Bing! You’ve Got Mail…. way too much of it. And like many people we can get overwhelmed with the thought of our virtual piles and the lack of time we have to manage our electronic hoard of information and tasks to do.
Processing is not doing. Nor is it about opening and closing the same email several times over and over and never having the time to do anything with it. (You know who you are – marking your email as ‘unread’ so as to pretend that you have ‘new’ mail).
It’s applying the following decision-making model to ensure you are focused and can plan in advance the activities each correspondence requires of your time.
- Do (in 2 minutes or less)
- Document (in your reference library)
It’s as simple as deleting messages that are not required, like junk mail or opening an email to receive the information and then leaving it where it is. An opened email means it is processed and no further action is required from you.
Do (in 2 minutes or less)
If you cannot delete the message and an action is required—and you can complete this task in 2 minutes or less, then complete the task. As Nike says, Just Do It!
Even if you are ultimately responsible for this task, you may be able to delegate a portion of it. Break down each step required for completion and determine which portions can be delegated. You can still manage the outcome, without having to “do” all the work.
Document (in your reference library)
We often receive email with information attached or included. Your email inbox is a receptacle to receive correspondence. It is not meant to store your information. If no action is required by you, but you would like to keep information for reference, save the attachment or the email in your hard drive or network drive.
While processing your email—and if you cannot Delete it, Delegate it, Do it in less than 2 minutes, or Document it—defer this action to your To Do list. Deferring actions that take longer than 2 minutes to complete gives you the ability to plan your time, as you prioritize what is important against all the other tasks you must complete.
Take back control of your email! You may not be able to control the time that you have, but you can certainly control what you do with your time and how & where you focus your attentions.
Linda Chu of Out of Chaos, www.outofchaos.ca, is an organizing consultant and provides workshops and individual support on how Time & Task Management.