Get talking with a productivity buff about email, and you're bound to hear OHIO, an acronym that stands for “Only Handle It Once.” The idea is pretty simple: if you're going to open an email, then right then and there you've also got to deal with it by responding, archiving, forwarding (shudder), or task-listing. You can also do it with printed papers from meetings, stuff from your mailbox, and text messages. It's pretty logical, and it certainly works.
The trouble is that almost no one can do it. OHIO is hard, and that's a big part of why it is good.
OHIO means that when I open up my inbox, I have to mean it. I can't just twitch my way over there during a spare moment in line at the grocery store, or when I'm supposed to be with my children, or when I'm trying to concentrate on a deep work task. It turns email from an addictive, life-draining, mind-shredding habit into something that you use for work and communication. It enables someone with an email load like mine to get to a point where I can process my email 3-5 times per week and have better response times than a person who checks it 10x as much.
And over time, practicing the discipline of OHIO in my inbox trains me to find other places to apply it. It teaches me to be decisive more often, and it forces me to get better at satisficing.
And, up until now, I had never treated the topic on my blog. So there you go: OHIO. I hope it helps.
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Thanks, Dave! I think of this so often when I have a task. I want to think of ways to lay the project or task in a way that allows the fewest “touches” possible. Your focus on emails is a perfect reminder to apply OHIO to my inbox. Appreciate the post.
Love this! I have applied it to cleaning — as in I don’t stack clean dishes to be put away later. I know I need to be more deliberate about emails. I will, however, glance and snooze an email, but that’s mainly so I know later that’s what I’ll be managing. Thanks.
Dave Stuart Jr. says
Such a great idea to apply to cleaning!