To see this principle validated, you can check out Dr. Cialdini’s supermarket study — in which he found that saying “only three per customer” was twice as effective as any other promotion.
Yet scarcity in professional writing is so, well, scarce that its absence is easier to illustrate than its presence. Think of your relentless notifications, your overcrowded inbox, your mounting to-do list, the blinking red badges that cry out. Within that cacophony …
The less we write, the more valuable our writing becomes.
The key lies in a twofold approach. First, keep your casual conversations quarantined from professional channels (except with those co-workers with whom you share nonprofessional bonds). Second, discipline yourself against the very mediums we use.
“Armed with technologies like smartphones, Slack and Skype, it’s easy to operate in rapid-response mode,” said Liz Wiseman, author of “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.”
“Each is short, but the cumulative word count wreaks havoc,” she said, leaving us “continually rejiggering priorities and searching for the signal in the noise.”
To combat this tendency, Ms. Wiseman recommends a 24-hour waiting period. When another recipient could or should answer, give that person the right of first response. “If they don’t respond,” she said, “I jump in. Not with a reply, but with clarification that I’m looking to them to jump in.”
More than a batching tactic, ruthlessly ask yourself:
Do I need to send this now?
If not, do I need to send it at all?
If so, does more than one person really need it?
Use fewer words.
“Brevity,” Shakespeare wrote, “is the soul of wit.” Or, if you prefer your aphorism a bit more down-home, Mark Twain captured the same ethos: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter. So, I wrote a long one instead.”