The In-basket Exercise. Leveraging the three Ds
Have you ever felt overwhelmed on your first day on the job? Did your manager log you into the computer and told you to go through all the unprocessed emails of your predecessor, then asked you to provide a summary of the most important correspondence in a couple of hours? Unfortunately, this scenario happens more frequently than we imagine. Here is a useful tip I learned while serving in the military. It is called the in-tray/in-basket exercise.
First, create a spreadsheet with the following column headings: disposition(do, delay, discard), priority(high, medium , low), generated_ date, from, to, subject, due_by_date, actions_required, notes
Next, use the three Ds approach to sort the correspondence: Discard, Delay, or Do.
Discard: Quickly go through the correspondence to identify non-significant emails. This might include FYI, sales pitches, advertisements, internal notes on company events, outdated invitations, etc. Flag them for delete as you scan and once you reach the end, delete this group. Do a second scan for the Delay.
Delay: This category of emails might include future actions, Cc: items, low priority items in the past. These items might need action but they might not be your immediate concern. Flag them and move them into a Folder (Delay). This should leave you with a stack of emails that might require your immediate attention.
Stan Brooks, PhD