"It’s On My Plate" Our effective email time management system
How many times have you sent out an email request and then, after not hearing back within a reasonable amount of time, re-sent the same email? Later on (because you have a system to track uncompleted items) you finally give up and call your colleague, only to learn that he/she had forgotten about it, or that it had gotten buried under his/her many other emails in their Inbox. Apologetic, embarrassed, and somewhat frustrated, he/she promises to look at it right away and get back with you soon.
Although we may have the best of intentions of following through with the many email requests which come our way, sometimes we simply get bogged down. When that happens, we lose our effectiveness—as individuals, as a team, and in the eyes of the community we serve.
A few years ago, we developed a solution to this problem which we named “It’s On My Plate.” This system has saved our organization countless hours by keeping our team organized and not having to spend time tracking requests sent to others. We can now rest assured that once we send out a request for anything in our organization, it will be handled in one of the following ways by the recipient;
• Completing the request • Asking for more information • Asking for additional time to complete the request • Delegation of all or part of the request • Asking their supervisor to move something off their plate (reassignment) to make room for the new request • Declining the request
It’s On My Plate The way it works: A) An original request is sent by email with a subject header that is very descriptive (as that helps the recipient categorize the request) B) The recipient responds by email within 24 hours using one of the listed options C) It is again now the original senders responsibility to then follow up because its now back “on their plate” D) We continue in this fashion until the task is completed with everyone knowing where the responsibility lies based on whose “plate” it is on
This system creates an accountability path that assures that no task falls through the cracks, and frees your team members from spending time looking up items sent that had no response. This works because of the TRUST factor we have with each person on our team and in our organization.
Robert Sutton, author of Scalability—Getting to More without Settling for Less has highly influenced our organization by showing us the importance of embracing accountability and looking at it in a different light. Many of the processes and procedures used in our organization were developed and flowed from Sutton’s mindset.
Sutton said, "Accountability means that an organization is packed with people who embody and protect excellence (even when they are tired, overburdened, and distracted), who work vigorously to spread it to others, and who spot, help, critique, and (when necessary) push aside colleagues who fail to live and spread it. The trick—and it is a difficult trick—is to design a system where this tug of responsibility is constant, strong, and embraced by everyone, and where slackers, and energy suckers have no place to hide.”
In a later article I will address the question I am often asked when teaching this system, “What about when we are dealing with outside organizations and teams?” Sneak Preview: In those instances, we use a free Gmail plug in called Boomerang, a “waiting for” label or folder in email,
and for the more advanced users- Evernote, and our tag system!