Today’s topic sounds a lot ruder than it is. In essence it’s saying you don’t touch something/pick it up unless you intend to do something with it. Not the mail, your email or that dirty cup on your bedside table.
Kelly couldn’t believe she’d not come across this concept until the end of last year (courtesy of Kevin Kruse’s book 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management) while Carly’s been doing it pretty much her whole life. Does it work? Yes? How do you get more of ‘Touch it once’ in your life? The girls share some real life examples for your listening and productivity pleasure.
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Carly Jacobs: Welcome to Episode 07 of Straight and Curly. Today, we’re going to be talking about the concept of Touch It Once. This one sounds a little bit naughty but it’s not. I promise. So the topic that we’re talking about today is, it’s essentially the concept of never touching anything a second time. So if you pick something up, you need to do a thing with it. Otherwise, don’t pick it up in the first place. So this works across a variety of different areas in your life. So for instance, you wouldn’t open up your email inbox unless you intend on replying to your emails. You wouldn’t pick up a dirty cup unless you plan on washing it. You wouldn’t get out of bed unless you plan on making the bed. That kind of stuff.
Kelly Exeter: Cool. I consider myself a bit of a productivity junkie as you know. So I am completely ashamed that I only came across this concept late last year and I cam across it in a book by Kevin Kruse. And it’s called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. So you can see why I read that book. And I was so enamored with this Touch It Once philosophy when I came across that. I actually exert to the bit of that book to publish on my blog. So I had already adhered to a similar kind of rule which was called, I got this from Gretchen Rubin which is called the One Minute Rule. So it’s basically, if something’s going to take a minute to do, don’t think about it. Don’t ponder should I do this now? Should I do this later? Should I wash this cup or should I just put it by the sink? Should I open this letter on my hand or should I just put it down and I’ll come back to it later? What she’d say, if it’s going to take one minute, you just do it.
But I just feel like the whole Touch It Once concept takes it to a whole another level. And it’s kind of saying, as you said at the top, it makes you more intentional because it’s saying unless you intend to do something with that thing, yeah, you don’t touch it. Because I know even just when keeping a house tidy, you can like, I can pick up a towel in the bathroom and then I could drape it over the toilet or something instead of hanging it up or I’ll look at the top towel in the corner and I’ll go oh that’s dirty. That needs to go in the wash. And I’m not looking at it three or four times before actually doing something with it. So it’s kind of just saying, and I guess Touch It Once means that you know, you can look at the towel but don’t do anything with it unless you can actually put it in the washing machine and wash it.
And so it just makes you more efficient because it means you’re not as you said, touching things twice, going back to things that you’ve already kind of half-processed so for me, email is the big one where I do this. I like to be on top of my inbox. If an email drops into my inbox, I’ll quickly check my inbox. Have a quick read at the message. I might quickly reply to it if I can but otherwise I’ll let it sit there if it needs replying to. Let it out or it needs an action that’s going to be done next week. And that email might sit in my inbox for a week and every time I look at it, I think oh I’ve got to do something about that email. And it just drives you nuts because there’s all these things that you know need your attention and you’ve kind of given them your attention two, three, or four times.
Carly Jacobs: And that’s just wasting brain space and energy and stress as well on something, on insignificant stuff as well.
Kelly Exeter: And it usually is, it usually is really stupid, insignificant stuff. So you’ve tried this out Carl. So what’s your experience with it?
Carly Jacobs: I’m a bit of a pain in the ass. And I actually do this quite naturally. I’m a real finisher of things like I actually finish projects. And I think that’s actually one of my biggest tips ever is just finish the thing that you started. Like I’ll go to friends’ houses and they’ll be halfway through cleaning up their linen cupboards and they’ll like stop and do something else and then I go back like three weeks later and they’ve still got piles of 4:16 on the floor and I’m like how are you living like this? Just finish the thing that you started. I just think that’s the worst case scenario of touching something twice, getting halfway through a job and not completing it. So I think even on a very, very base level, on a very. very simple level, just finish the jobs that you start.
