A large part of our Inbox obviously needs more than just reading, filing or deleting.
There are questions to answer, items to follow up, and additional tasks to action based on the emails that we receive.
Here’s a simple rule that comes straight out of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) famous strategy:
1. If it will take less than 2 minutes – do it now.
Answer the email, send a follow up, or set up an additional task….whatever you need to do, if it’s a little short one, just do it.
2. If it will take longer than 2 mins, schedule it for later today or tomorrow.
I know without a doubt that I work better when I am focused on only one thing at a time.
I’ve noticed when I stop what I’m doing to check an email, and then try and respond, look something up to double-check facts, set up a reminder of my own, and then try and go back to my original work, then I’m lost.
I’ve lost the flow, the concentration, the ideas that I had, and the momentum to move forward. I then procrastinate about starting again, and use it as an excuse to get a coffee, or check FB, and bam – 30 mins later I still haven’t finished what I originally started.
If you do this (cause I’m pretty sure I’m not alone) more than a few times a day, then your productivity is taking a massive hit.
It is generally better to assign 10 minutes to it later in the day, or add it to your to do list for first thing tomorrow, but as a general rule – do one thing at a time.
Multi tasking will never bring you the same results as focusing on one thing. You will just get a few things done that you will probably have to do again.
It’s not an effective or efficient strategy, and I’m not just talking email!
I have no problem using your Inbox as a task manager, and leaving emails that you need to follow up in your inbox as a reminder or prompt.
Once you inbox is more manageable, these become more visible and won’t get lost in the sea of unread newsletters.