Every management job, regardless of your industry or department carries with it some tedious tasks. If you are lucky enough to have an administrative assistant to do your filing or open your mail, that’s great, but I’ll bet you still have things on your list that you dread, that you put off, and that pile up until they become big nasty chores. My personal downfall is filing my email. No matter how hard I work to move things into folders as they come in the door, sooner or later I discover that I have 100-200 items (sometimes many many more) that just haven’t made it into either the trash or their correct homes. And worse yet, when I go through them all I usually find one that required a response or an action that somehow got buried in the pile.
This is the crappy stuff I talked about in my time management post. The stuff you don’t want to do that you put off until it’s a huge job that requires your immediate attention (everything lands in quadrant 1 if you wait long enough…). So how do you keep up with these things when you always have something more interesting/important/urgent to do? Try the 15 minute drill.
When I was little my Dad used to give me 2 minutes to clean my room. He would stand at my door with a stopwatch and say “ready, set, go”, and I would have 2 minutes to pick up as much stuff as I could. Once it was over, that was it. No matter whether it was done or not, the task was finished and I could go on to something else. The genius of this is of course that 2 minutes seems like nothing, yet you can really get a lot done in that little block of time.
So try it with your filing. Take 5 minutes and file as much email as you can. Set a timer and stop when it rings. Use an increment of time that doesn’t seem like much – no more than 15 minutes – and focus on getting as much done in that little bit of time. When time’s up, stop. No matter whether you are done or not, move on to something else.