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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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