According to GTD methodology, if something takes you less than two minutes, you should do it immediately -- any more, and it goes on your to-do list. Here are some of the most common two-minute emails that you can spot from their subject line.
This post originally appeared on IQTELL blog.
When we survey our inbox, most of us would like to have some kind of estimation on how much time it's going to take to go through all the messages. In order to do that, I created a list that contains the types of emails we receive, and what we can expect in terms of the time they will take to deal with. And if it will take less than two minutes, you should deal with it right away.
Our purpose is to try and explore various assumptions and rules of thumb about our behaviour when we process emails. These can be extremely helpful, since in my experience, the more you can automate processes, the less mental resources you need to apply. In particular, you can help eliminate our constant inner debate: should I do it now or later? As an added bonus, the result will leave enough unscathed mind power for the tasks that really matter.
Of course, every rule has an exception; however, by making a few assumptions, I've been able to streamline by email processing substantially. Note that we're talking about your work inbox.
Two-Minute Emails to Deal With Immediately
"FYI emails" are as a general rule of thumb less than two minutes emails because most of the time they don't require any action from your part. You can probably understand quickly what to do with them and process them into your reference folder.
Promotional emails are messages sent to you from websites that promote a product, an event, or information via newsletters. This type of email splits into two categories: those that you're interested in and those you're not.
Those you're interested in will definitely take you more than two minutes since they can take you out of your workflow. Those you're not interested in will of course take you less than two minutes and should be removed from your inbox altogether.
Invite emails are an action email. They require you to take a single action: accept or decline. Since the associated action is pretty straight forward, all invite emails will likely take you less than two minutes. There may be follow-up actions, e.g., buy gift, pick up dry cleaning, etc., but you can and should at least accept or decline.
"Waiting for" Emails
"Waiting for" emails are reminder messages sent to you from someone who's waiting for an action you need to perform. This type of email is, of course, a less than two minute email because it often requires a quick status update, like "I'll have it later afternoon."
FWD: Mass Emails
I don't know about you, but I never read mass emails and classify them as trash immediately.
Emails That Will Take More than Two Minutes
Personal emails that land in your work email are probably not related to your immediate tasks at hand. As such, they will take you more than two minutes because they take you out of your "work" zone. Mentally speaking, going in and out of focus will often take more than two minutes. Treat them just a like an interruption and manage them accordingly.
Emails That Open Conversations or Debates
It goes without saying that this kind of email will often take more than two minutes of your time. It's quite tricky to identify these emails before you open them. There's no one rule that can tell you if this is a conversation or debate email or not. However, since we can identify from whom we received this email and most of us have a clear recollection of our previous interactions, we can assume what the email is going to be about by looking at who sent it.
Social Media Emails
Social media emails are notifications and messages you receive from social networks you're subscribed to, like Facebook or Twitter. As a rule, I recommend removing all social notifications from your email. However, they can end up taking more than two minutes since they can take you out of the work workflow.
This kind of returning email is either a message that confirms something you've written, or is trying to clarify something you've asked or said. This kind of message could go either way in terms of the time it can take, since it's usually 50/50 whether you to need continue this email chain to discuss or debate a certain point. I usually flag these as more than two minutes. Sometimes I can tell based on the sender, the issue, and past experience if I should flag it as under two minutes.
RE: RE: RE:
This is an easy one. The long RE: RE: RE: emails are without a doubt a more than two minutes email. Those emails are by far the most time consuming emails you'll ever encounter, why? My rule is never to respond, but rather get on a call; and a call almost always take more than two minutes.
Forward emails are emails someone else identified as relevant to you, since some else already gave those emails a review and decided that you should handle them. I would classify FW: emails as more than two minute emails.
Any other common email types you think should be included? Let us know what you think!
Haim Pekel is IQTELL's Marketing Director. IQTELL is a mail app that seamlessly integrates email and tasks to Get Things Done.