This is the meaning of the “Touch Once” email method – very simple, but very hard to implement.
You have to change your behavior how to deal with email!
In todays world you have multiple devices to receive your email, you read it on your iPhone or Blackberry, on your Laptop, possibly at home or you listen to it being read to you by your email Server while driving home or to work. This is all great technology and the idea behind it was to be “always on” and being able to react to critical business issues faster.
But, 99% of your email are not critical business issues. Still, we use all these technologies all day long.
We are more focused on our iPhones than on the people we currently talk to, meetings are full with people who read their email instead of participating (If you can’t contribute to a meeting , walk out. Don’t read email!), Zombie-dads sit at home with their kids and instead of playing they are staring at their Blackberry.
The worst part of all this is that you have not added the smallest amount of productivity or efficiency by behaving like this. You have not contributed in any way to your personal or your company’s success. You have wasted your time!
The idea of email and the possibility to be much more agile in business by reacting 24/7 to critical events is fundamentally right!
Our implementation and behavior towards it is wrong!
The first step of course would be to reduce the amount of email send in the first place, and therefore being able to spot the urgent and important messages instead of going through hundreds of emails that are basically spam (how you can do that I’ll explain in some of the upcoming chapters).
There are also plenty of technologies to identify the important emails, and therefore only focusing on these when it is really necessary (you can use VIP rules for example on your iPhone or create a rule in Microsoft Outlook that triggers a SMS text message when you receive emails flagged as important or from specific people in your organization).
Even if you don’t have any of these in place, the main change starts with your own behavior by following the simple sounding rule mentioned above:
“Whenever you open or read an email, you have to act on it!”
This means, that if you happen to read an email on your iPhone or any other device you must answer it or act on it in a different way (if it was not just information) and finally you must delete it!
No skimming through emails, no reading without action, no filing! Touch once and be done with it!
This rule of “Touch Once” can be applied to almost everything you do at work. Don’t read stuff and put it on the To-do pile, or the Pending Pile – Read it, Act on it if you must, throw it away!
Used with your email you will immediately see an increase in your productivity. Open, read, act, delete! Stop reading the same email multiple times, stop yourself from becoming distracted and focus your time and attention on more important tasks!