When to Process when faced with a big pile of email each morning

The nature of my work is such that I have a LOT of email communication arrive in my inbox overnight (my colleagues live overseas).  In this case, would it be advisable to process my email first, then do the daily review?  I've noticed that when I do the daily review first, I often end up having to completely rearrange my planned schedule upon processing - there's usually several more "do today" tasks that make my previously do-able do-today list a bit too optimistic.


  • Your question reminds me of a story.

    I like obeying the law. It makes life relaxing and peaceful.
    I especially like to NOT park in a NO PARKING zone right in front of the airport terminal.

    However, one day (before Homeland Security), a family member was incredibly late to the airport. Making that flight was crucial, and if we parked in the official parking she would miss the plane. So my brother-in-law screeched to a halt and parked in that NO PARKING zone.

    The family member barely made it on the flight.

    There is a rare time and place to park in front of a terminal. Very rare, but it happens. But if you do it, beware. Getting towed isn't fun.

    Your case may be one of the rare situations where you need to triage email before your daily review. The indicator is this: your Do Today list needs to be completely reworked as a result of the overnight emails.

    However, beware of getting towed: you are likely to not do your daily review, because the email draws your attention away. If you succumb, your system will quickly melt into chaos.
  • edited April 2013
    Thanks, Kevin.

    I'll give it a try for a couple of weeks, and see what happens.  I too am worried about getting lost in the email.  To combat the tendency, I'll still have the fully-alarmed Daily Review appointment on my calendar, just 30 minutes later, and I've added an 8th step to the notes in the "Process Tasks" appointment, which I always have open while processing:
    1. Triage: Email (several times per day)
    2. Triage: Voicemail (as needed)
    3. Empty: Portable Inbox into Desk Inbox
    4. Triage: Desk Inbox
    5. Triage: Small notepad
    6. Process: Unprocessed Tasks list
    7. Process: [Process Later] email folder
    8. Do the Daily Review
    Hopefully it's enough to keep the focus on the system and not my inbox.
  • Just a quick update --

    It's been about 2 weeks, and this totally didn't work.  I no matter how hard I try, the email processing has carried me away with it more often than not.

    There really is value to starting the day with a full-on daily review, even if the do-today list ends up being shuffled a bit after processing the overnight emails later on.  The daily review provides a focus point that, to me at least, is necessary to keep everything on track.

    I've gone back to the original methods described in the training.
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