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Best Email Tip: The Two Minute Rule

The Two Minute rule says you should respond to any email sitting your inbox that would take less than two minutes to do so.

This is a brilliant strategy. I once adhered to the What Matters Most rule, which proclaims that you prioritize your email from most important to least important. Then you work from the top down, making sure you are getting to the most important things of the day.

The problem with WMM, of course, is that the least important -- or least effort -- stuff tends to pile up at the bottom of the email list. And there it sits, rots and decays like last week's baloney sandwich.

Dispatching two-minute emails quickly has the following three advantages:

  1. Processing them provides you a caffeine like hit of accomplishment.
  2. It clears out the inbox and keeps what remains behind relatively manageable and in focus.
  3. It's efficient. It takes longer to deal with a two-minute email if you file it in the "Follow Up" folder.
Gina Trapani provides several great tips for keeping email manageable in her Harvard Business Publishing post, Extreme Makeover: The Email Inbox Edition
For example, she counsels that you process your email in batches, rather than checking every few minutes. "Shut down Outlook completely or set it and your handheld to check for new messages every few hours," Trapani writes.

Does the two minute rule work for you?