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  • FAST (lightning Fast) email help

    I've gotten to the point after Thousands and thousands and thousands of conversations and emails that I know EXACTLy what someone is going to say in an email or phone call based on what i sent them in the email with maybe 76% of the conversations I have.

    You'd think with that skill doing email would be a cinch, and it COULD if I set it up, but email takes me forever. I like to respone to most all emails I get and iif there was a a way -- when in the same train of thought of writing the email -- of already writing a response to their response (this is like chess email now that I think about it LOL) then I oculd just send that when/if they respond. But keep track of all those would get overly complex.

    As a reesult I get an email in inbox and I know what the person wrote in it and I don't want to deal with it because frankly I'll start trying to solve their problems and blah....my email is complex. I have about 30 gmail labels( which is excessive but I LIKE).

    I want to rifle through emails in like 5 minutes and keep a clean inbox hhhmm I guess if I don't want to deal with an email because it "may require a length response and/or is low priority" i oculd just label it as _action as I've done (or star it, implying action" to get it out of inbox. Hhhmmm okay cool I 'll do that I guess. But basically I have to change my aggreements with myself because I feel this need to answer every email and have a very warm thought to NOT get lost in writing an email (where I lose track of other things I need to work on -- the hundreds of projects).

    Hhmm I've got a lot going on with projects.

    one of the biggest problems is gmail is STUCK in FIFO and I need LIFO (reverse chronological order) that sends me through hell and I can get around that by using mac mail, but then can't utilize the gmail fast keycommand labeling (which is sweet).

    So...yeah. I basically hate my bookmarks and email at the moment.

    The vision I have is just having like a 20 minute email crunch time and massively completing like dozens in clean efficient polished "DONE" manner and then I'm done and don't worry about it. right now it's the opposite. I have like MASSIVE psychological baggage tied in with my inbox and half-store actionablies in inbox and half-store them in "_action' labels..

    I need my email and bookmarks to flow as smoothly as my real-life home-office system which is CLEAN-cut and sharp and smooth with captures for everything and inboxes and a defined Clean, clear, and cutting system. The email system is getting there in terms of sharpness with archiving (and labels) but is amorphorous and vague compared to the highly crisp real-life stuff system I have going with snail mail inbox, papers, filing etc.

  • #2
    First off, have you ever read/seen inbox zero? Available from 43folders.com.

    That out of the way, is there any kind of email you get especially hung up on? Personal? Business? Would it be possible to use templates or just cc a bunch? Also what sort of volumes are you dealing with? What makes you not want to answer an email? Do you need a lot of extra material, lots of thinking time or is it just a case of boredom, because you know what to write already?

    TBH i am not good at keeping my inbox at zero. Stuff is sort of half spread between inbox and an action folder, but luckily most of my email is FYI, rather than requiring a quick response.

    Comment


    • #3
      It sounds to me like you may be caught in a perfectionist spiral. By this, I mean a situation where you're sure that there's a better way to do something, and you hate to "waste time" doing it in an imperfect way, so you waste _more_ time trying to figure out the perfect way, and while you're struggling to find the perfect way, nothing's getting done.

      My advice is always to abandon perfection. I would suggest that you pick some straightforward, rule-based, no-thinking-required way of dealing with your email, and then just mindlessly do it that way for a while - at least a couple of weeks - before you re-evaluate and consider whether to change it. Accept that there are all sorts of flaws and time wastages in the system, and follow it anyway.

      In my case, I don't use my email inbox to store or remind me of actionable items in any way whatsoever. Email is pure input, to be processed and generate actions in my GTD system, but it's not _part_ of the GTD system.

      So for each unread email message, I open the message, judge whether it will produce any actions, and if so, enter an action in my GTD Inbox (in OmniFocus), usually referring to the email. The action may be as simple as telling myself to read the email. So as I go through my morning email, I may create actions like:

      - Read Ron Smith's 3/30/09 bug report email.
      - Answer Paula's MS Software Purchase question, 3/30/09 email.
      - Budget report due 4/15, 3/30/09 email from BudgetMaster has details.
      - Decide whether to go to Baking Webinar, 3/3/09 email.

      And so on. Then I stuff the emails into my email archive, leaving me with a nice empty email inbox. If I need to look at an email, I've entered enough information in the action to allow me to find it in the archive.

      Then, later, I process the GTD inbox and put these actions into appropriate projects, create projects for them, etc.

      So, yeah, this has imperfections galore - I'm retyping information that's already in the emails, for example, and when I work the actions I'll have to pull the emails out of my archive and read them a second time. But that works for me. I've still pulled the actions out of those emails, and I don't ever need to use the emails as reminders, and new incoming unread emails get a proper level of importance, because there's only a few of them.

      In your case, I'd suggest that you either need to accept the waste of the train of thought that you had when you thought of what you'd reply to their reply to your reply, or you need to establish a formal system to record that train of thought. Either choice has elements of waste, either will probably feel imperfect, but I'd suggest that you commit to doing one or the other for two weeks or a month.

      If I wanted to record reply-reply-replies, I'd probably file them somewhere. In my case, I'd probably put them in OmniFocus as Waiting actions, even though they're technically more like support material than actions. One might look like:

      - Anticipated reply notes, MS Software Purchase, Paula to me (3/30), me to Paula (4/1), Paula's reply pending.
      Note: (My thoughts about how I'll reply to her reply)

      I'd include the email subject line (MS Software Purchase) in the action. When Paula replies, I'd search on the subject line, find my notes, and use them.

