Your email inbox is full of unread email. You have countless ideas you want to pursue, and the phone never stops ringing. How can you move forward in your work? How can you see the forest through the trees?

It’s time for a new approach.

And one word can make all the difference. OHIO. Not the “Buckeye State.” Rather, the letters that make up OHIO. You can think of it as an acronym: O.H.I.O.

O.H.I.O: Only Handle It Once

Instead of trying to do everything at once, focus on just one project. Work on one task at a time. I know this is a drastic change. But what if you approached work in this way?

No More Multitasking

As a knowledge worker, you have to handle several projects at once. Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen has some helpful insights. One of the key takeaways is to not view your work as a project but rather a single action. This approach is a beautiful reversal because it gives you clarity when you look at your list of projects. Statistics show that the average professional is engaged in between 40 and 150 projects.

The way we handled projects in the past, jumping from one to another based on deadlines or when problems arise is inefficient. So how

Set Simple Rules To Follow

When you have simple rules in place, you find clarity as it frees your mind. Install filters on your mailbox. Automate your reading list with your favorite newsletters, and you can save yourself time and stress. Unsubscribe to any newsletters that are not adding value to your life.

There are some things you don’t have to fix yourself. You can always seek help from a coworker, outsource the work, or maybe even have your assistant solve these issues. Remember, keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate things or you will regret it later.

Empty Your Inboxes Once

Inbox zero is not the utopia that lasts forever. In many cases, it is not necessary to reach inbox zero to adjust your priorities. Your inbox will not always be empty.

There are several items to consider that will help you to handle an item only once:
Have one unambiguous thought process for how you process email. Keep your email as simple as possible. In many cases, your calendar will be a mix of events that should take place or might happen. This uncertainty can—at times—be confusing for your brain and even drain your mental energy. This challenge is unavoidable because the future is uncertain. To help restore mental energy, keep your email inbox approach simple.

Think About Process

Grab everything once when updating your lists. To be more productive you have to be proactive, not reactive.

Here is the thought process to help you move forward. It is six simple questions, and each question has only two possible answers: yes or no.
Push each item through these questions and you will know what to do next.

1. Will you ever do anything with the task or project at hand?

Yes: Move on to question 2.

No: Either you will delete the item/dispose of it or archive it. This is one of the few places in the conceptual scheme in which the item is completely finished. Remember, O.H.I.O.

 2. Can you do something about this project this week? 

Yes: Move to question 3.

No: Put the item in your incubation list. This week you do not have the time, energy or other resources to do it. Whether the item is not ready to take action. It means that the decision you took will be evaluated again today. Either active item, either deleted or remains in the incubation list.

3. Is the task or activity a single action?

Yes: Move to question 4.

No: It will take more than one action before the item is completely finished. Put the item in your Master List. When will the item is completely finished? How do you know that no more action needs to take place? Put that on the item on your master list. Learn about your Master List on the blog.

4. Will your next action take two minutes or less to complete?

Yes: Move to question 5.

No: It will not take more time than two minutes. Put it on a list, then do it.

5. Are you best suited to do this task?

Yes: Move to question 6.

No: Then you delegate. After you have delegated, you need to follow up to see how it is going.

6. Should your next action take place at a particular time?

Yes: Your next action is going into your calendar.

No: The action goes on your next action list for the coming week.

Once you are finished, return to start for your next item. Take that item and then ask the same questions. Repeat this process until all your inboxes empty.

Post this thought process next to you to make your inbox empty and to find clarity with your work.