How to Answer to E-Mail Overload

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Check this out, ya'll. I'm very excited about this post today because I believe that I have solved a problem that has been plaguing me for quite some time. What I'm about to tell you is the Holy Grail of cleaning out your inbox.

It all started a couple of months ago when I acquired another job (without giving up my current one). Immediately, I started receiving over 300 messages a day, which is about 3 times my normal mail volume. My old method of processing e-mail was putting me further and further behind until my computer crashed, which took about a week. Essentially, my hard drive ran out of space, then, Outlook quit sending messages. It locked me out until I deleted files off of my computer.

So, here's what I did to dig out. Prior to my new rule, I allowed about 1 minute to read and respond to each message. Doing some quick math, I realized that it would take over 5 hours every day just to keep up with my e-mail. Thus, when I received my new computer, I implemented, The 10 Second Rule.

The 10 Second Rule

This solution is so simple, it's scary, but it works. First, check your e-mail at intervals and don't keep it up all day long. Constantly checking your e-mail is a distraction, at best, and a form of neurosis, at worst. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Extreme Multi-Tasking is a Mental Disorder (why would anyone in their right mind type on their CrackBerry while driving?). I recommend the following time table: upon arrival, 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 1 hour before departure.

Second, when you process your messages, allow no more than 10 seconds per message to filter. There are only three actions that you should consider in this step. I call them the Triple D.

1. Do - If it will take less than 2 minutes to resolve, do it right away.

2. Delegate - The Bubble Planner has an excellent tracking tool for items that you have empowered someone else to complete. Here's a sample of one of the forms.

3. Delay - If it will take longer than 2 minutes, file it in an action folder, add it to your Bubble List, and move onto the next message.

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