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  • Making It All Work-Email

    Getting email to zero is a challenge for me. I have home PC files set up (@action, read/review, Calls, etc) and a paper based GTD system. I am able to get my in box emails processed into the appropriate folders, however, the actions, read/reveiw, and call folders never seem to get to a zero state. Any suggestions?

    Additionally, now I have the paper list of calls and a home PC folder of calls, a paper list of actions and a PC list of actions resulting from my emails. I can only access the PC folders when I am in my home office. Will GTD still work in this case? What do I need to consider given this set up?

  • #2
    Is the paper list of calls just a printout from your PC?

    Originally posted by debbieg View Post
    Additionally, now I have the paper list of calls and a home PC folder of calls, a paper list of actions and a PC list of actions resulting from my emails. I can only access the PC folders when I am in my home office. Will GTD still work in this case? What do I need to consider given this set up?
    Is the paper list of calls just a printout from your PC? If so I can see no problem - just use it anywhere.

    Comment


    • #3
      Essentially, your system wont work if you cant access your stuff where you need it.

      Personally I dont dig the idea of folders on email anyway, unless you have super high volume of emails perhaps.

      2 reasons. Firstly you have two places to look through every time you want to do a next action. This probably cancels any time saved by adding it to your master set of NA lists anyway. Also, in my case I also found I tended to favour one or the other location when it came to choosing what to do next e.g. I would do all my email folder actions in a row, rather than making myself decide whats the best choice to do next out of both locations.

      Second reason, in email you cant record the outcome of your thinking. Someone emails you and asks you something. You think about the answer and realise that it'll take you a while so you put it in your NA folder. However there's nowhere to record your thinking so the next time you come to look at it you have to do the thinking all over again, which personally fails the GTD test (if there is such a thing).

      So maybe something to do would be to ditch the email folders, see how that goes, if you want to you can go back to them in the future.

      Comment


      • #4
        don't worry: lists are not suppesed to get to a zero state

        Originally posted by debbieg View Post
        I am able to get my in box emails processed into the appropriate folders, however, the actions, read/reveiw, and call folders never seem to get to a zero state. Any suggestions?
        If you are using your folders as an equivalent to a list (that is a NA-folder instead of a NA-list for example), it is normal that those never get to zero. That would mean that you would have no NA's left whatsoever, no calls left, no reading left, etc...

        Getting e-mail to zero is all about getting your inbox to zero, handle and/or distribute what comes out of it to your lists (whether on paper, in a software, in a folder). It is not about getting all of your lists to zero.

        Whether using e-mail folders as lists is a good idea or not, is a completely different question. I myself have a folder called "answer" in my e-mail, I put those mails in there that only require me to answer them (no other NA associated). It works fine for me. On the other hand, I also have a mail folder called "action" where I put those mails with associated actions. I try as much as I can to note those actions on my NA-list, so that that mail folder is just like "support material", and it doesn't become a list by itself. i must admit that that is not yet working 100%. In the heat of processing, I sometimes don't note the NA on my list, and then suddenly discover several e-mails in that action folder that I overlooked during a review. But I keep working on it...

        Myriam

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        • #5
          Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
          Is the paper list of calls just a printout from your PC? If so I can see no problem - just use it anywhere.
          No. The paper list is calls I need to make that may come from my projects or day to day events. The PC list of calls is an email that in the course of processing my in box will require a call to resolve. Since that would take longer than two minutes in most cases, I move it to the PC calls list.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Myriam View Post
            If you are using your folders as an equivalent to a list (that is a NA-folder instead of a NA-list for example), it is normal that those never get to zero. That would mean that you would have no NA's left whatsoever, no calls left, no reading left, etc...

            Getting e-mail to zero is all about getting your inbox to zero, handle and/or distribute what comes out of it to your lists (whether on paper, in a software, in a folder). It is not about getting all of your lists to zero.

            Whether using e-mail folders as lists is a good idea or not, is a completely different question. I myself have a folder called "answer" in my e-mail, I put those mails in there that only require me to answer them (no other NA associated). It works fine for me. On the other hand, I also have a mail folder called "action" where I put those mails with associated actions. I try as much as I can to note those actions on my NA-list, so that that mail folder is just like "support material", and it doesn't become a list by itself. i must admit that that is not yet working 100%. In the heat of processing, I sometimes don't note the NA on my list, and then suddenly discover several e-mails in that action folder that I overlooked during a review. But I keep working on it...

            Myriam
            If you put an email in an "answer" folder, then you have to re-read it to determine if you are going to answer by email or phone. Yes?

