Now I haven't read David Allen's book but from glancing through other people's blogs about eProductivity I've picked up three principles for dealing with information:
- Write it Down: Information needs to be effectively stored if I want it to be available later. This means make an entry in my EPD ("eProductivity database" - previously known as my mail file).
- The Two-Minute Rule: If an item (email, task, idea, whatever) can be completed in less than two minutes then do it now. If not, then see Rule One.
- Dispose, Delegate or Defer: Pick in of these options for each new item in my EPD. In the past I've been heavily reliant on a fourth 'D' word - "Delay". BTW the snailmail in-tray on my desk is about 15cm high (6 inches for you Imperial die-hards) and there are documents in there dating back to mid-2008. I probably need to Dispose, Delegate or Defer all of that also.
The new features in my EPD include the ability to convert each incoming (and outgoing) email into a new Project or a new Action within an existing project. That's quite handy because it makes me think whether I need to keep that email. I'm reasonably up-to-date with filing my email In-Box but I still have occasional meltdowns about what folder I should be using to file a particular email. eProductivity allows me to file things where I like but still track them by Project.
After a frustrating twenty minutes of failing to process my mail effectively I had a light bulb moment and realized that I hadn't created a strategic approach to my mail. Let me emphasize the point that this frustration was not the fault of eProductivity - it was my own failing of not having a defined process to deal with email. It's sort of like watching my three year old son sweeping a room. There's lots of activity and the mess sometimes accumulates into little piles (more by good luck than good management) but there is no predefined process to move the dirt from the floor into the final repository. In the past I've been very good at getting email out of my InBox but now I've recognized my system of filing email wasn't tailored to support my business objectives. That Aha! moment alone was worth the effort of installing eProductivity.
So today I'm stepping back from the coal face so I can look at my email from 30,000 feet and ask myself a few questions.
- What Projects do I want to be working on? Have I been letting the quantity of incoming email for each project determine my work priorities for the day? Hey! Who's in charge here? Me, or the people sending me email?
- How do I determine which emails I keep?
- How do I determine which emails are assigned to which Projects? Maybe I need to slice and dice my projects under different categories.