I’m old enough to remember life before email. Nowadays we have to deal with both email and regular mail. In order to stay organized and de-clutter, the “Touch Once” concept dictates that you deal with your regular paper mail immediately instead of allowing letters and junk mail to pile up somewhere in your house or office.
Instead of procrastinating or shuffling the mail from one pile to the next, you touch it once and decide right then and there what to do with it. Some people don’t even let the junk mail into the house, taking the junk mail from the mail box directly to the outdoor trash cans. If you are the type of person who cuts coupons and wants to look at the junk mail, then I recommend that it at least go in a special location for that purpose. One needs to then make sure they deal with the junk mail on a weekly basis. Let your weekly Trash Pick Up day be your incentive.
With the Touch Once policy, the bills would be placed in one folder (to be dealt with weekly or monthly), other correspondence in another folder. You need a filing system so that you can take action on anything with a dead line (like a bill) or an expiration date. If you don’t like bill paying or going through your mail, try doing it at the same time as a more mindless task like watching TV.
When I get my Bed Bath and Beyond coupons in the mail, they go directly next to my purse so that I can put them in the glove compartment the next time I go to my car.
I may have taken the Touch Once principle to the extreme in that I pay a bill the day I get it instead of doing all my bills at the same time. I personally just like to get the bill off my desk and not have to look at it again. I don’t like seeing bills! Many of you may be laughing at this practice since so many people pay their bills on-line and have gone paperless a long time ago. And the ultimate would be the auto-pay options for many bills. Let the computers pay your bills! That said, many people from my generation are still a little skittish about auto-bill paying. If you ever got caught up in one of those multi-level marketing products where you were put on a monthly bill/delivery program without your permission, you know it is not always easy to get off the auto-bill merry-go-round.
When it comes to email, many of you already have a system for moving your emails into different folders and look at the urgent ones first and other communications can go in a WHENEVER file. These days, our emails are a mixture of personal and social exchanges, as well as junk, and real business-related communications all together. I used to have a Touch Once policy with my emails, which I thought was efficient, but later changed my practices. I used to think that I will just deal with each email as I open it and that included a lot of deleting. But I would also feel compelled to answer all emails immediately when really very few are urgent. I wanted to get these emails “out of my hair” and over with. This ultimately became obvious that the Touch Once policy was sabotaging my time management. I found myself answering all emails in the morning whether or not urgent, and then not having enough time to exercise before leaving to see a client. I was actually letting the email control me.
Now I show some restraint. I delete all the junk mail, but then qualify the business and social emails into sub-categories. Business emails are read or scanned right away in the morning. But if it is not a new client inquiry or something urgent from an existing client, then it can wait for a more convenient time to answer. There is a whole psychology to waiting until the end of the day to answer the emails and when tired. You might be briefer at the end of the day when you’ve got 30 emails to respond to, as opposed to answering each one the minute they come in and probably spending too long on each one.
I thought this was a relevant topic to cover because cyber-clutter can sabotage our time and quality of life as much as paper clutter. And it is fair to say that a lot of people who struggle with clutter and time management could have some compulsive behaviors to conquer. Not having to address all emails with equal importance can be very liberating.
Author: Kartar Diamond
Company: Feng Shui Solutions ® Since 1992
From the Tao of Organizing Blog Series