The "One Touch" Rule

How many times do you read an email before you answer it? (Answer truthfully; no one’s looking.)

If you’re thinking “Why are you asking?”, then let me tell you a little story and see if it resonates:

You sit down at your desk in the morning with your coffee and open your laptop. You open up your email. You click on an email, you read it, and you decide that you don’t want to respond right now.  You mark it as unread. Then an hour later, you open it again, reread it, and decide you are still not ready to respond.  Now it’s nearing the end of the day, you open it again, read it for yet a third time, and finally shoot off a response.

Are you nodding your head? Does that sound a bit like you?

Now why does this matter? (You answered the email on the same day. That fits within your SLA. You’re good, right?)

Here’s why it matters: Because this was not good. This was one email.  It could have taken 2 minutes of your time if you had touched it once. Instead, you read it three times and it was in the back of your head all day long, sitting in your subconscious and pulling from your focus.  

The “one touch” rule is a method for combatting the aforementioned scenario, and giving you back hours in your day. (Yes, I said hours.) Because I bet you don’t do that with just one email a day. Most people are handling the majority of their email this way.

The one touch rule is amazing not only for time-management but for stress and anxiety as well. We want to handle it and move forward, not let it fester in our brain.

So, what is the one-touch rule, and how do we put it into action? Here’s how:

The Theory:

For all all incoming items, you commit to only touching them once.  Specifically, this applies to emails, texts, Slack message, voicemail (and even mail or paper); anything that’s coming at you into your virtual or physical inbox.  

If you don’t have time to fully respond to messages, don’t even read them until you do have time. You’ll only be distracted and thinking about it, but unable to take action.

The Practice:

When you get an incoming message (email, text, Slack message, voicemail, etc.) there are really only 3, straight-forward, actions available to you and you can simply choose and act accordingly:

  • Archive/Tag/File — For informational message that you don’t need to respond to.

  • Respond — If you can respond (with the information you have in your brain or at your fingertips), just do it.

  • Add to your task list — If the message is relaying a project or task you need to do, or you just don’t have the info required to answer it yet, add to your task list, prioritize it realistically and respond to let the sender know when they should expect a full reply (or completion).

Implement the “one-touch” rule and start seeing results, both in increased time available and decreased stress.

Handling Emergencies (at Work)

Do you have a system?