Kelly Exeter: And don’t start it unless your intent is to actually finish it. So if you’re going to clean your linen cupboard, you make sure you’re going to finish cleaning out your linen cupboard. If you start filing stuff, don’t stuff halfway through.
Carly Jacobs: Yeah, this also just comes down to time management and I think a lot of the reason why a lot of the people find themselves a bit crazy in their life is because they don’t actually acknowledge how long it takes to do stuff.
Kelly Exeter: Oh yeah, totally.
Carly Jacobs: So someone will be.. actually my very best friend who I adore very much, I honestly love this girl so much. She has no idea how long it takes to do anything every. If we’re going somewhere, she’ll leave at the time we’re supposed to be there. And I can’t even… but it’s just that misrepresentation of how long something’s going to take. So for instance, if you open up your emails you should only have opened up your emails when you have at least half an hour to spend replying to the ones that you can reply to quite quickly and there are some ones that you can’t reply to straight away because you need to locate a document or you need to get two people to sign something and then you can email it back. And it’s totally fine to touch that twice because no one’s going to have time to drop everything that they’re doing and deal with an email that’s going to take an hour and a half to complete. But if there’s a quick one there, you shouldn’t ever just be opening it up for no reason. I also think that using timers is a really good way to help with these as well. So I’m a huge fan of timers. And just if you set a time to complete a task in 20 minutes, you just have to get it done by then. So if you want to clean a bathroom, set a time of 20 minutes and get it done. Otherwise, you’ll be like, I’m going to clean the bathroom. And you’ll go in there and just kind of like poke the toilet brush at the toilet bowl for like five minutes and be like, ah I’m finished.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, and I think in the same way that a lot of people underestimate how long something is going to take, we also overestimate how long some things are going to take. So the other day, this is shortly after I kind of came across the Touch It Once concept. Someone had backed into our car so we had to put our car into the mechanic to get fixed and they gave me a loaner car in the meantime. So I had to take the kids’ car seats out of our car. Put it into the loaner car. Drive the loaner car around for three days then when we went back to pick the car up, I only needed my son’s car seat because he was with me. So I set his car seat up through my daughter’s in the back and then got home and I looked at it and I went, touch it once Kelly. Install that seat now because otherwise what would have happened is that every single time I went to the car, I would have looked at that seat and go, I really need to install that. I really need to install that. And then it would have come to a time, so not only was that mental energy every single time I saw that bloody car seat but it would have come to a time where we’d be in a massive rush trying to get out of the house and I’d be like, damn it the car seat’s not installed and having to do it. But we got home after picking the car up. I looked at the seat. I went, I’m going to install that right now and it took me like 3 minutes to do. And it saved me countless minutes in wasted brain energy looking at that car seat. So yeah, after I wrote about this on my blog, I got the excerpt published on my blog. People lost their minds at how just easy this is to apply to just so much of your everyday life.
Carly Jacobs: It’s all about just being aware of it too. And I think a lot of people don’t even realize that they’re doing it. And the reason why people don’t do tasks like that straight away is because they don’t want to do them. Because they blow them out of proportion and think it’s going to be like the biggest thing that’s ever happened in the world. And there’s two things you need to think about with that. One, it’s actually never as bad as you think it’s going to be. You can sit there all day and procrastinate on completing a project that you have to do or going to the post post office like, I hate going to the post office. I hate it so much. It’s like, my local people who work at the post office are pretty useless so that’s actually one of the reasons why I hate it so much. But I’ll put it off all day and all day and all day and waste all this time putting off going. And when I go, it’s actually quite fine and I mean even though they’re really slow, they’re really nice. And also, I get my parcels and everything’s lovely. And so there’s no point in going, I have to go to the post office. I have to go to the post office. I have to go to the post office. The first thing I think about it, I should just go. And the second thing of that is that putting off the task isn’t going to make you want to do it more.
Kelly Exeter: That’s right.
Carly Jacobs: You go, oh my god I really don’t want to do this. I hate it so much. You’re not like if you don’t want to clean the toilet now, you’d not going to want to do it anymore in half an hour. So you might as well just do it now and cut out that full half an hour of eight hours of procrastination about cleaning the toilet.
