One of the easiest ways to check whether or not someone is at a higher belt level is to observe carefully how they handle email.
What do they have in their in-box? Is the number of emails always kept small? Does email get sent to them that they never reply to? Does email routinely get lost amid hundreds, or even thousands of items? Do their friends and colleagues prefer to call them knowing that they are “bad with email”? At the end of each year, do they simply delete everything in their in-box, and start all over with a fresh one?
Email failure is a sure sign they they have not mastered one or more of the fundamentals. This is because email management at the higher belt levels is a function of executing a group of fundamentals, rather than any single one.
To handle email well, a 2Time user must be Capturing, Emptying, Tossing, Scheduling and/or Listing, Acting Now, Warning and Reviewing in a smooth, coordinated way.
Why is this so?
- When Capturing poorly, the in-box becomes a kind of free-for-all capture device that is always open for anyone’s rubbish to be thrown in. Higher belt users turn off the automatic download features in Outlook and gain control over when they decide to Capture.
- When Emptying poorly, the in-box becomes a storage bin rather than a temporary capture area to be frequently voided.
- When Tossing poorly, emails never get deleted, creating clutter that mixes spam about Viagra with the list of action items for your next meeting with the boss.
- When Scheduling or Listing poorly, email never gets turned into time demands to be safely stored in the right places in a calendar of list.
- When Acting Now poorly, users spend all day trying to empty out their in-box, instead of trying to organize it.
- When Warning poorly, users never take action early enough to protect their in-boxes and storage folders from overflowing with email of every kind
- When Reviewing poorly, users allow their in-boxes to get away from them, and for time demands to go un-addressed for long periods of time.
The well-managed in-box is therefore a thing of beauty, not unlike the game-winning heroics of Michael Jordan. What spectators don’t see and often don’t appreciate is the thousands of hours he spent practicing the fundamentals in order to make those clutch shots.
After all, there is no glamour in mere practice. Instead, the sad part is that everything belongs to the moments frozen on the highlight reel when they pay off.