Believe me, I understand what it means to be busy. It's a reality of modern life, and the cultural pressures for us to strive for super-achiever status can be overwhelming unless we're clear about our priorities.

I'm very clear that one of the reasons I was put on this earth is to encourage and connect with others, and one of my favorite ways of doing this is through a simple, low tech, old fashioned tool: the personal handwritten note. I love receiving them and I love sending them, and from the responses I get to my notes, I know they often make a difference in the lives of others.

When I share my passion for handwritten notes and try to inspire others to write more notes themselves, the most common response is, “I just don't have time.”

Sorry, but that doesn't cut it.

I will accept any of these responses:  “I hate to write handwritten notes,” or “I never know what to say in a handwritten note,” or even “Writing handwritten notes is just not a priority for me right now.”

But don't tell me you don't have time. What that really means is you're not willing to make the time.

Douglas Conant (shown in the photo above), former CEO of Campbell's Soup Company between 2001 and 2011 and now founding CEO of ConantLeadership, was willing to make the time. In fact, he is said to have written 30,000 personal handwritten notes to his 20,000 employees, acknowledging their work and expressing appreciation and encouragement for their role in the company. It was such a high priority for him, he wrote these notes every day. “My work philosophy—my life philosophy,” says Conant, “is to be tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people.”

I'm not suggesting you write 30,000 notes in the next ten years. I am suggesting only that most of us can write more than we do right now. I don't write personal notes every day, but some days I write five or six. They're almost always short. They often include a quote or an article I've found that I think might interest the recipient.

And always, always… my love, concern, and genuine care for the other person is embedded in every word. I'm convinced this comes through even when I don't know exactly what to say.

“It's not what you say, it's what you do,” Douglas Conant says, and I believe he's right.

I'm not trying to make you feel guilty about writing so few personal handwritten notes. I just want you to quit making flimsy excuses.


Douglas Conant is co-author of TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments. I'm adding it to my reading list to learn more about his philosophy of leadership through accumulated small actions.

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