Kelly Exeter: And ultimately, this just comes down to we have such limited capacities in our brain for decision making and for… we want to use our brains for fun stuff. We want to create space in our brains to be creative and to problem solved in a good way to be happy. And if we’re taking up all that space in our brains with “oh I really don’t feel like doing that thing right now. When am I going to do? Look I’ll do it tomorrow.” It’s just such a waste of time and energy. So yeah, I just love this rule so much because it just takes decision making out of the equation. It makes you go, “Right, if I pick this thing up, I am going to do something with it.” Kevin in his book, he talks about the example he gives is sorting his mail. So he’ll get his mail form the letter box and there’ll be a billing there. There’ll be an invitation in there. There’ll be junk mail in there. There’ll be things that all require a different level of doing something with. And he says, so he’ll open some up on the way through the house when he just picked it up and then he’ll put it down on the counter and then he’ll come back to it the next day and now he says, what he does is… so he’s walking from the letterbox through his house. He pulls out the junk mail that goes straight in the bin.
Carly Jacobs: Oh I do that.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, and I’m the same. I actually do that as well. And he says if there’s an invitation in there, he’d go straight to his computer, sends and RSVP and puts it in his calendar. And the next day, there’s a bill in there. He’s got a system for paying his bill. He pays his bills once a month so the bill goes on the par with the other bills that get paid once a week or once a month. And then you don’t have this clutter of… because it’s a clutter-reducing thing as well. You don’t have this clutter of papers sitting on your counter waiting for you to go, okay. And the longer that clutter sits on your counter top, the bigger it looks in terms of… you just bill it up in your head and…
Carly Jacobs: And the more intimidating it becomes.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, and the more you put it off, the worse it seems what’s it going to be when you deal with that. And then by the time you actually deal with it and you just go, wow I can’t believe I just put off sorting my mail for three days that took all of 30 seconds. So I’m a big person for creating brain space and freeing up brain space.
Carly Jacobs: This also helps with like everyday tasks where if you’re finding that you’re struggling to keep your house tidy and there’s dishes everywhere and that kind of stuff. No matter how busy you are, you always have t put your bowl in the dishwasher before you leave in the morning. Seriously, it takes no time to put a thing in the dishwasher and how people don’t put dirty stuff in dishwashers, I’m like, sorry what were you going to do with that whole seven seconds that you just saved?
Kelly Exeter: Yes, I also had. Because this was my father-in-law, I think I mentioned it in the earlier podcast that we live with my father-in-law. And he has this things where he uses a knife and then he would just put it on the counter by the sink but the counter by the sink is directly above the dishwasher.
Carly Jacobs: The only thing, the only thing, just before you keep going, the only thing that is unacceptable about that is that is the international sign for, I might have another sandwich later if I’m decided.
Kelly Exeter: He never does. He never does. He literally uses it to cut himself a quick slice of cheese or something and then he will always just leave the knife on the counter top and I can’t have a go at him because we’ve been living with him rent-proof for three years while we build a house. So totally not, I want to do that but it just cracks me up because I feel like he’s the only person in the world who would do that.
Carly Jacobs: I’ll tell you what. I think Mr. Smaggle might out me as being someone who does that. Only with knives though. Because I’m like, I might want to use this knife again soon and once I put something in the dishwasher, I really hate taking it back out of the dishwasher. I’m a bit weird with knives. I don’t know. I kind of feel like, I’m sorry Kel. I think I’m on the father-in-law side of this one.
Kelly Exeter: I don’t even know you anymore Carly. I can’t believe that you would do this. How often do you actually use the knife again? Tell me.
Carly Jacobs: Well it depends if it’s like a sharp knife and I’ve used it to cut up my morning carrot sticks, and then maybe I might need to cut up some more vegetables for lunch. I’ll leave it on the bench because I might be going to use it like an hour later. But I’ll give it a wipe, like I’ll wipe it up and then leave it on the bench. Because it’s like oh my god, now I just feel like a total freak.
