Translate Emails into Task Lists
In this chapter:
- Reframe how you use and view your inbox
- Bucket your tasks into three sections: “High Priority,” “Offloading,” and “Later” tasks
Alright—let’s take a step back and see the state of things. So far, we’ve established:
- How to rebuild your email workflow
- Tools to prioritize, deflect, and destroy any inbound communication
- How to quiet the voice that’s sternly reminding you to “RESPOND-TO-EVERYTHING-ASAP”
You’re probably feeling more productive already. Maybe you’re feeling a little anxious with all the changes you’ve made (it gets easier—promise!) Or maybe a rush of power has gone to your head and you feel like you can literally take over the world with all the free time you have.
But, before we take even one more baby step further—even if the coffee shop you’re in is too quiet or you’re standing in a crowded elevator—I need you to repeat after me:
“My inbox is not my to-do list.”
Why do we ask you to repeat such things? Well, because your inbox is not your to-do list.
Your to-do list should be governed by you—not random messages appearing in your inbox.
Many people use email synchronously, meaning as emails come in, they change their day and their flow to accommodate these newfound “tasks.” What we want to do in this step is break that habit so that you can start letting the order and flow of emails only change your day when something warrants it. Everything else gets filed and sorted for later.
ACTION: Start with 3 Task List Types
You may or may not use a task list each day (it’s generally good practice, but let you be you). Regardless, your VA should definitely be using a task list to translate the onslaught of daily emails into the very few things that you actually need to respond to.
Your VA should have three basic lists:
- High Priority. This is stuff that you need to do ASAP. Most time management gurus will tell you to keep this list as short as possible in order to actually get stuff done. The goal is to finish items, not add them. Ideally, you’ll have had your VA filter for priority using the previous steps.
- Offloading Tasks. These are tasks that someone who isn’t you can do. This is where a VA can be magic, because beyond motoring through your inbox for you, they can also learn to pick up all the random tasks that don’t require your full attention or valuable expertise.
- Later Tasks. These are things that need to be done later (surprise!). You don’t want to lose sight of them, but they aren’t particularly time-sensitive. More importantly, you want to be periodically reminded of them by your VA just to make sure nothing gets lost. What’s nice about this is you can confidently put stuff off for later knowing that it’s someone’s job to make sure they don’t get lost.
Your emails should automatically be sorted into these three lists wherever possible. This is so you are able to shift your focus to the updates on these lists and not the random emails pouring through your inbox. Many of these may in fact be responding to emails, which you can also group together into a single task for the day to maintain your focus elsewhere.
By implementing these steps and reframing how you use and view your inbox, you can have a huge impact on the quality of work that you accomplish and just how much you are able to cross off in any given day.
Keep the chaos to a minimum by having your VA sort your tasks into things that need to be handled now and later.
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