30-Day Productivity Challenge: Is It Possible to Manage My E-mail with One-Touch Rule (OTR)?

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My e-mail usage got pretty much out of hand when I got my first smartphone. All of a sudden my inbox was available with a single tap of a button and I was checking my e-mail whenever possible.

At some point I realized that checking my e-mail this way was pretty silly, so I started to figure out a more effective e-mail routine.


This routine would help me to check my e-mail only couple of times per day but still allow me to achieve inbox 0 every time I was checking the inbox.

Then, I happened to stumble upon Kosio Angelov’s free video series where he talked about One-Touch Rule (OTR) e-mail management.

Download my inbox processing PDF which shows some additional tips for reaching Inbox 0.

The basic idea was just what I was looking for: Check one’s e-mail three times per day, spend 15-30 minutes on your inbox at a time and actually process all the messages at once with just one touch.

This led me to believe that I could test the strategy and see how it works in practice. And although I didn’t implement his strategy exactly as-is (for instance the OTR Gmail Hack as explained in the first video), my e-mail processing truly changed.

But before we go to my results, let’s see the lessons I learned during this test.

Top-4 lessons learned during the experiment

1. Remove the potential temptations first

One of the first things I did with my smartphone was to stop the automatic synchronization with my Gmail account.

I noticed that if I saw how many unread messages I had on my inbox, I had the urge to open it too often.

What’s even worse - and because of some setting in my smartphone’s e-mail client - the messages I had processed through my phone were still seen as unread in my Gmail inbox when I opened it through the browser.

That’s why I decided to stop checking e-mail through my phone in the first place. I felt that I was processing same messages twice and this wasn’t what I wanted.

2. Opening my inbox became a reward

I found that checking my e-mail three times per day was enough for me. And as the OTR rule states, I would only spend 15-30 minutes on my inbox each time I opened the inbox.

I spread those e-mail checking times throughout the day: In the morning (but not as the first thing though!), in the afternoon and in the evening.

This schedule helped me to fully focus on other tasks and not to think about e-mail all the time. In fact, opening my inbox felt almost like a reward after I had done some other work first.

3. My e-mail checking became faster

Every time I opened my e-mail inbox, I had a lot more e-mails to process than before since I now opened my inbox only three times per day.

At the same time, I realized that I was able to weed-out a lot of messages with couple of simple steps.

4. You need to be flexible with your system

It became apparent, that checking my e-mail only three times per day was sometimes just impossible. That’s why I defined the exceptions when I was allowed to check my inbox outside those defined times:

  • I was working on something and I needed some information in an email
  • I registered to a service and I was asked to click link in a message in order to activate the service (this activation was related to a task I was working on)
  • I wanted to check that a Skype call with someone was still going to happen (at times, someone would cancel the call just few minutes before it was scheduled and the person notified me about this by e-mail)
  • I needed to check my Helpful Marketing reservations (as they come to me through e-mail)

The results

report card

After living the lifestyle of checking my e-mail three times per day (with those listed exceptions of course), I’m happy to say that this method works and there is no turning back to my old, inefficient e-mail routine.

I can definitely focus on other things outside my inbox time blocks, knowing that my e-mail is not going anywhere.

Since I developed a simple system I follow every time I process my e-mail, I’m certain that I can reach the inbox zero almost every time.

In closing, I totally recommend this practice for anyone! It may take a bit of time to get used to, but you’ll love it after doing it for a while.

Want some additional tips on managing your e-mail (and reaching Inbox 0)?

Download a bonus e-mail processing PDF: My Simple 6-Step Inbox 0 Technique in Gmail.

Just click the image below and download your bonus!

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6 thoughts on “30-Day Productivity Challenge: Is It Possible to Manage My E-mail with One-Touch Rule (OTR)?”

  1. I’m becoming way too obsessive about my own email, too. I sometimes even find myself refreshing the browser just as an idle habit! It doesn’t help that my smartphone has that exact same phone client synchronization issue that you described.

    • Hi Patrick!

      I can understand you. Especially in my situation, things got worse when I got my smartphone.

      I encourage you to test the One-Touch Rule and see how well it works for you.


  2. I check my inbox all too often. I know how to manage it effectively, but I just don’t do it.
    I can clean my inbox within a quarter with my managing routines and my habits are not so bad. I have 3 main accounts and 2 of them are zeroed most of the time. But still, it’s my biggest time sucker.
    Having a clear rules, like you have Timo is a great help. This is my takeaway from this post. I’ll establish mine too.

    • Hi Michal!

      That’s great to hear!

      OTR has definitely changed how I deal with e-mail and it has saved me a lot of time so far.


      • I’m back to report:
        I set myself the rules for checking email and FB. The main theme, I can do it only 3 times a day.
        The biggest impact has a requirement to log into the text file each instance of launching an email program or FB outside my set of rules. It serves both to boost my awareness (I can’t just mindlessly log into, I have to write an explanation in the log first) and as a stick. I’m ashamed to write in it: “satysfying cravings” ;)

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