Use the rule of the 4 D’s to get control over your inbox. Perhaps the most important rule is to handle each message only once, make a decision and move on. This eliminates the bulging inbox and revisiting messages over and over, which often results in less than stellar efficiency!
DELETE IT – you can generally delete 25% to 50% of your messages. If you suffer from packrat syndrome and are wary about needing the message someday, use the following guidelines:
- Does the message relate to a current objective you’re working on? If not, you can probably delete it. Why hold on to information that doesn’t relate to your main goals?
- Does the message contain information you can find elsewhere? If so, delete it.
- Does the message contain information that you will refer to within the next six months? If not, delete it.
- Does the message contain information that you’re required to keep? If not, delete it.
DO IT (in less than two minutes) – Can’t DELETE IT, then decide, “What specific action do I need to take?” and “Can I DO IT in less than two minutes?” If you can, just Do it.
DELEGATE IT – If you can’t DELETE IT or DO IT in two minutes or less, can you Delegate it? You should be able to compose and send the delegating message in about two minutes. Once you delegate the action, delete the original message or move it into your e-mail reference system (or WOR folder).
DEFER IT – If you cannot DELETE IT, DO IT in less than two minutes, or DELEGATE IT, then you need to Defer it and deal with it after you are done processing your e-mail. Depending on which system you use for email, you can flag the message for follow up and file in the corresponding project folder, create a task out of it or create an appt. if that is what is required.
If you are using the 4 D’s model on a daily basis it makes it easier to handle a large volume of e-mail. Generally speaking, of the e-mail you receive:
- 50 percent can be deleted or filed in a reference folder
- 30 percent can be delegated or completed in less than 2 minutes
- 20 percent can be deferred to your Task List or Calendar to complete later