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The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities – Stephen Covey

It’s been several years since I posted I Am Not “A-mused”, but the thoughts about being intentional with planning are worth repeating.  In that post, I made this point:

… many leaders simply do not take take the time to be intentional about preparation … about thinking through something carefully or thoroughly. All too often our days begin with meetings (especially if you have offices you interact with in varying time zones or halfway around the world), or fire drills (often with schedule delays or customer issues), or with job responsibilities (focusing on the many deliverables expected of us) or even with employee issues for those who manage people. And while these tactical/operational elements of our jobs are important and often necessary, all too often they consume our mind share and energy to the point we sacrifice the strategic.

We’ve all seen the pyramid image that starts with the strategic activities at the top progressing to the tactical activities at the bottom.  The challenge I’ve always had with this model is the inherent implication of time in relation to the various elements.  For example, strategy is at the top of the pyramid which conceptually makes sense because it should come first … but it’s also the smallest portion.  Whereas the tactical is usually at the bottom of the pyramid … and it is the largest portion.

Right, wrong or indifferent I‘ve found this usually mirrors time spent on these activities.  I actually like this representation better.

Whichever version of the image you subscribe to, the challenge is we are easily distracted and not intentional about scheduling our priorities.

Which is why I wanted to share this wonderful article I found from Forbes recently … How To Cut Your Email Time In Half.  Email is absolutely essential the matrixed/geographically dispersed worlds we live in today … but it shouldn’t rule us and is often the source of many of our distractions.

Read the whole article for yourself, but here is a synopsis:

1. Unsubscribe from email newsletters – guilty as charged.  It always seems like a good idea to stay informed with the latest analyst reports or industry trade mags. But more often than not the emails are distractions. If you truly want to stay informed (and we all should), be intentional about carving out specific time for reading!

2. Turn off all email notifications – guilty on this second count as well. How often have you been deep in thought on something only to have  the “ding” or pop-up notification completely derail your train of thought?

3. Think twice before you forward, cc or bcc – love this one! …Every email you send and every cc you include means you are likely going to get a reply back into your own email box. If you send less email, you’ll also receive less email.

4. Use the subject line to indicate the action required – An ideal subject line doesn’t just indicate the subject of the email, but also the type of action it requires.

5. Keep emails short—really short – limit all your emails to five sentences or fewer (five.sentenc.es)

6. Use the 321-Zero system – never tried this one, but I’m game … do email 3 times to process your email (morning, noon, night), set the timer on your phone for 21 minutes, and try to get to inbox 0 in that time.

7. Immediately apply the 4 D’s – Delete, Delegate, Defer, Do.