March 5, 2012
Recently a friend of mine was telling me about another friend who hoards things in her house—old no-longer-used items were everywhere—and it was becoming a real problem. There were entire rooms that were filled and not-usable for their intended purpose; bedrooms could not be slept in, offices could not be used. It made me think about e-mail and task hoarding—something I know I do and many other people do. Is that a comparable problem?
Well, if you’re hoarding everything in your main in-box or in your main task list then, then yes it is a problem. That’s because when the clutter is in your face like that, it degrades your ability to decide what needs focus. And it causes you to rehash items over and over again as you hunt for buried high priority items; and that wastes time. Instead, use good 1MTD and MYN approaches to triage quickly, and to then move those items on.
But what if you are “hoarding” years’ worth of old e-mails and tasks out of sight (say in a folder for e-mail, or in a designated low-priority area for tasks)? Well, I strongly feel it’s an acceptable thing to do; perhaps even something that you should be encouraged to do.
Why? Well, I don’t know how many times I’ve solved a major business problem by searching for and finding a two-year-old e-mail that then settled a disputed agreement or that enabled me to find a lost contact. And I don’t think it’s fair to call this hoarding; it’s document archiving plain and simple. IT administrators may disagree with me if the storage is overflowing their servers, but to me that’s a technical and policy problem that can be mitigated by off-line or near-line solutions. (Also be sure to follow your corporate retention or records management policies if they supersede my perspective on this; legal considerations always trump in these matters).
The important point is to get items out of your main management area quickly, once their action-ready status has passed. So that means get mail out of your in-box quickly either by converting to tasks or moving into the MYN/1MTD Processed Mail folder. And in the case of your tasks list, that means reducing and maintaining your main list—the one you look at daily—down to a nice manageable size, putting the rest in the MYN Defer-to-Do or Defer-to-Review status (or the Low Priority section in 1MTD).
So does that mean you should be saving everything? No, of course not. If an e-mail is obviously junk, then delete it immediately. And if a task is obviously no longer needed, then delete it as well. But if the item is in a gray area, I say save it. Your time is much more valuable than the cost of electronic storage; if it takes you more than a second or two to decide to delete an item, then just transfer it to the appropriate out-of-sight storage location (per MYN and 1MTD), and move on. You have better things to do than waste time on decisions like that.
In fact, if you are not in the daily habit of storing action-deferred items in ready out-of-sight locations, then, out of self-defense, you’ll tend to keep such items in your main management areas, which leads to the major problems I described above. So it’s good practice to have a fluid method, and habit, of deep-storing lots of things—it makes you a better manager! Study MYN to find out how; and again, follow your company’s retention policies if you have them.
So what do you think about this? I’d like to hear. Feel free to challenge me on this, or add to it—use the comments below.