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The thoughts ping you at random: “I need to talk to Brenda about pushing back this deliverable…” An hour later: “I have to ask Joe about the pricing for the client proposal….”  Twenty minutes after that: “I wonder if Luis has finished researching new project management tools….”

If you stop and act, every time it occurs to you that you need to talk to someone, you’re likely to generate a lot of frustration. First, you interrupt your work and your train of thought. Then, either you miss the other person and receive a call back at an in opportune time, or you interrupt her. And there’s a risk that she has something to ask you in return that you’re not at all prepared to process right now because your attention is focused in a different direction. Remember, it’s all about controlling your attention.

Because you need to control your attention, just “tucking that thought away” until you see the person next doesn’t work either. The thought invariably gets lost in your brain and doesn’t reappear until another inconvenient moment, and rarely when you see the person.

You need a Talk To list, which is a strategy for effective communication. A Talk To list works great for those who you work closely with and/or communicate with frequently. As you think of things you need to communicate to that person, create tasks that start with their name in the subject line, along with whatever you need to say to them.  For example, a Talk To task might look like the following:

“Joe: Ask his opinion on the pricing for the client proposal.” (the category that you assign to this task is “Talk To.”)

When you inevitably see that person throughout your day, you can refer to your Talk To list to ensure that you have covered all the items you thought of while they were not present. If they have a list for you as well, this process results in very efficient and effective communication.  This is especially helpful if you have people reporting to you, and to make efficient use of the time you get with your boss.

Not every conversation belongs on the Talk To list. If you think of something you need to communicate to someone you will NOT likely run into during your normal day-to-day activities, you may need to create a task to call or email that person. It belongs on your Talk To list if you think to yourself, “the next time I speak with Joe, I want to remember to say…”

If you keep your Talk To list on your person, such as synced your smart phone, you will have it when you run into Joe later in the day and you can resolve your questions without skipping a beat.

This also works great for people who bill you for their time, like a doctor, lawyer, or accountant.  Keep a running Talk To list for these people and pull it up at your next appointment.

This strategy for effective communication is just one of the 7 categories I recommend in the Empowered Productivity™ System. For the rest, check out my book.

Thanks for reading!