Deflect and Destroy
Episode #4 of the course Hacking your inbox for maximum productivity by Wil Schroter
In this chapter:
• Buy more time to respond with time-delaying filters
• Send unnecessary emails to purgatory
Piggybacking off lesson two, utilize your VA to do one of these two things:
1. Deflect. Try to buy you a little bit of time to respond later. Often by the time you do respond, the problem will have solved itself!
2. Destroy. Burn it. Blow it up. Put it in concrete boots and walk it off a seedy bridge. Make sure that it’s never seen again and never bothers you.
Deflect: Buy Time by Creating Time-Delaying Filters
Have you ever gone on vacation and later read all of the emails that you “missed”? Did you ever notice a pattern of how many problems had been solved on their own or weren’t relevant to respond to until three or four emails back and forth?
Almost by accident, you created a “time-delayed filter,” which allowed a little bit of time to let situations resolve themselves. What if you could do that more often?
You can do this by having your VA add a “time-delayed filter” to many of your communications. It sounds fancy, but it’s really just a simple method for intercepting emails.
ACTION: Start answering emails with time-delaying queries to help sort what needs attention and in what order to respond to things.
1. Respond quickly with a time-based query. Have your VA send a response on your behalf with “What time do you need this by?” This forces the sender to help you frame the priority of the task but also allows you to figure out where you can fit it into your own schedule—without having to guess.
2. Do an interim check-in. Remember that most tasks expire or become less important entirely on their own. Before you start working on the task, have your VA email, “I’m about to start working on this, just making sure this is still a priority.” Most good citizens will let you know fairly quickly if it’s not. You may be surprised how often this happens.
3. Establish priority. If I send you an email asking you to do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should drop everything else and work on that. Instead, your first question should be a soft query on whether this is a priority. If you were to ask me to fill out a company survey and I wrote back, “I’m working on our company marketing plan, can it wait?” there’s a 99% chance the sender would say “yes.” If your VA is doing this for you, think of how many potential “projects” you can avoid by not having them move into your priority queue to begin with.
The key to all of these is simply having the communication to begin with. These don’t need to be complicated explanations or questions—just asking folks to help you create some priority will be a huge win.
Destroy: Burn Down Anything That Doesn’t Pass the First Two Filters
Every email you successfully banish is a moment of your life you’ve earned back!
There are typically two types of emails that need to be destroyed—obvious junk and “sorta obvious” junk. The obvious junk are things akin to SPAM or clear mass-mailers without any particular reference to you personally. The “less obvious” stuff is where things get tricky.
Instead of hoping your VA sorts everything perfectly, your best bet is to simply create a “Sort Me” folder that is digital purgatory for email that may or may not make it to “response heaven.”
Over time, your VA will get better at figuring out which emails should get attention and which should not, so use this folder as a way to make sure you still get an eye on your stuff early on without having to worry about losing anything.
Even the act of getting enough of your email into the “Sort Me” folder as opposed to having to respond to it right away will be a big win. It’s not about just getting rid of all email, it’s about getting it into a place where you can respond with the right amount of attention at the appropriate time.
Seems easy enough, right? We promise that if you—or if you have your VA—put in a little bit of time to get these filters set up, you’ll have a better handle of your inbox. In turn, you’ll be more productive, less stressed, and have the best hair day ever. (Ok, we can’t guarantee that last one.)
You (or your VA) should create time-delay filters and terminate junk emails to de-stress and de-clutter your inbox (and life).
“Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen
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