Touch it Once

One of the most influential leaders at Caterpillar introduced me to the “Touch it Once” productivity concept. That was at least 15 years back.

A quick google search shows that “Touch it Once” is not a unique concept, but I can attest that it can be life-changing when you start to use this method in your daily work.

The idea is that you don’t put things to the side to address later. Once you open an email, you do not start anything else until that message is read and you take some form of action.

For me, it may be simply the action of Archiving each email I read. However, when a response or action is needed, I make it a point to not move on to anything else until I’m able to move the item along to it’s next stage.

Of course, there will be occasional distractions that don’t allow you to finish taking the action at that minute, but the key is, don’t jump to another task or email until you finish addressing that open item.

The “Touch it Once” method is so valuable because it helps limit the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Before I implemented this method into my working style, I would attempt to read all emails and then prioritize what needed to be done. All the items piled up. If things got in the way, the pile just got larger and larger. The awareness of all those items and half-thoughts on what should be done for each can exhaust a person.

The “Touch it Once” method may be a mind-game since the number of emails may pile up, but until you read the message, it is not filling your mental space.

A benefit of today’s technology is that if something critical and time sensitive is happening, there are so many other ways for people to reach you immediately. So, there has never been a better time to use the “Touch it Once” method.

There is no question in my mind that using the “Touch it Once” method is one of the best personal productivity methods I’ve every implemented. I’ve been using it for at least 10 years. I’d recommend you give it a shot.


Getting things done in a big company is an art. Partnership is critical as very little happens in a silo, and if it does, it is commonly not so good for the company.

Siloed activities typically stem from a lack of desire to collaborate. This is driven by the fact that working with others can be more tedious and time consuming then executing something independently. Acting independently requires little need to build shared perspective or consensus thus you can act faster.

However, from the broader point of view of the business, siloed work is commonly found to be costly and only meeting the business needs and value of a single group.

In large companies, size is an advantage. Bringing multiple groups together with common needs provides a cost effective method to create greater value for multiple groups.

Sure, it’s hard to bring everyone together and establish solutions that meet everyone’s needs, but with the right techniques and approach, it can be done.

Everyone can share in the value story and be apart of a common vision and culture.

PS: I’d highly recommend the following article that digs into the effect of Silos in organizations:

Mental Preparedness

Having everything ‘figured out’ is not immediate. It can take time.

The process of soaking in information and understanding the back / side stories is something that should not be rushed.

Creating a mental map of 3 key areas is critical for starters…

  1. What is being done?
  2. What are the immediate opportunities?
  3. What are the long-term objectives?

As this begins to form mentally, the process of locking these details down into documented form will be geared towards summarizing what you know, avoiding taking a stab in the dark and hoping you hit the target.

The intention is to get to the point where formal goals can be established. But, before moving too fast, make sure that you take the time to mentally hover.

If you jump in too fast and start to ‘put things on paper’, you will find too many areas where you have to backpedal or adjust. That is what happens when you don’t take the right amount of time to process and build a solid stance of what is happening and what needs to be done.