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  • Struggling w/ Outlook & Paper

    I'm struggling with deciding how to manage my GTD system. How does one manage email based workflow in a paper system?

    I use Outlook @ Work and for a while was managing my system in there using the outlook plugin. However, I really miss a paper based system so I am migrating back to paper.

    I still need to file emails, create actions and delegate based on incoming email. However, I don't want to manage two systems. Any thoughts on a good process for managing this?

  • #2
    Use emails as reference materials. Treat emails like an inbox and when you process them, write the tasks on the appropriate list in your paper system. Then keep the emails filed by whatever (so you know they've been processed) as your reference for how to do the given task. If a task on your paper list has to do with an email, you could write an E in front of it or something so you know to reference the email.

    Just an answer off the top of my head...

    Good luck!

    Comment


    • #3
      I think I'm doing what you're doing, too. Or maybe not!

      I use Outlook for my tasks and a paper daytimer for my calendar. It seems to be working pretty well for now, not perfect, not exactly as I'd like, but it's working for me.

      I need the flexibility of the daytimer to carry around with me and set up appointments for the future, and I use it for my billing, so I need the record of where I've been and what I've done with me at all times. And I need a good system to organize my tasks, which are recurring and are very deadline-sensitive, and Outlook is great for that.

      On Monday morning I print off the tasks due in the next 14 days, using page 2 of the daily view. It's the only way I've found to get a list of tasks with a calendar view at the top of the page--it gives me the current month and the next month, plus my tasks. I like having the calendar view to refer to on the same page as the tasks--wish I had three or four months but it will only give me two. When I get an e-mail that needs to be made into a task, it's nice to be able to just drag the email over to the task list, but I prefer to just add a task manually.

      So I carry that task list I printed out from OL with me in my day-timer and update the paper during the day, noting anything completed and adding anything new to the paper copy. When I get back to the computer I update Outlook.

      I have a spiral-bound daytimer that includes the entire year, and I keep it in an At-A-Glance binder that has a place where I can slot in the daytimer and also has a three-ring binder, so I can put other types of planner pages in.

      I just fold the task list in half and slip it into the daytimer notebook in the binder.

      I've seen other people who print out their calendars and tasks and take them with them in a paper planner and are happy with it. Maybe it comes down to not having two systems, but one way of dealing with part of your system and another way of dealing with other parts of your system.

      You didn't actually say what you're trying to do with the paper system. Do you want to use it for getting an over view of the year, for long-range planning, someday/maybe's, or what?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by JoeCotellese
        How does one manage email based workflow in a paper system?
        My e-mail messages fall into three categories:
        • Requests
        • FYI
        • Junk

        When I process my e-mail inbox (business or personal), I go ahead and do any request that can be done within two minutes. Junk, of course, gets deleted. I note projects and more complicated requests on my Projects and/or NA lists in my planner. If something needs to be delegated, simply forward the message to the appropriate person and make a note on your "Waiting For" list. If there is a deadline involved, jot that on your calendar, and if a deadline reminder is needed, jot that on the calendar however many days in advance of the deadline that you need it to be. The same thing applies for a project for which you something from someone else. Make a note on your Projects list, put any NAs that you can go ahead and do on your NA lists, let the appropriate person know what you need, and then make a note on your "Waiting For" list.

        After I have made the appropriate notations in my planner, the actual e-mail messages get moved to the appropriate reference folder (if needed). In Outlook, you can set up Personal Folders and subfolders that are stored on your computer (instead of on the server, if your company uses that). I have one main Personal Folder titled, "Reference", and several subfolders under that - one for each subject that I need to keep up with (avoid having a miscellaneous folder). I save all of my nonjunk e-mail messages, so after processing, they all end up in one of these subfolders. (In order to cut down on visual clutter, I do not have my folder list visible in my main Outlook window.) E-mail attachments immediately get saved in the appropriate electronic or paper files at processing time.

        I hope that this makes sense; please ask questions if it doesn't. The gist of it is that e-mail messages get processed just like anything else. Action items relayed to you via e-mail are no different from action items relayed by any other means; enter them into your system (paper or electronic, whichever you use) like you would anything else.

        I like to experiment with Outlook and get it to do what I want it to do, but at the end of the day, I find my paper-based planner to be more efficient and easier to use.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ggrozier
          You didn't actually say what you're trying to do with the paper system. Do you want to use it for getting an over view of the year, for long-range planning, someday/maybe's, or what?
          Thanks for the in-depth response. I'm using the paper planner as my GTD system. I found that relying on my laptop and outlook for GTD was not flexible enough because I didn't have my laptop with me all the time.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Dawn
            I like to experiment with Outlook and get it to do what I want it to do, but at the end of the day, I find my paper-based planner to be more efficient and easier to use.
            Agreed, I started w/ paper. Moved to Outlook and the GTD Add-in but have migrated back to paper because of the ease of use.

            Also, after I posted this message I found this link:
            http://www.managementconsultingnews....en_article.php which discusses how to manage email workflow.

            Comment


            • #7
              Email as an A-Z Reference

              I use a small paper notebook for most of my daily GTD, but process my email into A-Z reference folders...it's been working great for about 6 months so far.

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