Smartphones have transformed the way employees engage in work, and smartwatches are about to do the same. We’ve all grown used to short attention spans. As a rule, the smaller a device’s screen size, the shorter our attention span is while using it. This is also known as the Oh-My-God-There-Is-No-Way-I’m-Reading-This-Ridiculously-Long-Email-On-My-Phone Syndrome.

If you don’t believe our admittedly unofficial diagnosis, here’s some data to back it up: The average person’s attention span plummets by more than half when using a smartphone instead of a desktop/laptop.

Enter the Apple Watch

The primary use case for this new device isn’t so much to tell time, as it is to save it. People will use it to filter incoming notifications, especially email.

In a split second, based on a few lines of text, employees will decide whether to delete that email or to read it. And when they do read it, they’ll probably do it on a tiny screen.

There’s some good news in all of this

Despite all the new devices and services out there, email is still a universal way to reach almost anyone that uses the Internet, which happens to be 87% of U.S. adults.2

In fact, email notifications are the secret weapon that drives engagement in social media sites like LinkedIn. They serve to trigger desired behaviors in users.

Like consumer sites, you can also use email to trigger behaviors. The Apple Watch makes emails more impactful because people are more likely to see them in a timely manner, but these same strategies will work for any device. Here’s how to create an email that drives behavior:

1. Use fewer words.

This one is pretty simple, but important. Shorter things are just easier to read and understand on smaller screens. When writing, start by putting a character limit on yourself, and then shorten what you write to fit it. At Airbo, we made the design decision to limit the number of characters that can go into one communication.

2. Use plain language.

In business writing, there's a tendency to use more complex words. For example, “ascertain” instead of “find out”, or “attempt” instead of “try.” The concepts that go into workplace communications are usually complex. Simpler words improve people’s processing fluency, especially when scanning something on a phone. Use websites like Hemingway and plainlanguage.gov to flag words you can simplify.

3. Pick your objectives.

Most email triggers from sites like Facebook have one clear objective – one action for the user to take. If you can pick one objective to focus on, you’ll be more likely to drive people to take it. If you have multiple competing objectives, consider splitting them up over time.

Now, onto the important work of picking out your Apple Watch band color …

Vlad Gyster is founder and CEO of Airbo, an employee communications and technology firm.

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