A noted author recommends that people selectively ignore communications by scanning communication for two vital pieces of information:
- Action required by you
- Deadline for completing the action
If neither of these items is included in the communication, he says to hit the Delete key. And this applies no matter who sent the communication. The author cites a 69% chance that you’ll get this exact communication a second time and there is a 48% chance you’ll get it a third time. He may be correct about the repeated communication, but I suggest the reason the communication is repeated is that it was ignored in the first place.
If you don’t respond to senders, they will repeat their communication until you do. This wastes everyone’s time. Instead of ignoring communication, reply to all communication the first time. It is the courteous thing to do.
In a previous post, I discussed the B-F-A-T Rule for email. With Bring forward-File-Act-Toss, every email that you open in your Inbox is immediately moved out of your Inbox. The goal is to have zero “opened” items in your Inbox at the end of each day. And once you start applying the rule, you’ll be amazed at how your productivity and efficiency will increase. Not to mention that removing clutter from your email inbox will also result in reduced stress.
For every email item in your Inbox, as soon as you open it, SCAN it (or READ it) and immediately do one of the following:
Bring it forward. If the email requires more than a few minutes of your time, tag the email with a Follow-up flag, set a date reminder for yourself in the flag. Now respond to the sender and let them know when they may be getting a response from you. Then MOVE the email to the appropriate Personal Folder (or Delete it – the flag will find it for you when its schedule is due).
File it. If the email is required for reference (i.e., it has value for you and/or your organization), MOVE it from your Inbox to the appropriate Personal Folder. However, if the email has long-term value and others may need it, save it on your organization’s local area network (LAN) or use the electronic document and records management system (EDRMS), as applicable.
Act on it. If the email requires a reply and the reply will take less than a couple of minutes, REPLY to it right away and then either DELETE it (because it has no value to you) or MOVE your “Sent” email (or the original sender’s email) to the appropriate Personal Folder. Remember: even if you don’t move the email to the appropriate Personal Folder, your reply is in your SENT folder. The deleted original email will also be in the DELETE folder.
Toss it. If the email does not require a reply (e.g., mass mailings such as bulletins, newsletters, or other general communique) and has no long-term value, DELETE it.
Following the above guidelines will ensure that you always have an Inbox that is clutter-free and you will be able to locate the information that you need more quickly. In short, you will achieve productivity with your email communications. And the rule is so simple, that you’ll wonder why you never applied it before.
In addition, you’ll save time for yourself and for your senders. It’s a win-win all around.