E-mails: The 3 Minute Rule



One thing which can seriously affect our time management and productivity is e-mails. We get a flood of them each day – some spam, some with good information and some needing specific action on our part. The problem is that it can rule our lives – if we allow it to.

One way I have found to combat this issue, is implementing the 3 Minute Rule.

Here’s how it works: When checking your e-mails, ask yourself this question: “Can I deal with this issue in less than 3 minutes?”

If the answer is “yes”, deal with the e-mail and file it away. If the answer is “no”, move it to a folder named “To Be Actioned”.

Schedule time in each day to deal with all e-mails in the “To Be Actioned” folder – deal with the entire batch in one session. Then file it away

Working with the 3 Minute Rule has many benefits:


  • Ensures your inbox doesn’t get clogged up
  • No e-mails (and actions) slips through the cracks
  • Saves time (less toggling between tasks)
  • Helps to keep you focused on specific tasks


Personally, I only check e-mails three times per day – first thing in the morning, midday and towards the end of the day. I use the 3 Minute Rule on all three occasions every day and slot in one task session per day, to deal with e-mails in my “To Be Actioned” folder. This is usually in the late afternoon. At the end of each day, my inbox is clear and I have attended to all e-mails for that day (either filed, replied or deleted).


Acton point: Implement the 3 Minute Rule in your office for one week and note the difference it makes to your e-mail handling, time management and productivity.


Tiana Wilson-Buys is a “Get Stuff Done” Business Coach and Productivity Strategist. She offers a free 10-Day Time-Saving Tactics programme via e-mail which you can find here.