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    • A month ago, @Glenn_Smith turned me on to this book, The Personal Efficiency Program.

      The author started out as a consultant who wouldn’t take payment unless his corporate clients got results. Unfortunately, the client employees weren’t following through on implementing his improvements. Not an uncommon issue with corporate-wide process improvement initiatives.

      The author realized that day to day inefficiencies were preventing employees from getting stuff done, so he created this program.

      But I don’t agree with it.

      Okay, there’s probably some good stuff in it and I’m not even a quarter-ways through it. But let’s talk about

      Do Now

      The author prides himself on getting employees to do items in their inbox now. But that’s what I was doing until @Chris clued me in to the power of procrastination.

      So Monday morning, I tried a hybrid hack of Do Now and procrastination. I call it Do Now Last Week.

      After reviewing the new emails in my Outlook inbox, I minimized the views for “From this week,” “From two weeks ago,” “From a month ago,” and “Older messages.”

      What was left was a view of all the emails left in my inbox from last week. Now it was in sharp focus instead of blending into a never ending sea of correspondence.

      Usually, stuff that’s several weeks in your inbox can go untouched another few days—if it was urgent you would’ve gotten a follow up by now. The untouched emails from last week, however, are where I’m most likely to get in trouble because of an upcoming deadline that’s been overlooked.

      So throughout the day, I started to go through last week’s emails and it saved me some pain that I unknowingly was soon to receive.

      How do you balance efficiency versus effectiveness, or the power of Do Now versus the art of procrastination?

    • When it comes to my inbox, I'm a big fan not necessarily of "Do Now" but of "Do Once" - which often includes dealing with stuff now instead of later.

      The reasoning is that, whenever I open a specific mail and read it, I've already spent some resources, like the time it took to read through and the mental capacity to understand it. It is often more efficient to write a reply right there and then, than it would be to close the mail not doing anything and then start from scratch at a later time.

      Of course, another option here is to not spend that many resources in the first place. Quickly skimming a mail to see if it really needs an urgent reply - and snoozing it to a later time if not - is another option I often employ. In that case, I typically "snooze to next week" for business mails, "snooze to weekend" for personal stuff, "snooze to a specific date" for mails where I quickly see that I need to reply by a certain date - or even "snooze to next month" for stuff that is obviously not urgent.

      By replying to some mails and snoozing others - and aggressively archiving anything I've dealt with - I try to keep my inbox as empty as possible, so that it doubles as a to-do list most of the time.

      One caveat to this is that I'm a big fan of not immediately sending every mail I wrote. By keeping mails in my outbox for a while (unless they are urgent, of course), I can quickly check them again before sending them out either in the evening or the next morning. Sometimes, I find that it is no longer necessary to send the mail at all - or that it might be useful to edit the tone of my reply somewhat.

      I think that procrastination can be useful when it comes to the frequency of checking your inbox in the first place. I do not need to see incoming mails in real-time. Depending on what exactly you are doing, it might be enough to check you inbox a few times (or even just once) per day. However, I think that it doesn't make much sense to procrastinate after you've already seen the mail.

      I say this as someone who is very guilty of procrastination, so take all of it with a grain of salt. There are mails in my inbox that I've snoozed again and again for six months or more, simply because they weren't urgent back then and still aren't urgent today. At some point, it might be useful to deal with the mails, anyway. ;)

    • How do yousnoozean email? In Outlook I can snooze a meeting or a task I’ve assigned on my calendar, but I don’t know of any feature in Outlook where you can do similar to an email. Sorry if I’m missing the obvious but I’m trying to understand the mechanics of what you actually do.

    • I don't know if I told you this story, but once upon a time my wife and I listened to the Dean of Admissions at Stanford talk about how they choose which students to admit.

      He said they won't accept A- students or even A students who don't have something that indicates they have something more than academic skills, but they will accept A & F students sometimes. WHAT?!

      He explained that if the Fs indicate complete focus on the thing they care most about in life to the exclusion of other things, then maybe they've found someone who will do something great. He said ruthless prioritization is often a key predictor of future success.

      My wife said she could never be that person who let other things go, but she knew given a chance, I would. She didn't think it was fair that she had to look after all the things I ignored. All these years later, she has changed her mind and decided she mostly likes it.

    • @apm Sorry. Gmail has this functionality, and I think it is incredibly useful and straightforward. You just tap a clock icon, enter a time and date, and the mail in question vanishes from your inbox until that date.

      I would think that this is something that other email apps might want to implement soon. I don't know where it is already available, though.

    • He explained that if the Fs indicate complete focus on the thing they care most about in life to the exclusion of other things, then maybe they've found someone who will do something great. He said ruthless prioritization is often a key predictor of future success.

      A colleague at the high tech company I worked at made Vice President several years ago. He knew what he wanted to do with his life and never lost focus. By contrast, I changed careers more than once and, as a result, never gained the exponential returns from staying focused long enough on one thing.

      On the other hand, if I had stayed focused on the wrong career, would I have had a midlife crisis, burned bridges by waking up one day and quitting without notice, burned through my life savings on some misguided venture, and ended up worse off emotionally because of the fall from a much higher height?

      Po Bronson wrote a book that’s had an oversized impact on my thinking in this area. He asked career changers to share their stories and how they grappled with the question, What Should I Do with My Life? The career changer I could relate most to was the “boom wrangler.” She went from each new new big thing and built up an expertise and love for dealing with organizations in crisis, leaving when things returned to maintenance and normalcy.

    • This book? I remember leaving Steve Jobs' NeXT Computer and Pixar, not because I didn't love the vision, but because they were about to fail. Obviously. I couldn't watch them go down in flames.

      Now I often look at people who experience unimaginable success and often marvel at how unlikely it was and how they never saw it coming, they just hung in there.

    • Ohh, it even puts it in a Snoozed folder at the top of your folder list so you can check it anytime! Looks like I need to play around with Outlook’s creating new rules settings.

      Skimming emails is a major reason why I open an email and don’t take immediate action. Subject headers on emails are usually unhelpful so if a key stakeholder sends me an email, I have to open it ASAP because it may be a Do Now. Or it could be a simple yes answer to a request and can be filed. Or it could be a report needing two hours to review when I don’t have two hours today so it stays in my inbox and probably gets noted on my task list.

      I stopped listening to the audio book because no matter how far into it I skipped to, it was Do It Now without taking into account competing priorities.

      My guess is that the in-person workshops are more nuanced.

    You've been invited!