Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Difference between "Sorting" and "Working" e-mail

Too many people confuse sorting e-mails and handling e-mails as one task. They are not. To be most effective at managing your inbox, it is important to understand and embrace the distinction between the two. Sorting denotes viewing, grouping, moving, and assessing priorities, while handling means actually working within the details of the e-mail. You need to commit to sort the work delivered by e-mail, and then handle it in the priority that it deserves. Each time you go into your inbox, it should be with the intention to sort your mail, not handle it.

Think of it like an emergency room nurse. The nurse “triages” patients based on their priority, not based on when they arrived or how quickly they can be served. Instead, patients are triaged according to priority. As an example, a person with a head injury will be seen immediately, while someone with a broken finger may wait for hours. This is the way we need to approach our incoming e-mail in order to manage it expertly, every day.

Just remember, E-mail itself is not a task. It delivers tasks. When you shift your thinking from, “I’ve got to do e-mail,” to “I’ve got work to do” (regardless of whether it was delivered by e-mail or a visit by the boss), you are on the road to better and faster results.

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