The ‘One Touch’ Time Management Strategy: Cutting Down the Little Tasks

one_touch_time_management_strategiesI’ve been experimenting with different time management strategies lately, especially with small but frequent tasks that are total time drains.  I’m still planning my time around the workday, but reading emails and blog posts has been killing my free time. While I use Google Gmail’s Priority Inbox (highly recommended) to try to streamline the process, I just can’t seem to shake some of these emails.  I’ll read half an email, “star” it, then (hopefully) come back later to finish reading it.  The problem with this: when I come back, I have to start dealing with the email all over again.  I often run into the same issues I had dealing with the email the first time around.  It’s all a vicious cycle of email inaction.

This is where the “one-touch” time management strategy comes in and saves the day.  Instead of taking multiple stabs at dealing with an email, I only get one chance.  Once the email is open, I have to completely deal with it right there; there’s no going back.  It either gets 1) a read and replied to, 2) just read, or 3) deleted/archived.  Then it’s gone and out of my life.

While I’ve perfected this strategy on email, it works on lots of other tasks, too.

How to Implement the One Touch Approach on Anything

1. Identify the problem. No need to spend much time breaking the problem down.  It’s simple in most cases.  For example, let’s say is “how should I deal with the email I just received asking about plans for this weekend?”

2. Determine how long it will take to deal with this problem.  My one-touch method incorporates David Allen’s Two Minute Rule in Getting Things Done.  The Two Minute Rule says that if it’s something you must do and it will take you less than two minutes, do it right away.

3. Once beginning to deal with the problem, follow through until the process is complete.  In this case, replying to the email takes less than two minutes, so I would respond and send my message immediately. Once I do this: process complete. One touch success.

If it takes longer than two minutes, I don’t have to deal with the problem right away.  If the email I received involved paying a credit card bill instead, I would have the option to save it for later.

However, once I commit to solving the problem, I must complete the action 100%.  In the case of my bill, I would check to see what I owe, read over my statement, log into my online billpay account, and pay the bill.  A fragmented approach, such as simply reading my statement but then not paying the bill until later, would result in wasted time, a cluttered email inbox, and possibly forgetting to pay. I don’t want any of these things to happen nor do I want email or any other small tasks to pile up.

Where One Touch Works

Here are some examples of how I’ve implemented one-touch time management strategy.

1. Doing all of my dishes at once after eating dinner.

2. Hanging up clothes right after taking them off.

3. Click to unsubscribe email newsletters I don’t read.

4. Read a entire web page or blog post at once.

Overall, I find this strategy is best when a problem is realized and a response of some kind is definitely necessary, as in my email example.

The targeted tasks are rather insignificant, but that’s the whole idea. We encounter these little productivity roadblocks dozens of times each day, so blasting through them quickly and efficiently keeps the annoyances from piling up.

Have you tried similar time management strategies? Have you noticed a difference in how you handle small tasks? Share your story below.

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photo by: gagilas


  1. This is something I need to work on. I thinking working at home and having kids in the house has trained me to be a little ADD. (I couldn’t even get through this comment… I had to stop and clean up a spilled water bottle.)

    • Haha…it’s still something I struggle with, too, despite my tips here. It does take practice and discipline, but I do notice how much it does help when I apply it correctly.

  2. AdaptuJenna says

    Love this idea! Thanks for sharing. Definitely going to apply the one touch and two minute rule to my life now.

  3. Margo Mosher says

    I think the biggest time-saving small change I’ve made related to frequency of checking email. This week I’ve been totally swamped with projects and research and have been needing long periods of focused work. Every time that little red one pops up on my email icon I can’t resist checking it really quickly. And a little “1” pops up about every 4 minutes sometimes. This was destroying my productivity, and usually I just let it happen, but this week I simply couldn’t. So I started to just exit out of the mail application so that I couldn’t seem email numbers piling up as they rolled in. I then opened the mail application only about once every hour to check and respond to critical emails. I bet I saved about 3 hours of time!! And I’m going to continue this time-saving habit.

    • Great point, and I’m glad that’s been saving you some time. I know it definitely has for me in the past. Handling email in batches often seems much more efficient. I can resolve a whole set of email pretty quickly, but going back and forth to answer just one seems to take longer.

  4. Good Article, one touch time management is such an important aspect even at fortune 500 companies.

  5. I took 1 hour of my day to filter through my email to unsubscribe from all the email newsletters I don’t read. It helps a ton. Even deleting those files once I receive it is annoying, or marking it as “read”.

    • Very true. Even if you’re not interested in the newsletter you get, you might still be tempted to open them and waste time reading when they show up in your inbox from time to time.

  6. This ‘One Touch’ time management strategy is just what I need this time and thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. I am appreciative that you have come up with these tips to minimize distractions. Also according to this link being busy is being able to manage your time wisely.

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