Even if you read this, you’ll probably continue to suffer. Maybe, you enjoy it, maybe you enjoy being dominated by unwanted mail, demanding mail and enjoy forever organising mail. If, like me, you are an everyday victim of mail then my escape may be of interest to you!
Circa 2006, I’m sitting with David, a confident effective CFO and I look across at his computer screen and notice that there is no mail in the Inbox and there are only a few folders. You know, the folders we create to sort and organise our mail for easy access and then commit our brain to managing, so we can go to the folder and quickly find that specific mail item. Talk about decision fatigue! I assert we spend more time organising mail than dealing with it!
Cautiously, I ask David, “How do you get away with such a minimal view of mail?” Before he answers I go on to say and ask, “Surely in your role you have to keep your mail. What happens if you have to deal with a problem or you need to recall what you said?” I’m recalling my attachment to keeping my mail organized. It’s critical and besides I have to protect myself! I continue, “What happens if it is important and you can’t find it, what then?”
David looks at me and his response was delivered in his typically confident style and he says, “Alan, if it is that important, someone else will have a copy of it!“.
While I was a little shocked, it piqued my curiosity and I set about discovering a simpler way to manage my email and here it is.
I have three essential mail folders labelled:
- Doing NOW
- NOT Doing NOW
- DONE or NOT
If I asked you, “When does anything ever get done?”. You may well answer, “Anything only gets done NOW!”. When you get this, you actually get that anything, absolutely anything only gets done when it is actually being done… in the NOW.
If we write an entry in a diary for something to be done in the future we are simply assigning a future NOW, a time and duration in the future for the thing to be done. I take this idea and apply it to my email as follows:
When I receive an email, I read it and if nothing is to be done I will either DELETE it or move it to the folder, 3. DONE or NOT.
If something is to be done, I will move it to either the folder, 1. Doing NOW or 2. NOT Doing NOW depending upon my view of it’s importance or urgency.
The magic of 2. NOT Doing NOW is that I am intending to do it, I’m just not doing it in this now. As opposed to, doing it later. Later is always later!
Each day, I choose items from 1. Doing NOW to include in my task list and I action these.
Routinely, I review items in 2. NOT Doing NOW and if I’m going to action any, I move these to 1. Doing NOW. If there is an item that I will never do, I will DELETE it or move it to 3. DONE or NOT!
Finally, any mail item that is actioned is moved to 3. DONE or NOT!
Any reply mail I send is left in sent items. In the event, I anticipate any further action on the mail item, you guessed it, I move it to 1. Doing NOW or 2. NOT Doing NOW.
My Inbox is kept empty, I leave it to the email system to look after mail, I use search to find mail and I only work on mail that I am DOING NOW!
It takes a little practice and there are a few things to consider when making a switch.
If your approach to mail works… great! If not, you may consider this approach.
Escape or suffer?