Less is more… or is it?

July 1, 2015

When you work in coffee shops, you overhear a lot of interesting conversations.

(Especially if you’re like me and can’t turn off that part of your brain that listens in on other people. Consider yourself warned if you ever see me nearby when you’re meeting a friend or colleague at Starbucks.)

The other day, the gal next to me (who just happens to be a freelance website producer) was chatting with a guy who, like us, uses this particular coffee shop as his office on a semi-regular basis. He was talking about the new website he’s building for his business, and she was (very generously) giving him a lot of (pretty legit) advice — which platforms to try, how to choose stock photos, where not to spend his web marketing budget.

But then they started talking about content strategy, and she told him, “When it comes to your website content, less is more.” As he continued to talk, she repeated it twice more: Less is more. Less is more.

And I thought, but is it really?

Sometimes, less is less. And other times, less is lazy.

Less is less when it doesn’t create meaning or give insight. And less is lazy when we simply don’t take the time to consider (and then meet) the needs of the people we want to work with.

I’ve been both of these less-es. Designers are notorious for being the cobblers with no shoes, and I was one of those designers who had nothing but a logo, a contact link, some pretty imagery, and a couple of sentences on my own website. I defended it by saying things like “less is more” and “I’m just too busy doing work for other people.”

The truth is, less was just less — and I was using a busy schedule as an excuse for not caring for people well.

Less is only more when the less is carefully considered and precisely crafted.

A good writer will tell you that it’s harder to make your point concisely than verbosely. That’s because less content doesn’t mean less information. When your words are fewer, your words have to work harder.

When less is done well, you give your customer exactly what they need — no more and no less. Too little content will prevent a prospect from becoming your customer in the first place. Too much content puts the burden on your customer, to sift through it to find what they need to know. But less content done well puts the burden on you — to know what your customer needs to know and connect them with it.

At the same time, for some kinds of consumers, less will never be more.

They’re the researchers, the meticulous decision makers, the get-your-facts-in-order people. The people who read all the way to the bottom of squeeze pages. The people who read Amazon reviews for every product (and all similar products) before they buy.

You need to have the more for these people — but not as a replacement for the well-crafted less.

When it comes to your website content, you need less *and* more.

Your well-crafted less will take the lead, introducing your customer to your business or product. It could be a video, a slideshow, or text copy. For some (or even most) customers, this will tell them everything they need to take action. But those researcher-types can read on for answers to their every question — presented in a way that’s engaging, simple and clear. For a one-to-one offering, like coaching, this could be an in-depth description of your process. For a one-to-many offering, like an online course, this could be an outline of the modules in your class or a tour of your digital classroom.

In the end, less isn’t more. Less is you doing more — creating more meaning, giving greater insight, caring better for your people.

How and why to be less available

May 28, 2015

We live in an age and culture of hyper-accessibility. Email. Twitter. Facebook Messenger. Mac OS Continuity (that thing where phone calls ring on your phone… and your laptop… and your iPad). And notifications for all these things. On all your devices. All the time.

Yet the challenge I’ve been posing to everyone lately — clients, family, friends, mentees — is to be less available. And every single person I’ve encouraged to do so has said it was the right move.

But that isn’t to say it’s an easy shift. It’s tough both logistically and emotionally: logistically, because we still want to care for people well; and emotionally, because (if we’re honest) it feels good to be needed.

Fortunately, there are a lot of good reasons to be less available:

1. It frees you up to be fully present with whomever or whatever is in front of you.

2. When you’re less accessible to everyone, you’re more accessible to the right people. (For example, if you’re less available to any kind of client, you’re more available for clients who are the right fit. Or if you’re less available to your whole group of acquaintances, you’re more available to your inner circle of close friends and family — the people you truly nourish and who nourish you in return.)

3. Intentionally creating a barrier to accessibility means that people who make an effort to call on you are really invested and engaged. In other words, it weeds out prospective clients who aren’t serious or friends of convenience or other people who are solely in the consumer mindset.

4. Self care. Solitude is vital to the emotional health of all people. Extroverts may need less solitude to recharge than their introverted counterparts, but constant connectedness isn’t healthy for anyone.

5. When someone has a question or a problem, it’s easier for them to ask you than to seek their own solution. If you’re always available, you become a human compendium of instructions and answers. Being less available is a way of encouraging and empowering others to learn and discover the way on their own. (It’s like how you may never remember how to get to someone’s house if you always use your GPS to get there. You aren’t actually learning the way; Siri is just dictating instructions to you.)

So how do you do it?

How can you make yourself less available without causing mutiny, disappointing everyone, and making them all feel abandoned? Here are some ideas that have worked well for me.

