September 30, 2010

Only Handle it Once; Learn it, Live it, Love it

BY John Paul Narowski IN Productivity One Comment

Do you ever feel completely under siege from the bombardment of tasks, projects and responsibilities that just never seems to end?

CRM productivity for small companies
Bombardment of tasks?

The trick is to learn how to properly deal with incoming emails, voice mails, memos or bombardment of tasks anything else. If you aren’t able to manage this flow, your productivity will be shot because you’ll be bouncing from task to task and items will build up in your inbox. Following a system like Paul Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is perfect to get the most out of your time in all aspects of your life. If you haven’t been exposed to GTD, do yourself a favor and check it out.

These simple tips are derived from Allen’s GTD system and adapted to help you be the most productive you can at work:

Only Handle it Once

When you go to process a new item like an email, voicemail or memo, you want to remember one thing: only handle it once. While this won’t always be possible or practical, it’s the goal you’re shooting for.

The longer something goes unorganized the more times you’re going to have to come back to it to deal with it. To limit the amount of times you handle an item, take a look at it and decide whether it is actionable or not.

If the item is not actionable, do one of two things:

Delete It

If the email you just got is spam, junk mail, not relevant you or your department and doesn’t need to be saved, then just dump it in the digital trash and move on.

Archive It

If there is nothing actionable in the item now, but a required action may come up in the future, then you’re going to want to save it. Also, if there is information that may be useful to you later you also need to keep this item archived.

If the item is actionable, do one of three things:

Delegate It

If you get something that is actionable but there are people who are better suited to deal with it then you need to pass it on to them. That might be a subordinate, a coworker who is handling that specific task, or even a manager if the item is beyond the bounds of your authority to complete.

Just Do It

If the item can be completed in under two minutes, just handle it right then and there. This is the ultimate goal when we’re aiming to only handle things once.

Defer and Prioritize

If the task is going to take longer than a couple of minutes to complete, you need to add it to your To Do list and prioritize it. Make some quick notes if needed and decide where it ranks amongst your other projects and tasks. Also, decide if this item is something new or is part of an ongoing project for even better classification and prioritization.

While this technically violates the “only handle it once” rule, you’re still a lot better off now than you were before.


I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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