Kelly Exeter: Don’t you worry that if an ax murderer came into your house and there was a knife conveniently sitting on your bench, I would use it against you. Doesn’t that ever enter your mind?
Carly Jacobs: Well if he’s an ax murderer, he’s got an ax. Why use the knife? Logic Kelly. Logic.
Kelly Exeter: He might be ax-less. I never ever leave, I never leave knives in the sink and I never leave knives on the countertop even if it’s a butter knife because I always think if someone comes in my house and they’re trying to hurt me, and granted this has not happened in 38 years of living, but if they did, I just don’t want easy access.
Carly Jacobs: And you’ve also got kids. I’m just this childless heathen that can just leave knives and…
Kelly Exeter: Wherever you feel like.
Carly Jacobs: Open flames everywhere. Spikes sticking out of the walls. It’s a death trap here for toddlers.
Kelly Exeter: Alright, so tips on… and I think that we’ve covered a lot of the tips for how to actually make this happen in your life but as we’ve said, one big thing is don’t pick it up unless you’re going to deal with it. If you’re going to pick up that shirt that’s hanging over the sofa, as I did this morning, and then you’re just going to hang it over the nearby chair instead, what are you doing? I actually can’t believe I did that. That’s what I did.
Carly Jacobs: But it’s not just as bad as leaving your knife on the counter.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, instead of taking it down to my daughter’s room, it was kind of just draped onto the sofa so I hang it neatly over the chair and I felt like that was moving it up in the world where I should have just taken it down to her bedroom and put it away in her cupboard.
Carly Jacobs: Touch it once Kel. Touch it once.
Kelly Exeter: And then obviously, emails. Don’t open your email inbox as you’ve said. Unless you actually intend to do something with the emails in there. And just on email, something that I picked up from Kevin which I thought was really good is that he said, sometimes he might get an email where it requires him to make a phone call so he’s like, “I’m not going to reply to that email because I need to talk to that person about it. So in that situation, I would ordinarily just leave the email in my inbox and then it would just be a constant reminder that I need to call that person and I haven’t done it yet. So what he does is he goes, if that email requires a phone call, he actually schedules a time for a phone call into his calendar and then that email is done with. Gone. Filed.
Carly Jacobs: I actually have a system that might help people. So with my inbox, I treat my email inbox as a to-do list. And everyday, I make sure it’s empty at the end of everyday. So that’s basically me ticking off all the things that are in my to-do list like replying to the emails and doing whatever it is that’s associated with those emails. And if my inbox has four or five emails in it before I go to bed, that means I’ve got four or five things that I didn’t do that day and because I’m a perfectionist, that will not help me sleep so I need to make sure I tick all the things off.
Kelly Exeter: And coming back to the One Minute Rule so if you want to invoke that if that helps at all is if a job’s going to take you under one minute, don’t spend time thinking about it. Touch it and do it. It sounds very rude, doesn’t it?
Carly Jacobs: It does. Touch it once. Just only once. The ruling action…
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, we’ve actually kind of covered most. We’re looking at our notes dear listeners. And we’ve already spoken about all the stuff.
Carly Jacobs: We have. I was just about to go in a bit, like no, we’ve already done that. So basically, we come back to is it worth your time? Should you try it? Kelly and I have both tried it and it’s kind of our daily mantra. We both use it everyday consistently all day and yes, it’s totally worth it. Totally awesome. And dare we say, life-changing. You should definitely give it a go. And maybe it could just be a challenge that you do for the next three days. So give yourself three days to give it a go and every time you touch something, try to only touch it once and get it done and get it out of the way. And you’ll just find you’re freeing up so much mental space, physical space as well because it definitely helps you deal with clutter. Yeah, it’s awesome. Give it a go.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, absolutely 100%. Thank you so much for listening to Straight and Curly. This week’s show notes and links will be available at www.straightandcurly.com.
Carly Jacobs: And if you have any questions or with self-improvement hacks that you want us to trial, you can tweet us @kellyexeter or @smaggle or you can email us at email@example.com.