3 Steps to More Peace, Time, and Focus
Most leaders I work with seem to be short on time.
No time for "real work", no time for "thinking big picture", no time for even finishing their "must-do's".
A solid strategy is to revisit goals and objectives, prioritize, and align their to-do's to what matters most. This shifts the focus from a maddening growing list of to-do's to a clear set of prioritized actions. This process is critical, and I'll share more in another post.
Today, however, I want to share a practical method that you can put in place (and feel relief!) right away. I've been testing out this method for the last few months, and it has made a huge difference in my own productivity and focus.
✳️ The key is: Tame your Email
You many not realize it, but email is a huge time-waster and energy-drainer. Even all the ones that are just sitting there and are not really needing attention (just-in-case, right?) are inadvertently taking up space in your mind: Did I respond to Jane about the budget? Was I supposed to share this project update with the team? Did I sign up for that seminar? Should I save that PDF on team leadership for reference?
I've been experimenting with an approach from productivity expert and auther Tiago Forte, to treat email as a temporary input, and not as a task list or final storage. His full tutorial on inbox zero is here.
The idea is simple.
✅ First, reduce as much of that input clutter as possible. Think about the flyers that get jammed into your physical mailbox. That's what a lot of our email has become.
Unsubscribe to all those newsletters are no longer relevant or of interest to you, and now are just cluttering up your mailbox.
For me, I ended up unsubscribing from many that have built up over the years. And for the ones that I still have interest in, I filter them to a "Read Later" folder. This is where I look for interesting things to read during my "Read/Podcast" time-block. These emails don't even land in my Inbox so I won't get distracted by them throughout the day.
✅ Second, ensure you have a landing spot for every. single. email. Yes, I literally assign an action on every email so that nothing stays in my inbox.
The 4 main landing spots are: Calendar, To-Do, Read-Later, and Reference.
Think about your emails. Does each email fit in one of those categories? Try it out and see how it works.
I found that while my To-Do list got longer, it actually felt BETTER. Because I now know that all my actions are in one place, and it was easier to prioritize without wondering if I've missed an action buried in my emails.
✅ Third, is creating a sustainable day-to-day process to triage emails. I emphasize sustainable, because if you can't keep this up, your email will start to collect and clutter up again.
For me, this is doing a full triage in the morning and at the end of the workday, and prioritizing my to-do's immediately after that to handle any new/urgent issues.
Not only does this get my inbox to zero (and my mind to zen), it also alleviates the stress of feeling like either I'm missing an action or mis-placing important reference information.
🔥 Bonus Tip:
Last but not least - if you haven't already done so, turn off your email notifications. Unless your work involves up-to-the-second responses, you likely don't need distracting notifications throughout the day. Instead, schedule times to check your emails between your meetings and focus work times.
That's my most recent productivity win.
How about you? What have you tried that has made a difference in you making impact in your work?