Get Yourself To OHIO

This week, Promotional Consultant Today has been talking about the importance of workplace organization—it's that magical place where your email inbox is empty, your desk is cleared and you have the perfectly balanced schedule of meetings and time in the office to do your work.

Yeah, right! While we might not reach this fairyland, we can certainly implement strategies to make our clutter-filled lives a bit more manageable, allowing more time to focus on ways to do our jobs better.

In this issue of PCT, we are passing along organizational methodology for managing your to-do list, as explained by freelance writer Kara Cutruzzula in a recent Fast Company article. The methodology? OHIO.

OHIO, as Cutruzzula describes, is the land of efficiency, where you feel like you are in control and don't have random thoughts of "I can't forget this … or … I've got to do that" cluttering your mind. OHIO stands for Only Handle It Once, and the goal is self-explanatory—to only handle things one time. Read an email and respond immediately. Grab your pile of junk mail, go through it and toss or keep things, right then and there. See a text from a friend asking, "When are you free later?" and answer right away. No delaying, no overthinking.

The idea was outlined in the book Extreme Productivity and was based on an equally simple concept. If you procrastinate on responding to that email, you might think you're not thinking about the email, but it's taking up space in your mind. Putting it off can also accrue guilt, which makes it even more difficult to start.

Studies suggest that multitasking is less productive than completing one task at a time. One study at Stanford University also showed that heavy multi-taskers who love juggling a million things at once are worse at completing tasks than those with a slow and steady, consistent pace. OHIO forces you to micro-focus. Do one task quickly. Pause. Quickly, do another task. Repeat. And move on.

In her article, Cutruzzula describes her own experience with the OHIO method. She said that when she received emails requiring a long, thoughtful response, she would let them sit for an hour, only to realize she still hadn't responded three days later. Then she tried the OHIO method. First, she asked herself how long it would actually take to write the response, which was about two minutes, so she responded immediately—and saved herself the guilt of forgetting.

Cutruzzula took the same approach with text messages. What she noticed was that knocking out these little tasks made load feel much lighter. Putting off little tasks added up—like having 47 tabs open in her browser at all times—while completing tasks immediately provided the benefit of a more focused and less distracted mind.

Of course, there are times when you won't be able to finish everything ASAP. When that happens, Bob Pozen, the author of Extreme Productivity, says to put a reminder on your calendar to respond to a specific request in the future. This way you're giving yourself a deadline, and you don't have to worry about when/where it'll get done.

Also, if you're avoiding a task, try to identify the root cause. Are you nervous? Do you need more information? Do you need more advice? What's the cause for the procrastination? Address the issue and move on. Put OHIO into action and let us know how it works for you.

Source: Kara Cutruzzula is a freelance writer and editor. Her articles on travel, culture, running, and food have appeared in magazines and on websites, including Vulture,, Newsweek, and the New York Post.

filed under December 2018
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