For anyone who sits in meetings for even a portion of your day, you’ll probably have at LEAST one action that requires you to e-mail someone for something. For many people, this to-do goes in a notebook, on a sticky note, digital kanban, or into a task list that then gets actioned at a later time.
What if there was an easier way to manage these simple to-dos that fill up our work systems?
As someone who is always on a quest to work better, I can tell you that these minor to-dos often took up valuable time as my brain had to write them down in one system, only to have to action them from my Inbox at a different time.
For the past few months I’ve been working to capture these actions that require an e-mail to have their first action happen in my Inbox by starting an e-mail on the spot, or “e-mail starts” for short.
How to use e-mail starts:
- Open a new e-mail message at the start of e-mail meeting.
- As you take an action to follow up with another person, you start the e-mail to them right then and there in the meeting by recording the rough idea of what you need to communicate.
- Leave this draft e-mail open on your desktop and open another blank so you’re ready for the next one.
- Then during any 5-15 minute breaks in the day that are too short to get into a big project, you can finish off these starts and get them sent, OR
- Use the wrap up time at the end of each day to finish off the e-mail starts from the day.
As I experimented with this new method and began to tell people about it, I got some really great questions from some skeptical friends:
Q: Why leave it open on your desktop? Couldn’t you just leave it in your draft folder?
A: Yes, you could. For me, leaving it in my draft folder made it too easy to ignore. Because I was already in the practice of closing Outlook each day, this forced me to finish these e-mails starts without letting them linger.
Q: Why not finish the note in the meeting?
A: I’m fast at taking notes, but slow to write a thoughtful e-mail. To actually fully compose and send an e-mail, I would have to stop paying attention in the meeting and may miss something.
I’ve been using this method for a few months now, and have found it to be a very simple, and effective way to action these communication to-dos without clogging up my task system.
Do you do this already? Or is it a new method? Go ahead and try it this week!