Investing time to do something ahead of time saves time. Few people invest the time to read all their emails all the way through. For the most part, I am one of the few. I’m often asked how I manage my time effectively. One critical way is that I don’t skim email—there’s too much risk of missing critical information or creating more work by asking questions that are answered within the text. I read them start to finish, including the attachments. The easy argument for why not to do this is information overload, or that we don’t have time. I agree. However, taken in the context of the touch-it-once principle I cited in the last chapter, this becomes more manageable.
I’ve learned that by staying ahead of my emails, I garner incremental time to invest in other places. I also avoid wasted time digging for answers on my own, because I know where and who to go to for information. If you don’t know, invest time to learn. It saves time when you know the go-to contacts to fix certain problems. Additionally, you aren’t wasting time asking people to resend information or asking questions that are answered later in the email that you chose not to read thoroughly.
Effective immediately, be the person who reads one-hundred percent of your emails from top to bottom, and invests time to read the attachments. There are often pre-determined assumptions that an email isn’t relevant, or even portions of an email aren’t relevant. However, reading it will allow you to make your own determination. If you find a pattern, you can decide to stop getting them or have a conversation with the senders about their messaging so it saves both of you time. Remember, you are attaining a competitive edge by gaining knowledge, while saving time because you may be becoming the subject-matter expert.
Next, you should schedule an hour once a week to learn another piece of your own business, take an online class, or meet with someone in another line of business. Another option is for you to dedicate this time to reading interesting articles or less urgent inbox items that come in during the week. You can insert the article right into the appointment for that dedicated time. This is your chance to be curious, learn from peers, and get lingering questions answered—all while saving future time.
When you become the go-to person and have the answers, you actually save time. We say we don’t have time. What we’re really saying is we’re not willing to find the time, to invest the time, to actually save time.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Down the Chute: A Toboggan Tale (children’s book)
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood