Here in North America, we are notorious for not using all of our vacation time. Business Week cites that “more than 50% of Americans fail to use all of their vacation days.” Being too busy to get away is often cited as a top reason for this sad reality.
Just One Change
If you could change just one work habit and free up enough time for two weeks of vacation, would you do it?
Touch it Once
The magical time-saving habit that I’m referring to is the Touch it Once principle.
In a nutshell, this means to process each task (and I’m specifically referring to all the little tasks that consume much of our day) the first time you ‘touch’ it.
- Respond to that email after reading it the first time.
- Return a call after listening to the voicemail the first time.
- Give someone your feedback after reviewing their report the first time.
What do Most People Do?
Let’s consider email. So many of us open our inboxes in the morning and read each of our new emails. Then we come back to them throughout the day to read them a second time before we act on them. And sometimes we come back to them a few days later to read them a third or fourth time. (Sound familiar?)
A lot of people call this prioritizing, or even triaging (which sounds oh-so-impressive). But let’s consider how much time this second (and arguably redundant) read is costing us.
So Much Wasted Time
If you get 50 emails a day (and I’m willing to bet you get more) and read each one twice, you’re building in an extra 20 minutes per day in redundant reading. Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But that quickly adds up over 2 hours per week or almost 8 hours per month or over 80 hours per year.
80 hours per year sounds a lot like two weeks of vacation. That’s quite a trade-off:
Two weeks dedicated to a redundant activity
Two weeks spent drinking a fine Bordeaux in the south of France
Ok – I will concede that we don’t save up our second read of every email for a two-week chunk of time. But it is worthwhile to consider how much time it costs us to not apply the Touch it Once principle.
A New and Improved Way
Clearly, it makes more sense to process each email as we go. Best practice is for us to check email periodically and allow time to act the first time.
The curious bird in all of us may prefer to read all of our emails first. But once people focus on it, establishing the Touch it Once habit isn’t really that hard. And two weeks of vacation is pretty good motivation if you ask me.