The email rule that will make you more productive at work

Kathleen Elkins
Editorial intern, Business Insider
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It doesn’t take long for an overwhelming amount of emails to pile up in your inbox.

David Allen, a productivity expert and author of the best-seller “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” says that this can result in serious consequences and make it difficult to maximize our time and productivity.

To manage an overflowing inbox, Allen uses what he calls the “two-minute rule.” As soon as an email lands in his inbox, he makes a decision: if it can be dealt with in two minutes or less, he deals with it on the spot — but if it will require more than two minutes of thinking, he skips it for the time being.

“Anything you can whip out and turn around in two-minutes you should,” he tells Business Insider. This also gives him something productive to do when he’s faced with a small window of time, or lacks energy in the moment.

The “thinker emails” are sent to another block of time. “Decision making creates mental fatigue,” he explains. “Even deciding which shoes to wear in the morning uses cognitive horsepower just like deciding who to hire.” Because of the draining nature of even small decisions, he will return to certain emails when he has the time and energy to focus on them, which is generally in the morning.

While this rule allows you to clear your inbox and mind, Allen notes that 120-second chunks are not the answer every problem or task: “You don’t want to spend your entire day doing two-minute things,” he says. “The two-minute rule applies when I’m trying to get my back log zeroed out, which is the most productive state to work from.”

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Kathleen Elkins is an editorial intern at Business Insider.

Image: A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files 

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