            Comment


            • #7
              No, the folder "answer" is only for answers by mail

              Originally posted by debbieg View Post
              If you put an email in an "answer" folder, then you have to re-read it to determine if you are going to answer by email or phone. Yes?
              hi,

              No, that would be double work...I don't use it that way. If I have to call someone, it goes on my NA list. I only put mails in the folder "answer" when all I have to do is type an answer to the mail based on information that is right here in my head, and when I'm sure I don't need anything else for it (no looking up things, no calling someone, no reference file, ...). The answer mail in itself could be long or short, that doesn't matter. This means that at whatever point ans whatever place I can just sit down and start typing an answer (if I have internet connection, I use web based mail). This way I can work through those mails real fast.
              I am a consultant/trainer, and sometimes I have 10 to 15 minutes (waiting on a client in a meeting room, waiting for trainees to finish an exercice), this give me a possibility toI use that time useful.

              Myriam

              Comment


              • #8
                Put all calls on your paper list and use it for all calls.

                Originally posted by debbieg View Post
                The paper list is calls I need to make that may come from my projects or day to day events. The PC list of calls is an email that in the course of processing my in box will require a call to resolve. Since that would take longer than two minutes in most cases, I move it to the PC calls list.
                Put all calls on your paper list and use it for all calls.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by debbieg View Post
                  the actions, read/review, and call folders never seem to get to a zero state.
                  That's certainly not unusual -- if all those folders were empty, you'd literally have nothing to do. That might be good right before retirement or undergoing risky surgery, but most people most of the time will never zero out those folders.

                  I can only access the PC folders when I am in my home office. Will GTD still work in this case? What do I need to consider given this set up?
                  Some people find this problematic, some people don't. Personally I have a parallel system at Work and at Home and it works fine for me. The only unusual thing you might find useful is a good solid way to transfer things between the two Inboxes.


                  Cheers,
                  Roger

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re:

                    "Getting email to zero is a challenge for me. I have home PC files set up (@action, read/review, Calls, etc) and a paper based GTD system. I am able to get my in box emails processed into the appropriate folders, however, the actions, read/reveiw, and call folders never seem to get to a zero state. Any suggestions?"

                    I don't think that you should ever expect these to get to a zero state, any more than you should expect your action lists to get to a zero state. Getting your Inbox to zero is, IMO, about getting your _Inbox_ to zero - looking at all the new emails, processing them, and deciding what actions (or potential actions) are called for. Once an email hits @action, Calls, whatever, it's processed, and it's out of the Inbox. Those folders are now support to your action lists - in fact, they _are_ action lists - so they can't be expected to go to zero.

                    Now, I am a bit fuzzy about read/review. Does this refer to emails where the action really is read/review (as in, "Could you please review the latest revision of this document?" or "New HR family leave policy enclosed.")? Or are they emails that you haven't decided what to do about? If it's the second then, yes, I'd say that they are effectively still in your Inbox, and you need to process them into your system before you can say that your email Inbox is at zero. (Though processing them still might consist of writing an action "Spend ten minutes deciding what to do about complaint from Judy Jones, email 10/1/2010.")

                    That said, with email the distinction between unprocessed and processed items can be quite fuzzy, and for that reason, I don't use email folders as action lists. When I process an email, I extract the potential actions, issues, notes, whatever, and put them in my main GTD system (in OmniFocus, in my case), and then archive the email. I may process those items into actions or projects on the spot, or they may sit in my OmniFocus inbox, waiting for processing.

                    For example, if an email comes in saying, say, "Could you please review the latest revision of this document?" then I put a note in my OmniFocus Inbox saying, "Email from Sharon, 10/1/2010, requesting review of Widget Document v2.7.". And then I dump the email that triggered that note into the unsorted archive of all the email from the entire year, because the note contains enough information to allow me to easily find it again.

                    The only time that I sort my email into folders is when I'm working on a task that uses multiple emails as source material and I don't want to have to search for them repeatedly - for example, if I'm figuring out budget spent and I have a bunch of weekly expense emails. Then I put _copies_ of those emails into a folder, do the task, and then delete the copies when I'm done. But that's project support material, not action management.

                    All of this means that I never, ever have to read an email again until I'm ready to work on that action. Scanning one-line actions repeatedly, when deciding what to work on, is a lot faster than scanning emails, where each email has to be displayed, and may be cluttered up with greetings and discussions and more than one actionable issue. Once I've identified and extracted the issues included in an email, I never want to have to do so again.

                    Gardener

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