Out of the corner of your eye you see the notification telling you an email’s dropped into your inbox. You click over to it, quickly scan it, note it needs a bit of thought before you respond, so decide to come back to it later. Later on, you’re working your way through your inbox, click on that email and scan it again. You decide you’re not in the mood to reply to it now so decide to answer it in the morning. By the next afternoon you click on it again and this is where you’ve gotten to:
- You’ve scanned it three times and decided it can wait each time
- Which means it’s now become something bigger and more painful than it really is in your head.
As he always does, your assistant drops the mail for the day on your desk. You rifle through the envelopes, don’t see anything of interest, so drop the whole pile into your in-tray. A couple days later, you’re looking through your in-tray for something else, see the unopened mail there, and make a mental note to get to it. Two days later you finally open all those letters and in one of them is an event invitation. You drop the pile of opened mail back in your inbox and make a mental note to both pass the bills on to your bookkeeper and RSVP for the event when you have a free minute. Two days later those things are still sitting in your in-tray, the event you were meant to RSVP to has been and gone and your bookkeeper is wondering why your BAS statement hasn’t come through from the ATO yet.
You’ve been driving a hire car round while your car’s being repaired and when you pick your car up from the auto-repair shop you take your kids’ car seats out of the hire car and toss them in the back of yours with the intent that you’ll install them properly later.
Over the course of our days, we’re constantly and unnecessarily double handling things – intending to get to them ‘later’.
This double-handling is bad because:
- It’s inefficient.
- It creates a situation where things that are fairly minor issues end up taking up precious mental energy because when ‘later’ becomes ‘need to do it now’ – it’s usually at a very inconvenient time, one that puts us under pressure.
So what’s the remedy?
You need to train yourself to touch things only once.
If you grab the mail from the letterbox, do it with the intent of doing something with every item in there instantly:
- Junk mail goes straight in the bin.
- Event invitations are RSVPed to immediately and then diarised immediately.
- Bills are either paid and filed straight away, scheduled to pay or handed straight to the person responsible for paying them.
Your email inbox? Don’t go in there unless you are able to do something useful with the items in there. Once you are in there you should be doing one of four things:
- Hard deleting any spam.
- Filing or deleting items that require no response.
- Immediately answering anything that can be answered before filing it.
- Diairising anything that requires another action. Regardless of whether it’s a phone call or half an hour to write a considered response, schedule a time into your calendar to do that thing.
- Instead of tossing your kids’ car seats in the back of the car, re-install them right then and there.
- Instead of making a note to change the lightbulb that’s blown, just change it straight away.
Employing the ‘touch it once’ strategy is a simple way of introducing tiny disciplines into your life. Disciplines that lay a broad and strong foundation for future business success.
Hat tip to Kevin Kruse for this particular productivity tip. I’d not seen it until I read his book 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. Get his book – it’s really good!