Here’s the scenario. One of your goals for 2015 is to increase your productivity. In order to complete this goal, you look into productivity tools and choose one of the many to-do list apps. On day one, you spend a couple of hours figuring out how the app works, and you start adding in some to-do items that you would like to get done for the next several days.
On day two, you think of some more to-do items, so you add those into your to-do list. Now you’ve got about ten things to-do for today and who knows how many to do for tomorrow.
But before you get to those items, you open up your email. According to a survey, 48% of people reported getting at least 25 emails per day. Processing even 10 – 15 emails a day can take a significant amount of time. On the job, it’s been estimated that the average worker spends 28% of their day on email, which is roughly two hours and fifteen minutes out of an eight-hour workday.
Once you’re done with your initial email handling, you will head over to your to-do list. You will likely realize you no longer have time to finish everything on it because you spent too much time on your email. So you move some items to day three.
On day three, you realize that your email is eating up all of your time, so you skip it and go directly to your to-do list. You’ve got overdue tasks from day two and three, plus all of the things you wanted to accomplish for day three. Chances are, you won’t get through all of them and have to move them to day four.
On day four, you now have both a backed up to-do list and an overflowing inbox full of emails, a few of which you realize should have been answered the day before…
At this point, you’re less than a week into implementing a new productivity system, and you’re not getting things done. You’re frustrated because you can’t understand why your new productivity system isn’t making you more productive.
Let’s break down why this kind of system won’t work to enhance your productivity.
You Need a Single Place to Manage
No matter how you cut it, your email inbox is one to-do list, and your official to-do list is another. When you start using any traditional to-do list app, you commit yourself to managing tasks in a minimum of two places.
To solve this issue, some people will turn their emails into to-do list items. The problem with this is now they are adding “duplicating emails into to-do list items” as another daily task..
A simpler solution is to merge your email inbox and your to-do list into one task management system. This way, instead of going back and forth between two to-do lists, you can manage everything you need to do in one place.
You Need a Single Place to Schedule
One of the reasons you end up having an overload of too many to-dos on a daily basis is because you can’t see the big picture. When you split your tasks across multiple platforms, tools, and apps, you create multiple to-do lists. Each could easily have a full day’s worth of to-do items, and when combined, they could all hold more tasks than can be reasonably accomplished in one day.
A simpler solution is to schedule all of your tasks, including email processing and replies, in one place. This way, you can easily see what everything you have to do for the day as well as the tasks you have coming up later in the week and budget your time accordingly.
You Need a Single Place to Prioritize
Not all tasks are created equal. Some emails in your inbox may be more important than others, such as lead inquiries versus your favorite weekly newsletter. Some tasks in your to-do list may be more or less important than the most important emails in your inbox, such as finishing a client project versus tidying up your filing cabinet.
A simpler solution is to have all of your tasks and emails in one place so you can prioritize them alongside each other. That way, instead of having two places to check for high priority items, you will have only one. This centralized solution will allow you to get all of your high priority items done before moving to those that could be transferred to another day without harm.
You Need a Single Place to Execute
If you have a lot of tasks to do on a daily basis, you may complete the tasks, but forget to mark them as complete in your to-do list. So the next day, you will find yourself trying to remember which tasks you completed and which ones are overdue. It’s like not archiving your emails after you respond to them – you have to open each one to confirm that you responded.
A simpler solution is to put your tasks in one place so that you have only one place to go to mark your tasks as complete. When you include your emails in your task management system, you can mark your emails as processed as quickly as you can mark your tasks as completed.
As you can see, getting your email and to-do list in one task management system can eliminate a lot of issues that can hinder productivity. A centralized task management system that allows you to organize, schedule, prioritize, and execute your daily tasks equals less back and forth, less headaches, and more efficiency.
GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company.