An old line manager of mine was one of the most efficient and effective fellows I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was a well-dressed, immaculately groomed, much older, gay Frenchman with endearing mannerisms (when flustered, he would repeatedly mutter ‘ooh la la’ while chewing on his glasses and pacing up and down the office with one hand on his hip). I kinda adopted him as a workplace father figure.
Each day he received the most paperwork to process. When distributing mail and work I noticed that I had more for his tray than anyone else’s in the office, and yet his was the in-tray that always looked the emptiest while everyone else’s seemed to be bulging. I asked him how he managed this remarkable feat. His method, like most of his methods and techniques, was SIMPLE and obvious – but oh so effective.
He had a TOUCH ONCE ONLY policy with regards to the paperwork in his in-tray. At various points throughout the day he would take a break from whatever work he was doing and look at his in-tray. He would pick up an item and then ACTION, FILE or BIN it. That’s it. Simple, eh? ‘Touch Once’ meant that he could not procrastinate – if he picked up an item that he didn’t like then he couldn’t put it back in the tray and pretend to himself that he’d deal with it later. He was touching it and so had to action it. The man had discipline!
I adopted this simple policy at work and then at home and found that it works a charm. I recently decided to try this with my email inbox. This involves not checking my inbox out of curiosity but only when I have time to action/reply, file or delete (the most delicious option of all).
We can all get overwhelmed with our physical and electronic inboxes; this is just one simple approach to manage your inboxes / trays and not let them manage you! Enjoy.