Fire and Forget (AKA 'The BCC Trick') - Next Action Associates

“The highest-performing people I know are those who have installed the best tricks in their lives.” – David Allen

One of the characteristics of GTD® compared to other content in the productivity space is that it is decidedly not just a collection of time management ‘tips and tricks’. Hell no. However, as David Allen’s words suggest, a good trick can be extremely valuable, so in this blog I thought I’d share my favourite.

Although this trick has undoubtedly saved me countless hours since I started using it many years ago, the time-saving pales into insignificance compared to the uncountable thing that was really saved, which was the mental effort involved in having to remember thousands of emails that I’d sent, and the consequences that might ensue if I forgot. So here goes…

Have you ever found yourself having to chase something up that you’re waiting for? Of course you have. Keeping on top of the many responses you’re waiting for can be a source of stress for two reasons; firstly because you have to remember them, and secondly because there’s the added anxiety about whether the other person has remembered them, too. Many a swear word has been uttered upon finding out that the key link in the chain is now out of office until Monday…

A simple solution to this problem is one that I call the ‘BCC trick’. It takes a lot of the hassle out of that tracking and, once you’ve done a couple of minutes of one-off setup in your email tool (see below), then you’ll have an easy way of tracking what you send out into the world.

And what I love about this technique is that it’s what I call ‘fire and forget’; i.e. you can use it quickly and easily when you’re in the flow of sending emails without having to break your stride to keep flipping back into admin mode with your lists. Just hit ‘Send’ and the system and the process below will take care of the rest.

So how do you do it…?

The technique operates on the basis that if you simply BCC (or blind copy) yourself in an email that you need to track, then your system can automatically notice this and collect together everything that you’re waiting for into one place. Then you simply need to review all of it once a week, which you can trigger with a calendar reminder or by making it part of your GTD Weekly Review® checklist.

Most of the emails won’t need chasing because people will have replied already – just delete those – but you will always find a few that do, and those are the ones you can then chase up directly from the email itself. Timing-wise, doing this on Friday mornings makes sense if you want to close loops with people before the weekend, or perhaps Mondays if you want to nudge people on things that are due later in the week. Whatever works best for you.

And that’s it. All your chasing regularly, systematically and thoroughly done, taking a load off your mind and reducing the amount of swearing in the workplace because something slipped off the radar until it was too late.

What’s the alternative? Well, there’s remembering your sent emails in your head. Null points for that, as they say in the Eurovision song contest. More enlightened beings have already evolved the habit of occasionally checking their ‘Sent’ mail, which is way better but it still means you’re looking through lots of stuff you don’t need to. The BCC trick takes that smart intention and turns it into efficient, bulletproof execution.

View the instructions for setting up the BCC trick in Outlook Office 365 Web app, Outlook for Windows and Gmail here (and note that the approach can be applied in most email tools).

 

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