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How much of your GTD system is in your email program?

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  • How much of your GTD system is in your email program?

    At work it is quite a bit. We use Outlook 2003, and lately I have been keeping a clean inbox, and it feels great! I have a Time Critical HOLD folder where I try to keep most active task emails, and a lower priority HOLD for things with looser or no real deadlines. So my goal is always to work through the Time Critical HOLD and get to the HOLD. Mmmm-hhh, you know how that goes. Someday, maybe!

    I also think I make pretty good use of the tickler system, reminders on the calendar. But how much is too much as far as ticklers? I did learn long ago not to optimistically put things I'd LIKE to get done by certain dates in the tickler system, since the resultant snooze alarm use got tiring. Now only hard and fast deadlines get ticklers,and my calendar is sacred.

    But when next actions have hard due dates, should they go there? It seems like dropping emails onto the calendar with reminders a few days ahead of deadlines makes sense. Or should I just include due dates on the items in the Next Actions list? That's simple but not very foolproof, and doesn't get the underlying email as contextual supporting information.

    And lastly, I tend to use simple text files in Notepad for Next Action, Projects, my daily journal of tasks completed, etc. I am often tempted to use Excel so I can put in due dates and do sorting, but I always stop because of the overhead of Excel, mostly that it takes longer to open. I guess I could just always leave it open, but I seem to prefer the simplicity and somewhat free-er format of plain text.

    Comments? This stuff is a journey!!!

  • #2
    I've moved away from using emails as the action reminder, as most emails aren't written so that's obvious enough. I found I wasn't doing actions because I had to re-read the email and often forgot what I'd planned to do.. and 1 email may have several actions.
    So my next actions are in an iPhone app Pocket Informant, my email action support in an email folder @ACTION SUPPORT, and my project plans are in Word.
    I use the task section in Outlook as a tickler. I put calendar stuff into Pocket Informant and block out time there rather than Outlook.


    • #3
      What about putting your next actions in the Tasks list? I've just discovered you can set reminders for tasks at a suitable time/date in advance. You could drop the e-mail into the task.



      • #4
        Almost none

        I use Apple Mail and e-mail is only an inbox and then a reference filing system for me.

        Any actions I either clip out of the e-mail into Omnifocus or I clip the whole message to the OF inbox and then process it into an action there.

        The clipping allows me to get the multiple actions that tend to come in single e-mails.

        Then all e-maisl and all sent ones are stored in either my reference folder or in my sent mail folder on my machine. I do not leave any messages on any server even though I have accounts at g-mail and other places as well.


        • #5
          I use Outlook 2007 at work and 2010 at home. Under my Inbox folder I've created the following special folders and added them to my Favorite Folders list (I'm not sure if that's a feature in 2003, it's been a while).

          @Waiting For
          ~Action Support
          ~Waiting For Support

          I also change the properties of each of these folders so that I always can see how many items are in them. To do this, right-click each folder and choose Properties. On the General tab, select the radio button next to "Show total number of items".

          The choice between using @Action and @Waiting For folders in your e-mail system vs using your action lists does not necessarily have to be absolute. For each e-mail I process I choose which one to use depending on the content of the e-mail and the work embedded within it.

          SCENARIO: The e-mail requires a reply that I can do in under two minutes.
          RECOMMENDED ACTION: Immediately reply.

          SCENARIO: The e-mail requires a reply that I can do in a single action step but will take me longer than two minutes to do it.

          RECOMMENDED ACTION: Tack (Reply) to the end of the subject line and move the e-mail to @Action folder.

          SCENARIO: The e-mail is long and/or detailed. The potential work embedded in it will take more than two minutes to discover. There's a temptation to throw it on the hunnhh? stack.

          RECOMMENDED ACTION: Tack (Read & Review) to the end of the subject line and move to @Action. When you do take that action you might define projects and other actions. When you are finished, file the e-mail under ~Action Support or a support folder for said project.

          SCENARIO: The appropriate action to handle the e-mail is a phone call or something else outside of the e-mail system.

          RECOMMENDED ACTION: Add the appropriate next action to your context lists. File the e-mail under ~Action Support until it is no longer needed.

          During my weekly review I sweep all four folders for outstanding actions and to purge items that have no further value.

          I'd also like to address your comments on calendar reminders. You can put any type of day specific reminders on your calendar such as due dates, reminders that it might be a good idea to do one of your defined actions on a particular day (I use this for weather-dependent work) or information that I need that day (an airline itinerary, for example). However, unless the action is a day-specific action (i.e. this action can only happen on March 4, 2011 and must be done that day or it dies), the action belongs on your context lists. But, as I said before, you can put any day-specific reminders you want about that action on your calendar.

          This is a good thread; thanks for starting it. I hope that this information can be of help.


          • #6
            As some of the users of GMail recently discovered, you need to consider the possibility that one day you might wake up and all your email is gone.

            If that's an acceptable risk to you, then by all means, carry on.



            • #7
              This is more of a technical thread thing but, since a lot of my GTD system is in emails, it matters to me.

              I had an old Hotmail account with lots of important information inside. Then I got worried about not having the data anywhere else and decided to switch to a standard IMAP provider.

              I paid Microsoft the fee to have hotmail POP enabled and connected to my account via my email client.

              So now I have a backed up library of my hotmail emails in a format my computer can read.

              Then I opened a new account with an IMAP provider.

              In my email client, I just dragged and dropped the old Hotmail folders into my new account's folders and there was some churning away and now both account's emails are sitting in both my client, nicely backed up twice, and in my new provider.

              So, it seems to me that email can be pretty safe as long as you use an email client that understands the IMAP standard and you keep it backed up.
              Last edited by pxt; 07-08-2011, 12:31 PM.