It’s about time: 4:30 am – 6:30 am.
I've always loved reading the feature articles in Inc. magazine entitled, "How I Work". Inc. profiles successful entrepreneurs and how they schedule each hour of every day. They talk about productivity habits and techniques that have propelled them towards success. Since Inc. magazine hasn't called me for a feature just yet, I figured I'd put mine out there and hope for the best!
I often ask people to name their most valuable assets. Mostly, they respond that their homes, cars, cash, or jewelry are their prized possessions.
My most valuable asset is time.
I can't make more time. In fact, I believe I have a set amount and it's slipping away each day. I can earn more cash, buy more cars, houses and jewelry, but I cannot produce more time. I can’t purchase an insurance policy to protect my time. I must do that myself and
recognize each day that time is in fact my most valuable asset.
My day starts at 4:30am.
By 5:30 I'm ready for work and sitting in front of a computer. I process emails from 5:30 to 6:30am Monday through Thursday. Notice that I said “process" and not "read, scan or ignore". I have a zero inbox policy, so by 6:30am I have no e-mails in my inbox - every e-mail message has been read and sorted into a new folder. So, just as we all empty our front lawn mailboxes each day, between 5:30 and 6:30 I sort, file, junk or reply to all of my e-mail, every day.
I have the following folders in Mac Mail:
"A Quick Reply Needed"
"Administrative Action Required"
"Filed for Reference"
My sorting process.
I process each piece of mail by moving it into one of these folders. Once my inbox is cleared out, I move to the first folder: "A Quick Reply Needed". This is self explanatory and I've been working on keeping my replies to three sentences or less. I like to get to the point quickly.
The second folder, "Administrative Action Required" is where I move messages that need me to do something that I can't delegate. This usually involves executive and high level financial matters that must be attended to while I am in the MCC Recycling offices.
The third folder, "Filed for Reference" is for any e-mail that contains information that I might want to reference sometime in the future.
The fourth folder, "Waiting For" is basically a trigger folder. I move messages here that require action but are not actionable yet because I am waiting for something else to happen first. I usually check this folder about once a week to see whether the messages are actionable yet. If not, it reminds me to "tickle" other people into doing things that need to be done.
The fifth folder, "Trash" speaks for itself.
It’s about time.
I've been using this system for a few years now, and I absolutely love it. I wish that more people would adopt this system. I believe it forces us to reply to and take action on e-mails quickly. It also ensures that I don’t miss anything important.
One of the most interesting take-aways here is that I only allow one hour of time for this activity, based on my current flow of 50-100 critical e-mails per day (not including spam, jokes, or forwards from friends).
One hour. Future challenge.
Here's the challenge I am beginning to face now, and believe will continue to grow in the future. As time goes on and my businesses grow, I will undoubtedly receive increasing amounts of e-mails to process. Currently, I am 29 years old, am running one successful company and am working on one new venture. Perhaps when I am 40, I’ll run 3 successful companies and have 2 more in the works - the volume of e-mail in my inbox may increase exponentially.
My promise to myself is to find a way to continue to work efficiently, delegate, and not allow others to "make work” for me. If timing really is everything, I plan to keep this activity to just one hour. Forever.
Up next, Creative Thinking Time, My Car Ride. 7:30 to 8:30am.
Your comments are welcome on Twitter @michaelpmills