Touch That Once


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The Time Effective Way To Manage Your In-Box

Contributor: Jim Kearney 5/8/2018

The in-box has changed over the years. From mostly paper to a mixture of paper and electronic mail.

Regardless, both can be big time wasters if not handled with a certain amount of discipline.

You've heard the rule, "handle each paper only once". Many find that easier said than done. I'm one of them.

In my early career I found that, emotionally, my goal was to to first get rid of all the trash so that I could concentrate on the important stuff. But, of course, that was exactly the wrong thing to do.

I eventually realized that my new mail seemed to contain about 60% minor information or nothing important at all. That meant that I would have to read 100% of my new documents to throw away the not important - no action needed papers.

From a waste of time perspective I would then read 40% of the documents again! Not good!

Major Rule: Act on each document while it is in your hands or on your screen. Don't let go or look away until you act on what you are looking at.

Here are your Choices:

  • Toss it in the Trash Can or Trash Folder. Also make sure you have you Spam List set up so that you don't have to even glance at material sent from spammers.

  • Delegate to someone else who is in a position to handle the item. Of course that works best if you have people to whom you may delegate. If not don't rule out an associate who may be in a better position to act.

  • File it. for example: A communication that will be needed for a personnel review or an upcoming project not off the ground yet. Neither breaks the handle once rule. Filing is an action step.

  • Act on the material. Make the call, write a response - get up and take care of it.

  • Then there is the incremental action step.

    Place the action needed in your things to do list. Or...

    Place it in a dated tickler file for follow up when the document needs action.

    Again both are action steps that fullfil the handle once rule and they are both great tools of time management.


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