How to increase your productivity with visual communication

Most people start their days motivated and eager to work. At least that’s what they say if you ask them before their lunch break.  When lunch comes around, motivation and productivity start to drop. You can read all about the Post-Lunch-Energy-Crash here.

Healthy lunch help productivity
A Healthy lunch helps afternoon productivity

Today, I don’t want to get into questions of glycemic index or how to avoid highly processed foods. Rather, I want to address the issue of the massive amount of communication one has to deal with every day. And which drags us down before lunch comes around.

Take a moment and think about how many emails you have sent before your lunch break? How many people did you call? If the answer is “too many” you probably agree that answering emails does not make us more productive. It makes us tired.

Getting things done with visual communication

Companies from various branches have invested in visual communication tools in order to keep our energies up during the day and to make us more productive. Team-communication, project management systems, and bug trackers have become more and more visual.

Why? Because communicating visually is faster, more effective, and leads to fewer misunderstandings. Let me explain.

A brief introduction to visual communication

Visual communication is one of the three main forms of communication. The other ones are verbal and non-verbal communication (including gestures, facial expressions, posture).

Visual communication is so effective, because it can be processed much faster. Both cognitively and emotionally.

In fact, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

Images transport a message much clearer than words
Visual communication done right – here the sign of an English Restaurant in the US

Visual elements increase our comprehension and help us grasp symbols, code or information immediately. Pictures, and even little symbols such as emojis, show emotions or help us to express them.

According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development, we also remember images longer, because they are stored in the long term memory.

Why does visual communication make us more productive?

Imagine you are collaborating on a new web project and you are exchanging design feedback with your colleagues. If you are using email as your main communication tool you have to translate what you see on your screen into words; while the receiver of your email has to translate your written account to what he or she is seeing on a screen. This is where information gets lost or misinterpreted.

If you had send a screenshot instead, with a red arrow, marking the different font size or the spelling mistake, the receiver would have seen the problem immediately.

He or she would not have spent energy on understanding the problem, but could have focussed on fixing the problem instead.

So, where can I sign up?

“Ok”, you are probably thinking right now. “I’ll get it: Visual communication is more effective and lasts longer. It is also more fun and increases productivity. So where can I sign up.”

The good news is that more and more products are getting more visual every day.  Take business messengers like Hipchat or Slack for example: They are still mostly text-based communication tools, but they can also integrate Gifs, pictures, and emojis. You can share your feelings or a screenshot very easily here.

Project management tools like Asana, Trello or Blossom also present information visually so you get an immediate overview of your projects and tasks.

Visual bug tracking or feedback tools help you to see and understand problems on the first sight. The visual bug tracker from Usersnap, for example, offers a screenshot-tool that lets you annotate bugs and ideas directly in your browser.

Visual Communication
Visual Communication

Maybe you remember the time when bug reports where these lengthy forms with a bunch of questions users had to answer. These days are thankfully over. Usersnap not only provides a visual tool that makes bug tracking easy, but that also attaches all the information your developers need to reproduce the bug. Forget long email threads and just draw a red circle or an arrow directly on the screen to give feedback.

What else?  

Visual communication is not the new kid on the block, but it gets recognized by companies more and more. Visual communication helps us to communicate more efficiently and helps to increase our productivity. Not only do we have to send fewer emails, we can also solve problems faster just by looking at them without being busy deciphering them.

This text was created by Dr. Rebecca Vogels, she works with Austrian start-up usersnap and you may find more information on this topic and follow her tweets here.

Michael Brecht