Specifics can be truly powerful. They can help you:
• Become a better writer by making your writing come to life with detail
• Get prospective customers to read your sales copy by making your headlines more intriguing
• Target your ideal customer by making your sales copy more believable
• Charm employees and colleagues by showing them how closely you’re paying attention to their strengths
• Make travel writing so vivid that your readers can feel, see, and taste the scenes you’re describing
• Give presentations your audience will love by sticking to facts, figures, and stories that illustrate your point
• Break down your goals into easy-to-achieve pieces
• And much more.
But specifics can also keep you on track in everyday situations. Here’s how…
My would-be novelist cousin recently sent me a short story she’d written. She asked me to read and edit it.
“When do you want it back?” I asked.
“Oh, as soon as possible,” she said.
Taking that comment at face value, I put it on my to-do list. But because the “deadline” was flexible, I didn’t make it a top priority.
When a week passed, my aunt called me up, worried. My cousin was in tears. She was afraid the story was awful, and because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, I was saying nothing.
In fact, I hadn’t even looked at it!
To my cousin, “as soon as possible” meant “right away.” To me, it meant “as soon as I can get to it.” Which I hadn’t yet been able to do.
The truth is, your top priorities are rarely going to be the same as other people’s. And if you are depending on them to get something done for you, you need to get them to move it up on their priority list.
The best way to do this is with specifics. Say, “I’d love to have it back by noon on Wednesday.” or “I need it no later than October 15.”
Only if the task is truly NOT time-dependent should you say “as soon as possible.”