Dealing with lots of 2 minute tasks


Hi guys,
First-time poster but getting loads of value from these forums - Thank You.
My situation is this. I am trying to limit the amount of time I spend in email to around 2 x 1-hour timeframes per day (one AM and one PM) in order to get more time focussing on "deep" work. I am an Operations Director for an Arts company that runs a Performing Arts Centre and an Art Gallery. I often will receive many emails that aren't urgent but can be answered within two minutes via email or call. The urgent ones I answer immediately, but in order to cut down time in email, I am preferring to push the non-urgent responses to a "Daily Admin" timeframe (first thing in the morning as my first email session).

My question is:
Would you create a Daily Admin project and push non-urgent email responses to that and attend to it each day (seeing it as a list rather than sequential actions of a project), or use #email and #call context to sort in the morning email "session", and then capture any new emails/calls that crop up during the day in the afternoon session? Or would you just respond then and there if it is under a couple of minutes?



If I were doing this, I would do whatever consumes the absolute minimum amount of time and attention outside the Daily Admin window. So the instant that I realized that an email wasn't urgent, I would drag it to a "daily admin" folder in my email application, and do nothing more with it until I got to the appropriate admin window. I would try to do as much as possible of this work with automatic filters, to avoid, whenever possible, even seeing the email until it was time to deal with it.

I definitely wouldn't respond then and there. Then again, I don't believe in the two minute rule. :) I believe the research that says that a mental switch costs you at least twelve minutes, and often more. If I've already MADE the switch, I might do the two minute thing, which is why I'm suggesting an absolute minimum of attention to these emails through the day, to avoid dragging your mind out of the deep work.


Email is not a project. It’s a context. How you manage it depends in part on how much you get per day. How many 2-minute emails do you get on an average day? How much time do you need for longer ones? Is two hours a day enough? Do you have the energy you need to deal with them when you are trying to deal with them? Is there something better to be doing first thing in the morning?
I don‘t think GTD has a definite, for everybody, answer to what you’re asking. GTD stresses situational awareness, at multiple levels, and the need to get things objectified and clarified. From that point of view, I would say you are backwards. If “deep work” is the most important part of your job (and it may not be- it isn’t for air traffic controllers), then it may be that what you need to do is protect and schedule that time, not email time. If I get 2 hours in a day to work on important things early in the morning, then I am probably happy for the rest of the day.

John Ismyname

My basic email method is this.;
  1. In your email client, create two new folders called "today" and "tomorrow"
  2. At the start of your first email session, move in-bulk, all the email from your inbox to your new "today" box. (You just achieved "inbox-zero" congratulations!)
  3. You know the GTD rule - process it to zero! my GTD exceptions are the tomorrow box (not GTD) and something that might be better left hanging in your today box (also not GTD).
  4. Don't look at your inbox until you are ready to start your afternoon session. Your email will still be there waiting. If it's urgent, the sender will call. If the sender doesn't have your phone number, how urgent can it really be?
I violated my email rule today as I MUST continually check my email for something urgent. This is cutting into my ability to focus on "deep work".
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