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  • Email advice

    At my work, I face a daily deluge of e-mail. My old system was to leave stuff in my "In Box" as unread which would be my reminder that I needed to act on it. That wasn't the best system since stuff sometimes got lost (especially since I don't delete any mail as a general rule) and it required a constant rescan of the "In Box" for unread items that required reply.

    Now I have implemented the @ action, @ review, and @ waiting concept but then I feel like I just end up parking a lot of e-mails somewhere else that I will need to go and look at later. Plus if I only have a short amount of time to check e-mail, I tend to do a quick scan, answer the important stuff, and still have to plow through all the unread stuff again.

    Also, on the Blackberry, is there any method to moving e-mail into another folder?

    Any advice on this one welcome!

  • #2
    Pernicious email

    Originally posted by kcmestre View Post
    My old system was to leave stuff in my "In Box" as unread which would be my reminder that I needed to act on it. That wasn't the best system since stuff sometimes got lost (especially since I don't delete any mail as a general rule) and it required a constant rescan of the "In Box" for unread items that required reply.
    It's so far from being the best system that it's about the worst. That's what I did too, until I realised (via GTD) how completely inefficient it was. It was also responsible for me hating my Inbox, since every time I looked at it I was faced with all those accusing messages that I hadn't dealt with.

    Originally posted by kcmestre View Post
    Now I have implemented the @ action, @ review, and @ waiting concept but then I feel like I just end up parking a lot of e-mails somewhere else that I will need to go and look at later. Plus if I only have a short amount of time to check e-mail, I tend to do a quick scan, answer the important stuff, and still have to plow through all the unread stuff again.
    First up, the other mailboxes take a bit of self-discipline, because there's a tendency (which I'm battling at the moment) to stash stuff there and ignore it.

    Second, I'd recommend that you set aside a block of time, 2 or 3 times a day, to deal with email, and deal with it thoroughly. Your aim should be to empty your Inbox each time you check it, either by deleting, responding (for 2-minute stuff), stashing for later action, or archiving.

    Again, I'm not great at this, but when it happens it's exceedingly nice. The most important single tip on any sort of productivity has to be 'do it often'. Maintenance is soooo much easier than catch-up.

    There are a couple of posts/series about email fu on Merlin Mann's great site 43 Folders. Check out Becoming An Email Ninja, which contains links to some of his best email suggestions. I also recommend the Inbox Zero series.

    If I could discipline myself sufficiently to do these all the time, I'd be so fearsomely efficient that I wouldn't know myself.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by kcmestre View Post
      Now I have implemented the @ action, @ review, and @ waiting concept but then I feel like I just end up parking a lot of e-mails somewhere else that I will need to go and look at later.
      Take a look at the GTD & Outlook paper on this site (or Lotus Notes / Entourage versions if that's what you're using). This paper was the single best thing that helped me implement GTD and get my inbox to zero. You said that you're parking e-mail - it sounds to me as if when you get an e-mail that needs action, you're simply moving it to an @action mailbox. That's just going to become antoher version of the Inbox that you end up resenting. The trick is to define the next action required from the e-mail and record that - the way the paper recommends is to move the e-mail to the Tasks folder and make the subject line the action that you have to take.

      If you do that, when you scan the list you'll see a list of actions rather than just a pile of e-mails, and it's much easier then to work out what your priority is and jump in and get something off the list.

      Set aside time to get your inbox to zero every other day or so, and combine this with a weekly review to make sure the task lists are up to date and you'll have a reliable system that you trust.

      That's my experience anyway, and 3 months in it's going well.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by elbow View Post
        Take a look at the GTD & Outlook paper on this site (or Lotus Notes / Entourage versions if that's what you're using). This paper was the single best thing that helped me implement GTD and get my inbox to zero. You said that you're parking e-mail - it sounds to me as if when you get an e-mail that needs action, you're simply moving it to an @action mailbox. That's just going to become antoher version of the Inbox that you end up resenting. The trick is to define the next action required from the e-mail and record that - the way the paper recommends is to move the e-mail to the Tasks folder and make the subject line the action that you have to take.

        If you do that, when you scan the list you'll see a list of actions rather than just a pile of e-mails, and it's much easier then to work out what your priority is and jump in and get something off the list.

        Set aside time to get your inbox to zero every other day or so, and combine this with a weekly review to make sure the task lists are up to date and you'll have a reliable system that you trust.

        That's my experience anyway, and 3 months in it's going well.
        This is definitely the way to go. I have been doing this for almost two months now, with great results. When I move an email out of my Inbox it either goes in the Trash, in my Reference Items folder, or is dragged onto a task with a specific action as described above, or dragged on to a Calendar entry if I need to address it at a specific time.

        -Jeff

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        • #5
          You said that you're parking e-mail - it sounds to me as if when you get an e-mail that needs action, you're simply moving it to an @action mailbox. That's just going to become antoher version of the Inbox that you end up resenting. The trick is to define the next action required from the e-mail and record that - the way the paper recommends is to move the e-mail to the Tasks folder and make the subject line the action that you have to take.
          That's your missing piece - you're not really processing your email looking for outcomes and next actions. Rather, you're just shuffling the pile from one bucket to another.

          Process your 'e' inbox the same exact way that you would your physical inbox, and I think you'll see the improvements that you're looking for.

          Comment


          • #6
            Excellent replies, as usual.

            In my work email client, unread emails are colored red, and read emails are colored black. Conceptually, any black emails are there purely for archival purposes in case I need to grab old information. If I double-click on a red email, before I close the email I create whatever Next Actions ("Please copy the latest load to the shared drive"), Projects ("Please create a new load CD"), Waiting Fors ("I'm going to ship some software to you this week") or what-have-you required by that email.

            Once I close the email, I just have to put the email in an easily retrievable location.

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