1. Manage expectations. This is the single most important thing you can do. People aren’t (usually) upset because they didn’t hear from you for a week; they’re upset because they expected a response in a day or two. I have an auto-responder on my email account that tells people exactly what to expect in terms of my availability, email response times, and office hours. It’s possibly (probably) annoying to people who already know what’s going on, but I decided that was a reasonable trade-off for setting expectations with my network at large.

2. Schedule time for engagement — and for disengagement. Less available doesn’t mean unavailable. I don’t check my email on the weekend, but I have regular times I do read and respond to messages. I don’t plan social outings on work days, but I am intentional about scheduling play dates and lunches on my off days. (Looking for techniques on how to schedule engagement? Check out The Intentional Day.)

3. Create your contact flow wisely. It doesn’t have to be easy to get in touch with you. But if it’s difficult, it should be because you made it that way on purpose — not the result of a poorly designed contact flow. Maybe this means hiring someone to handle your email — making your brand easy to reach but making you less accessible. For me, it means I don’t list a phone number on my website, and I point people toward a form instead of an email address for making initial contact. I’ve even had times that I took the contact link out of my main navigation altogether, so people had to read through (or at least scroll through) my services page before reaching out. When I had a contact link right on my homepage, I received substantially more emails from people who weren’t genuinely interested in working together.

4. Be socially selective. You don’t have to be on every social media platform in the history of the internet. Choose the ones that make sense for you and your customers. There will automatically be more time for solitude when you’re not covering as many access points.

5. Trust people to be both gracious and capable. At least a few times every week, someone specifically compliments my email auto-responder or time management — and almost as often, someone answers their own question before I’ve even seen their email. And it’s always a surprise, because I usually feel like I’m letting everyone down. People are much more gracious than I give them credit for, and much more capable too.

What about you?

How are you managing your availability? What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in the age of hyper-accessibility? What’s working (and not working) for you?


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When output is heavy

August 22, 2013

Last week, Sarah articulated so beautifully what I too have been feeling — always, to some extent, and the last several months in particular — in my attempts to publish content:

Meanwhile, the world is so beautiful and delightful, and I’m having epiphanies and not sharing them, because…output is so heavy. It’s hard to make something that’s good enough for you. (I mean me.) Being a perfectionistic entrepreneur is rather like being an octopus with 100 pound weights tied to each leg. Producing anything worth consuming has become painfully slow.

Why do I need to be so great, anyway? Is it because the world needs more greatness? If so, do I think I am personally responsible to provide greatness to the world? Am I really that enamored with my own significance, or on the other hand, am I trying to rebel against my relative insignificance?

This is why my newsletter subscribers haven’t heard from me since January. This is why my husband had to listen to me talk for two hours about all the reasons blogging isn’t sustainable for me. This is why Instagram has become my social platform of choice. This is why the only content I seem to post on Facebook these days are articles and videos — and I don’t even write my own captions for said links but merely quote the authors. It feels like 100-pound weights hanging from all eight of my legs, this business of output.

And I have a feeling that Sarah and I aren’t alone in this.

I wish I could tell you that I read Sarah’s post and immediately wrote out an eight-step plan to finding lightness in output. But that isn’t the case. I don’t even have a one-step plan. All I have are a few reminders that I’m saying to me and that I would say to you too.

Grace

Grace upon grace — that’s what you should extend to yourself. Don’t let anyone guilt you about neglecting your list. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s simple and easy and you just need to write shorter and simpler and stop holding your output to such high standards. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior by telling you how easy it is for them. Maybe your list does miss you, and maybe you could publish some messier blog posts once in awhile, and yes, output is easier for some people than others — but you have to start from a place of grace. Grace for who you are, for where you are, for how you are.

Truth

I would bet that all of us feeling this heaviness of output are actually producing a ton of stuff. It doesn’t translate to retweets and can’t be tracked in Mailchimp, but it’s happening and it is significant. For me, finding truth has required some objectivity. I’ve done just as much business this year as last year, even though it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve been writing a ton, even though none of it is published (yet). I’ve been building a ton, even though none of it is public (yet). Go to a place of truth, not a place of expectation.

Ideas

In the midst of this, I’m still musing on ways to make output lighter. One of my goals for this year was to live a less burdened life. Clearly, aspects of my output have collapsed under the burdens I’ve placed on them. What does it look like to unburden my output? Can I drop a few of those 100-pound weights? Do I need to develop more muscle in some of those legs so I can carry the weight more easily? Can someone else come alongside and carry one of those weights with me?

How is output feeling for you? If it’s heavy, tell me about it. If it’s light, tell me about it. What do you do when output that was light becomes heavy? How did you transform heaviness into lightness?