The text message phenomenon has left the world of teenagers and moved into business. Yet for many professionals, texting is mostly frustrating and useless.
First, a quick technical refresher. A text message is an extremely short note (usually less than 160 characters) sent between mobile phones. Text messages often arrive within seconds and can be used to provide brief, urgent bits of information.
Like all technology, however, there’s much more to text messaging than just that simple definition. Take note of these simple observations about this communication medium:
- Reading is convenient – Most of us carry our mobile phones everywhere we go. Unlike an email, a voicemail, or a letter, a text message can be read almost anywhere—including in a dark theater, a staff meeting, or while waiting in a line.
- Every text is an interruption – Email, voicemail, and traditional letters don’t provide their information until the recipient decides to check their messages. Virtually all text messages, however, demand your immediate attention. They often even take precedence over the person speaking!
- All texts must be brief – Although it is possible to write short emails or leave concise voicemail messages, the technology does not inherently limit us in the same way as text messages. Therefore, texts are naturally suited to simple statements and questions.
Using these statements, we can easily define some guidelines for text messaging productively:
- Save texts for urgent messages – If your message would be equally valid and useful in a few hours or even the next day, do not send a text message.
- Only ask questions with easy responses – It’s hard work to type a response on most phones, and chances are that if you need a complicated answer right away a phone call would be better.
- Assume you are interrupting – A text message is like tapping someone on the shoulder while wearing a blindfold. Only send a text if you are fairly certain the recipient appreciates hearing from you at this very instant.
Another problem with text messaging is it’s hard to convey tone. We’ve talked many times on this blog about how clarity in communication is essential. As texting has evolved, this has gotten better, but there are still plenty of messages that could be interpreted any number of ways. If you think there’s any chance your meaning won’t properly be conveyed through a text, it’s probably better to choose a different, more personal form of communication.
Here are some examples of text messages you should never send:
Thanks so much for meeting me for coffee last week to talk about your business!
Wouldn’t this be more effective in a handwritten card? That way it doesn’t interrupt and it can be cherished for longer than it takes to hit “delete.”
Hey, did you get he new specification document so I can update that estimate? Please forward it.
Since there’s no way the recipient can respond in a text message, why not send an email?
Here are some examples of great text messages:
Flight delayed 1 hr; will take a cab and meet you at the restaurant.
Urgent, brief yet complete. Perfect!
Just got four free tix to the symphony tonight. Doors open in 2 hours. Reply if you want them.
Again, the missive is concise and asks for the simplest possible response.
When adopting any new technology, take time to contemplate how using the tool will impact the productivity of yourself and those around you. Thinking about work helps all of us better understand the processes, systems, and services in our lives. Learn more about how to improve your productivity. Contact our corporate productivity specialists today!