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Do You Spend Too Much Time Writing Briefings?

May 4, 2015

writing business briefings

Here’s a number that might give you pause: a recent survey shows that some people spend at least 7.5 hours a week writing and preparing briefings. That’s almost a full work day.

The need to be fully current in this age of information is, of course, very important. Internal briefings on news, politics, media mentions, competitors, operations, leaderboard numbers, and other material can be useful, or even vital.

But has it gone too far?

Check out these numbers, culled from a CQ Roll Call survey in April, and draw your own conclusions:

  • Roughly half of respondents said they spend at least 1.5 hours a day writing and preparing briefs. And that’s not necessarily counting the time they spend reading (which is essential to briefing).
  • Nearly two-thirds said they spend at least two hours a day — roughly 10 hours a week — reading for work.
  • Two-thirds said they would cut down on the amount of time they spend briefing if they could.
  • Eighteen percent said they don’t know how much of their work gets read.

We All Do It

The online survey, which was aimed at an audience in Washington and had more than 370 participants, was not scientific. But it did make a point: a great many of us spend a lot of time writing briefings, whether we call them that or not.

Staff briefs execs, who brief the chief, who briefs the board. That process also works in reverse, with the chief messaging to staff, who message to the masses.

Oddly enough, despite all this briefing, there is not a great deal of information on how to do it well. Three out of four surveyed said they had to learn to figure it out on their own.

What Can You Do About It?

For those who want to cut down the amount of time spent preparing briefings, there are some strategies you can pursue. None are all that difficult, and all could save you time.

  • Make sure briefings are necessary. Is anybody reading the material? If not, then eliminate the briefing and give somebody back an entire work day. Once these dispatches are created, they tend to take on an invulnerable quality. But don’t succumb. If it’s not getting read, then it is not worth producing.
  • Make sure briefings are on point. Come to a consensus on exactly what kind of information — and from what sources — should be included in the briefing. Don’t expect briefers to scan every source and catch every item. Instead, narrow it down to specific information, contained in specific sources. You may miss something on occasion. But the time saved will be worth it.
  • Get more efficient. There are many ways to cope with information overload, from techniques on how to better collect and prioritize information to technology that can speed the job.

Want to learn more about how to write better briefings? Download CQ Roll Call’s Brief Like a Pro report, for professional tips from the AMA and many others on how to save time, work more efficiently, and create a more engaging product.

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About The Author

Glen Justice writes about associations, non-profits and the advocacy community for CQ Roll Call. He has two decades of journalism experience, including staff jobs at The New York Times, National Journal and Bloomberg News. Visit his blog at http://connectivity.cqrollcall.com/.

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