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How long should I take for "what is it" processing?

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  • How long should I take for "what is it" processing?

    Often, when I start to read the 35 emails on my lotus notes trying to process my inbox and get it empty, I open a email with multiple attachments and a long list of reply with "see below" notice. Sometime just to figure "what is it" take so long.

    Should I throw it away right in my "to read/review" basket or take time to look at to define "what is it", "is it actionnable", etc?

    Is there a rule of thumb for this?
    Last edited by sonturk; 11-19-2007, 10:39 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by sonturk View Post
    Often, when I start to read the 35 emails on my lotus notes trying to process my inbox and get it empty, I open a email with multiple attachments and a long list of reply with "see below" notice. Sometime just to figure "what is it" take so long.

    Should I throw it away right in my "to read/review" basket or take time to look at to define "what is it", "is it actionnable", etc?

    Is there a rule of thumb for this?
    Define what it is. Otherwise you've just moved your inbox to the read/review basket.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      I'm new to this myself, but it seems like the very next action is to scan the email thread to see if a reply or decision is needed from you by a certain time. That part is probably a <2 minute task. If a reply or decision is needed, then you have a mini-project that involves read and review, analysis, a decision and communciation of the decision. If materials are being provided merely for reference, then I'd send them straight to Read and Review (or Project Support if you've implemented the system that way).

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      • #4
        Think about the e-mail context to figure out &quot;what is it&quot;.

        Originally posted by sonturk View Post
        Often, when I start to read the 35 emails on my lotus notes trying to process my inbox and get it empty, I open a email with multiple attachments and a long list of reply with "see below" notice. Sometime just to figure "what is it" take so long.
        In my world it is a very rare situation to receive an e-mail with many attachments that I do not know how to handle. Each e-mail has its context - the project it belongs to, the person that has sent it, and so on - and this context defines the required action in most cases.

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        • #5
          First, use the two minute rule - if you can figure it out and reply in two minutes, do it then move it out of IN.

          Next, if you can figure it out in two minutes (as you point out, might be hard) then record the action and any projects in your calendar and/or lists.

          If you can't even figure it out in two minutes, your next action is "figure out what the !@#% message xx from bob means!"

          A related note: if you're regularly receiving emails like this from colleagues, you might want to initiate an email policy change using best practices like:

          o split complex emails into separate single-topic ones
          o rename subjects if thread topic changes
          o summarize complex emails with one paragraph at the top
          o make action requests explicit ("AR" in subjects)
          o ...

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          • #6
            Office Tag: your it!

            Originally posted by cornell View Post
            If you can't even figure it out in two minutes, your next action is "figure out what the !@#% message xx from bob means!"
            This is a very common problem in modern office environments. Why is it your job to figure out what Bob's cryptic message means. It's Bob's job to write a clear concise actionable message. If you can't figure it out in 2 minutes (or even 30 seconds for that matter) my suggestion is to handle it using the two minute rule and reply to Bob with a message like this:

            "Hey Bob, I read through this message, and I don't understand why it pertains to me or what it is you think I should do with this. Can you please let me know what specifically you would like me to do with this?

            Thanks."

            Of course if Bob depending upon where Bob is in the hierarchy relative to you you may need to be more or less diplomatic about it.

            Depending upon the issue you can track this as a @Waitingfor or if it is really not relevant to you just bounce it back into Bob's court. That's only fair because he sent it your way without thinking it through in the first place.

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            • #7
              Agreed with jpm and cornell. Either create a project to read and comprehend the message, or reply that you need better information.

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