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Productivity & Organizing Myth #4 – Only Handle it Once

Productivity & Organizing Myth #4 – Only Handle it Once
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    The forth in a series of 10 myths to help you see clearly past the myths to get things done!

    Myth: You should handle papers and view emails only once.
    Reality: You should handle papers and view emails an efficient number of times. In some cases an assistant should handle them for you and you should never view them.

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    Only Handle It Once (o.h.i.o.) applies to junk mail which should go straight in the trash. Beyond that, you should consciously evaluate the right number of times to view emails and handle a document. In society’s affection for acronyms this little phrase has staying power but it misleads followers! The idea behind o.h.i.o is efficiency but can lead to wasted time.

    Let’s look at an example ~ an email regarding the ‘Rebuilding Project’. Subject: Rebuilding Project action items. In this email is a list of three action items intended for you. If you are to handle this email only once, you will stop reading your mail, evaluate the recommended actions, and then take the viable steps.
    Such attention to one email has derailed you from handling all your email and redirected you to doing work on the Rebuilding Project. If you do handle the Rebuilding Project email immediately, you might miss some important instruction, information or request from your boss or someone else on the Project. Perhaps your attendance at a 2:00 meeting regarding the Project is required and because you spend so much time handling this one email, you don’t even see the invite for the meeting.

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    The efficient management of this email would be to move it to a folder called ‘Rebuilding Project”. An all-star productivity system would use email filters or rules to have all email regarding the Rebuilding Project (RP) automatically moved to the RP folder so that you can look at the entire collection of related email when you turn to the Project.

    A couple of tips:

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    • The active folders should be on your screen without scrolling down your list of folders.
    • Precede the active folders with a symbol (such as a * ) to have them sort at the top of a list.
    • Folders in Outlook with unread messages will be bold – so you will know when new email has arrived.
    • In Outlook 2003 there will be a copy of the unread email in your Unread Mail Folder so you’re sure to see it provided you review this folder.

    Efficient handling of email is best mirrored in paper mail. When any useful paper comes in regarding the Rebuilding Project, slide it in your paper folder called Rebuilding Project. Use the same name on the computer as you do on a file folder so that you don’t have to remember and use both names and so that other people can use your system and help you out.

    Now, when it’s time to work on the Rebuilding Project you simply open your computer folder called Rebuilding Project and your paper folder called Rebuilding Project and get to work assimilating and taking actions. At this point you’re on your second handling of the paper and because it’s in context you’re likely to use it effectively. This will give you access to the background and supporting documentation for your next step to be effective. You won’t have to spend time searching and find emails to see if you’ve got the latest information in front of you. Related papers and emails will all be together and at your disposal.

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    Now, extend the method illuminated above to your paper mail and the clutter on your counter. (Move them to group them, then use them).

    Previous Myths:

    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at www.productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on the personal productivity and present productivity techniques & tips to groups.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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