grab their focus, I only had 15-20 minutes before they grew restless. I learned over the years the less I lectured and the more I involved my students in their own learning, engagement increased and genuine, meaningful learning filled our classroom.

Joseph McCormack, author of “Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less,” founded The BRIEF Lab and founded and serves as managing director and president of The Sheffield Co. In his article titled, “Listen Fast and Learn,” McCormack compares the challenges people face trying to balance the day-to-day pursuits and professional lives to drinking from a fire hose, (McCormack, 2014). He goes on to share an experience he had at a certification workshop where the instructor was “holding court” resulting in the quick loss of attention by the audience.

McCormack states:

  • Attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to eight in the past five years.
  • Smartphones are everywhere and get checked on average 150 times a day.
  • Emails bombard professionals at a rate of 300 a day, with 43 percent of people admitting they ignore them if they’re too long or complex.
  • Professionals are interrupted six to seven times an hour, with only 40 percent resuming their previous task.
  • Nearly a third of co-workers admit they tune others out in less than 30 seconds if they don’t have a point.

To alleviate these stats, McCormack suggests a “less is more” approach where leaders simplify content and chunk the information into smaller, more manageable packages.

McCormack suggests the following tips for leaders to engage their audience without wasting valuable time:

  • Take time to prepare. As a famous quote says, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It takes extra time to be succinct. So invest more time on the front end to save others on the tail end who may be suffering from information overload.
  • Speak in headlines. Always have a point and serve it up from the beginning like a good journalist. Don’t bury the conclusion at the end; lead with the most important idea from the outset. That catches people’s attention before they can tune out, and holds it longer because they know the point of your idea.
  • Embrace visual outlines. A picture is worth a thousand words, and visual outlines or mind maps are powerful, simple ways to draw out hierarchy and define the relationship of ideas. Simply grab a blank piece of paper and sketch an easy-to-follow map to guide and organize people through territory that may otherwise be cluttered, complicated and confusing.
  • Know your audience’s needs. Give people the right amount of detail. Determine the right balance of information to avoid starving or overfeeding them. What tires people out is having to hunt for more information when the explanation is too concise or exerting extra energy deleting or ignoring what’s superfluous.
  • Listen more, talk less. People love conversations and abhor monologues. Leaders that are brief invite questions and start discussions. And when they’ve hit the point, they stop talking. Successful professionals know when they have filled the glass — there’s no need for it to overflow.

In the contracting world this applies to Proposal Development and answering what the Government asks for. Focus on the requirements. Be clear, concise, and answer the mail. Be sure to write to what is identified in Sections L & M and the PWS. It’s not magic nor does it have to be hard. No one has the time, energy, or attention span to go on a wild goose chase for information.  Remember, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. 

Let us know how we can help you succeed in this or any other business effort!

-Macaire Eidson


Works Sited:
McCormack, J. (2014, July 21). Listen Fast and Learn. Chief Learning Officer. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from http://www.clomedia.com/articles/5734-listen-fast-and-learn