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How to Be More Efficient: A Consultant’s Confession

Last week I received a detailed, well-written email from a new client. She had laid out a series of questions for me about an upcoming workshop. I responded to each question within the body of her original email. That way, she would instantly know which question I was answering.

Then the client sent me another email with several more questions. I responded the same way. I was pleased that she was so efficient and thorough. After all, she had asked me a range of excellent questions:

  • Did I want to be introduced, or introduce myself?
  • Could she purchase an extra set of materials?
  • Would my content complement the organization’s style guide and graphics standards (which she had attached)?
  • Did I have an evaluation form, and if so, would I share with her the results of the evaluation?


Why was my new client doing all the work? Why hadn’t I prepared an easy-to-use checklist or list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) that would have given her virtually all the information she needed?

I confess: I had been inefficient. And my inefficiency was taking valuable time from my new client–just the person I wanted to treat with great care and superior service.

It’s never too late to learn. I’m working on my checklist. And I will have it ready to share with another new client in a couple of days.

The purpose of this public confession is to help you think about ways in which you too may be inefficient. How would writing a job aid, checklist, or list of FAQs help you and your clients or coworkers? Why not write a clear set of instructions or a detailed procedure for someone? Get started on it. Be more efficient.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.