“OHIO” is the pinnacle of the “touch it once” principle. It literally means:
When applied to physical and digital clutter, the idea is to act on requests, messages, or documents in the moment. The alternative being that you read the same messages or shuffle the same papers repeatedly. Perhaps while mumbling, “I gotta do that.” Then the process starts over again.
Next time try OHIO
Can I take care of this now?
If the answer is yes, do it.
Does it need to wait?
Not a problem. Create a calendar or task entry to circle back to the item when you have time. Meanwhile, get it off your desk and into the client file.
Can I delegate this?
Great! Forward the message or create a task and assign it. In Outlook, you can keep updated copies of assigned tasks on your task list and request status reports.
can I toss this?
Fortunately, we do receive messages and material we can toss, shred, or recycle. When something arrives that fits this description, dispose of it.
Don’t let clutter accumulate, whether it’s digital (clogging up your inbox) or paper (old bar journals and magazines). If it doesn’t serve you, get rid of it.
If you have more than 3 months of reading material in your office, you likely aren’t going to get to it. Bite the bullet, get over the guilt, and recycle it. The information exists online and can be retrieved if necessary.
Someone once said “email is like a treadmill that never stops.” No kidding!
Reduce the burden email poses:
- Apply OHIO. Act on each message by responding, delegating, or tasking it for the future. Don’t need it? Hit delete.
- Eliminate unnecessary copies (cc, bc). Send messages only to those who actually need the information. Use “Reply to All” sparingly.
- Unsubscribe to unhelpful lists, ads, or announcements.
- Create rules and folders for email that is helpful but not client-related. Many lawyers find useful information in listserv message threads, but the sheer volume can be overwhelming. Create a rule that directs these messages to a folder so it doesn’t fill up your inbox. Set up a task that prods you to review and clean out these messages on a recurring basis.
- Keep personal email separate. This will protect your privacy and keep email volume down.
Change your default setting
Email tends to be a lawyer’s default mode of communication. But as we learned from the legal trends report, it isn’t always the right tool.
Before you shoot off that next message, ask yourself whether you would be better off calling or scheduling an in-person meeting. As it turns out, clients often prefer that we communicate by phone or in-person.
“OHIO” is one of 30 ideas and strategies addressed in the CLE, “Practical Time Management.” If you missed this program, order the video and audio files on demand. Learn how to take control of your workload, manage your busy schedule, focus on your priorities, and make your workday more productive. Cost: $25. Includes program materials with presentation slides and resources, audio and video files, answers to polling questions addressed during the live CLE, and MCLE Form 6 to self-report CLE credits.
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