Communication Hacks: I know I need to communicate more. It's the remembering to do so that I have a problem with.
February 25, 2011 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I persistently forget to keep my colleagues informed on my work progress. Please help me with your actionable, communication hacks!

I would like to improve my communication skills at work. I think I can adequately express my ideas, dialogue with my colleagues and boss, etc. I am well-liked and respected, so how I communicate is not the issue. It's when.

I simply forget to keep people informed, particularly if it's an FYI situation. For example, I recently met with the IT guy about a project. My boss is not directly involved in the execution of this project, but she is responsible for its outcome. Naturally, she wants to keep updated on it, but I forgot to tell her that I even had the meeting, let alone the outcome. I have this issue at all levels—with bosses, colleagues, etc.

My problem is two-fold: 1, I have a hard time judging when to keep someone informed. My boss and colleagues are too busy to be CC:ed on every email I send. 2, I have a hard time remembering to inform people about projects they're indirectly connected to. It just doesn't cross my mind to do so.

So, I really would like communication hacks. I know I need to do it, and advice like "slow down" or "put yourself in your boss's shoes" does not help. What specific things help you communicate at work? For example, pop-up app that, with every email, asks, "Would Mary like to know about this?" Things like that.

I should also note that I have ADHD and am on medication for it.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea to Work & Money (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Book regular update meetings with your boss. Give her a summary once a week or fortnight on the project's progress. Write a monthly report. Anything urgent, copy her on.

Bosses don't need to know every detail. They want to know big milestones, when funds or deliverables are being signed off, and whether you have slippage or issues getting towards completion.
posted by wingless_angel at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2011

A small summary email report every Friday, with simple bullet points on what you did that week? I've used it before and it can work pretty well.
Even if your structure is such that you don't want to or can't send such a report to your boss, writing it for yourself can remind you of these FYIs and you can then send the appropriate emails. Set aside an hour every friday morning or somesuch to do this.
An added benefit for me is that it reminds me of things that might have slipped during the week, so I can put them into a to-do-next-week list.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:07 AM on February 25, 2011

What about a bulleted, end-of-day email that gives a brief of your projects' status every day, sent to your boss and whomever else needs to stay informed?
posted by phunniemee at 9:08 AM on February 25, 2011

Do you do an end-of-the-day review? I like to sit down at the end of the afternoon to see if everything I needed to do was done, emails sent, etcetera. You could go through your list and ask yourself "Would Mary like to know about this?" and then send Mary an email outline. As long as you integrate this in your routine, it should help.
posted by OLechat at 9:09 AM on February 25, 2011

I do a weekly summary email report as L'Estrange Fruit recommends, but it can be overwhelming to do it all at once (and if you're already forgetting to update your boss on things, remember them all on Friday will be a problem).

Here's my process:
First thing Monday morning, I open a new email and enter the subject "Status Report, Week Ending X/XX". Throughout the days I make notes of meetings I was in, questions that need to be answered but aren't urgent, observations of things I see online that are relevant to our business and anything else I think my bosses would be interested in. It stays in my drafts folder all week long. On Friday afternoons, I spend a little time formatting the email to be more readable and send it off.

All told, this process takes me less than an hour per week, and has made my bosses VERY impressed with me. It's been specifically mentioned during my reviews, some of the reports have been sent directly to the CEO, and at least once a month my boss or her boss mentions something that came out of my report as helping them do their jobs better.

Not only that, but if I ever want to update my resume or explain to someone what I do, I have an excellent record of the specifics.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:35 AM on February 25, 2011 [46 favorites]

As and Os. Accomplishments and Objectives.

Write them down to yourself, your boss, your co-workers - whomever might be applicable. It can be super-quick, just a bullet point list. Do it at the end of the day or end of the week.
posted by gnutron at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: Good suggestions, but I need something more "in the moment." At my old job, I used to write end of day reports like that, but I would still miss things.

Maybe it's the identification or awareness that I need help with. It's like changes occur and decisions are made and I just absorb and accept them. I don't think of them as things to be communicated, so when I sit down to write an end of day report, even checking back on my to-do list, these things just don't occur to me.

Also, these are the small things I'm neglecting. Major, concrete meetings and decisions I can communicate well. It's the hallways negotiations and "Oh yeah! I thought about your email..." that get lost. So, ways to identify and collect informal, important decisions might be more what I'm looking for.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2011

I use Google Calendar to send me reminders to do things like follow up with and report on things to my bosses & coworkers.
posted by smirkette at 3:45 PM on February 25, 2011

Carry a tiny pad of paper and a pen with you. Right after you have those informal discussions - jot some notes down. At the end of the day, evaluate what's worth transcribing to your daily updates.
posted by canine epigram at 8:14 PM on February 25, 2011

Is this stupid? -
But, a todo list?

Say, I have a meeting with someone on my todo list, in an indented line under that, I'd put that I need to forward information onto persons x,y and z. For any project milestones on my list, same indented 'once this is done, do this task' list.
Dated items on the todo list - for an approximately weekly checkup, add a new todo item each week, and jot notes as to stuff you should update that person/people on.
I've started doing this with Doctors, friends, etc - just a few notes on the things I meant to tell them, and I'll check it when I next see them, because, otherwise I forget to tell them!

Just treat it like any other specific task in a project, that you are required to do.
posted by Elysum at 1:44 AM on March 17, 2011

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