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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

Achieve Inbox Zero To Increase 100% Team Efficiency

Achieve Inbox Zero To Increase 100% Team Efficiency

Founders and CEOs are always short on time, and their plates will never be cleared. But in order to succeed long-term, all leaders have to decide on strategic things they cannot let slip. These bottom lines form the rituals that help leaders make key decisions to help their teams get work done. It’s proven time and again that founders like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg need to have a ‘superhuman’ work ethic[1] to stay on top of their businesses.

Whether it’s wearing the same clothes like Obama, Zuckerberg, and the late Steve Jobs does, or setting fixed times to finish all your tasks, having an anchor ritual is key. When leading a company, a leader’s most critical role is decision making. You do not want to become the bottleneck[2] that’s holding your awesome team members back.

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To help your business grow, you must achieve inbox 0. By ensuring that you’ve addressed all messages at the end of the day, your team will be able to hit the ground running tomorrow. Below are the ways I do it.

Turn off all notifications

First, turn off all your notifications. The cost of task switching[3] can break your train of thought and becomes a complete diversion. As tempting as it is to think that you must pick up those phone calls or respond to a direct message, don’t. Instead, by creating a response time buffer to protects your focus. You are giving yourself the space to return to only the important items later on. Read here to see why multi tasking isn’t as good as you thought it would be.

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Set times to check messages

Give yourself two or three fixed times throughout the day to clean your inbox and other apps such as Slack, Hipchat, Pipedrive for sales and even Git if you are technical. By giving yourself a block of time to respond to messages, you are also giving more time to give thoughtful responses. Messages often fall into the problem solving or planning[4] type of work that is a different mindset from procedural tasks.

Use Automation tools so nothing slips through

Use a tool to help you collect all your messages in one place, such as Franz. Even more simply, bookmark all your messaging platforms (e-mail, Whatsapp, Trello, Asana, Missive, or Pipedrive) in one browser folder and open them all at once. Automate tasks like these so that you don’t have to spend time thinking about which platforms or channels to check every day.

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Don’t give yourself tomorrow

“I’ll check that message tomorrow” is a luxury you can never allow yourself. That one message will quickly become two, three, and a hopeless pile by the end of the week. Productivity is the mentality of holding yourself to a standard. If you are staying up too late to clear your inbox, think about optimizing your schedule in other ways. For example, can you delegate some decision making tasks to team leads? Another way is to rearrange your social schedule or finding the most optimal times during the day to work on different tasks.

Give yourself a basic Yes / No question

Finally, learn to prioritize instantly by screening messages with a yes/no question. When scanning a notification, ask yourself: will this take less than 2 minutes to address? If yes, clear it now to reduce your task list. If it will take longer, then create an item on your favorite to-do app. Also consider importance and urgency. Is someone dependent on your answer? If yes, and your response only takes one line, then provide an answer to allow your colleague to continue their work.

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As a leader, your responses are essential to guiding your company. By doing small behavioural changes, you can achieve inbox 0 by screening message priorities and scheduling dedicated time slots to respond.

Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

Reference

More by this author

Ben Cheng

Co-Founder, Oursky

Achieve Inbox Zero To Increase 100% Team Efficiency 5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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