Let’s be honest. How many times do you read the same email message over and over again? Guess what? The information hasn’t changed. You’re just procrastinating.
I have a personal rule: I will only read each message once, then take the appropriate action. The goal is “Inbox: 0” every day. Now, honestly, I don’t do it every day.
I do it almost every day, and I always keep my emails under a hundred. But I have met people who have thousands of emails in their inbox—with hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand, unread. This is not helpful. Not only is it potentially bad for your personal brand, it also makes email far more time-consuming than it needs to be.
The key is not to get bogged down, to keep moving, to deal with each email message once and only once. The way you do this is to start by asking, is this email actionable? Does somebody expect me to do something with this email, or is it asking me to do something?
- If no, there are three possibilities;
- If yes, there are three different possibilities.
These are taken from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. And this summary will help you deal specifically with your email.
TIP 1: HOW TO PROCESS NON-ACTIONABLE EMAIL
If the answer to the question ‘Is this email actionable?’ is NO, then you have three options.
- Delete it. Yes, there really is a delete key when it comes to email. My own philosophy is if it’s really important, somebody else somewhere in the world has a copy.
- Add it to you Someday/Maybe list. If I don’t want to lose the idea but there’s nothing to do with it just yet, I can drag it into Evernote or a saved folder and return to it another time.
- File it. When in doubt, file. Why? Because you can always get back to it if need be, and it really doesn’t take up a lot of space. Here is what’s important: I use one and only one folder for my filing. It’s called “Processed Email.” The reason I do this is because it keeps me from getting distracted and wasting time. The moment I have to start answering questions like, “Where am I going to file this? This is about Project X from Client Y, so do I file it in Project X? Or do I file it under Client Y? What if it’s about two projects? Do I make a copy and put a copy in each folder?” It can become very complex very quickly. And that means time down the drain. Instead, I just put it all in one folder and let the software do the searching when I need to find that message. I can get back to almost any message in a matter of seconds. It takes less time than me having to remember what folder I filed it in. But what if the email is actionable?
TIP 2: HOW TO PROCESS ACTIONABLE EMAIL
- Just do it. Here is where I use David Allen’s two-minute rule. If you can take care of the action in two minutes or less, why even take the time to put it in your task list? You run the risk of losing it, not getting back to it, or not being as responsive as you’d like to be. So just go ahead and do it.
- Defer it. It may need to get done, but it doesn’t need to get done now. So go ahead and put it on your calendar, create a reminder, but defer the action until a later time. You can drag the email to Processed and set a reminder in a task manager like Basecamp. You can also drag the email into Evernote or Notes and add a reminder. Email apps like Dropbox’s Mailbox let you defer emails with a swipe or place it on a todo list. However you manage it, the thing is to get it out of your email inbox.
- Delegate it. I am preaching to myself here, by the way. I’m kind of a control freak, and I have this unspoken assumption that nobody can do it as well as I can do it. But the simple truth is that we’re not always the best person to handle every task. You probably have other people on your team more competent than you at one task or another. They may be colleagues. They could be contractors.
Recommended Resource: Robyn Marcotte’s note: One of our favorite Podcasts is Michael Hyatt’s Lead to Win
Check it out here: https://michaelhyatt.com/leadtowin/
Source: Excerpt From Michael Hyatt’s “How To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week”