      If I find that this process is time-consuming and that when I get to my thoughts, they're perfectly obvious and don't seem worth the trouble of recording, then that tells me that I may just want to allow my train of thought to go to waste. On the other hand, if I find that I often find useful things that I would have forgotten, then I know that this isn't a waste of time and I might even want to put some effort into a nicer thought-recording system.

      Gardener

      Comment


      • #4
        Been there, done that.

        I never used that term, but Gardener's "perfectionist spiral" fit me pretty well. I actually like to write and would send novels as email in response to basic questions, even if I was just CC. That was the first thing that I stopped doing. If I ever got a second email "why didn't you answer" I politely explained what the purposed of CC was and that if was expected to respond I should be one of the TO recipients.

        I also do something like Gardener's "mindless approach". If I am just CC I read it and it goes into DONE. If there is a real TODO for me, I either do it (two-minute rule) or it goes into ACTION. If important , but no TODO it goes into INFO, which I review weekly. I am basically "in-box zero" no and my TODO folder has about 10-15 emails.

        I don't "file" email any more. Once upon a time, I had folder for every customer and every person on our team and was wasting time in sorting. Now I have just a single folder "DONE". I use the technology available and let it search for things for me. (I use MS-Outlook at work) It is easier to find things like that and while Outlook is searching I can do other things. There is nothing like that for physical stuff, that's why you need to sort it. For email that you *might* use once in the next year, sorting it into cute little folder is a waste of time. (IMHO)

        I think you need to redefine "DONE". I have lot of project that are moving forward because I redefined "DONE". I no longer need it to be perfect, just "good enough" and the hesitation/procrastination to start is gone because it no longer need to be pefect. If I need to respond to an, I am a lot more terse than before and typically don't even use a greeting ("Looks good", "can you point me to more info?", etc) I also had this compulsion to solve everyone's problem which I am getting rid of. (are you ADD by chance?) I let it sit for a while and if I a still have the compulsion to respond, it is usually "Did you find an solution to this?" Often they have and it is DONE with little effort on my part. If not, I can either responded with "Neither have I" or I can then decide to try to find one.

        Be honest with yourself, are you trying to "play the hero" and solve everyone's problems? I had a similar reaction and it would actually be counterproductive because ended up not doing things I should have because I was trying to save the world. Now, the only time I even make an attempt is when I know I have more expertise than the other person and then I clear it with my boss, so that he know where I am spending my time.

        At work I use MyLifeOrganized which allows you to drag-n-drop from Outlook. So, if it a TODO that I need to track and not do "now", it goes from my TODO folder into MLO.

        I have found a lot peace, free time and energy when I "change my aggreements with myself".

        Regards,

        jimmo

        Comment


        • #5
          First off: Email from other people is messier than your personal system, because you can't sync with other peoples' thoughts as easily as you can with your own system.

          But that's okay. It sounds like you're unclear on how to process email, though I'm unsure.

          Here's how I deal with email:

          1. Do I care? If not, trash it. Don't reply.

          2. Is this just letting me know about something, i.e., no further action is required on my part? Okay, file it or trash it. Don't reply.

          3. Is there work here? Do I have to do something in response to this? If so, note down as appropriate on my NAs/Projects/etc. and reply. Then file the email.

          There's an important balance to be kept with communication. On one hand, communication is key to the healthy functioning of any endeavor, so it's generally better to over-communicate than under-communicate. On the other hand, we all already get too much email, and long missives are too often ignored or misunderstood.

          If you're spending too much time on it, spend less time on it. Cut your responses in half.

          Does that help?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Linada View Post
            First off, have you ever read/seen inbox zero? Available from 43folders.com.
            yes......discovered inbox0 over a year ago.....and I've written my own Progress Organization and Productivity Suite as a response to it. And I listen to Merlin Mann's podcast AND I'm an active reader of his forum and site...so I'm quite likely much more "inbox zero" than most people who may respond to this post lol.


            That out of the way, is there any kind of email you get especially hung up on? Personal? Business? Would it be possible to use templates or just cc a bunch? Also what sort of volumes are you dealing with? What makes you not want to answer an email? Do you need a lot of extra material, lots of thinking time or is it just a case of boredom, because you know what to write already?
            VERY VERY VERY Good questions!!!!!!! Dang. nice. i've started using typeit4me to template a certain type of resonse. And it's Personal emails tha snag me as well as the responses to inpsiring topics. I then feel obligated to share a long, lengthy and well written reponse...and then "oh shit, I just spent the past hour writing a great wellwritten email that hte may recipient may love (or not), but I put way too much time into that!) So I guess the personal and the inspiring emails give me problems.

            Wow awesome questions. Honestly I DO think the best answer is boredom (that I know what to write already and it's like the monotony of the same response delivered in an inspiring manner kind of. Additionally, it could be thinking time. I start an email response, then multitaks to something else when I lose ideas, and then while doing something else I'll generate too more thoughts on an email, then multask to something else which generates more thoughts...then jot those in the email and send it. So an email becomes an "open loop". It's not like I stare theire at the blank "compose" screen and groan about writing an email. I'm always doing something its jsut that I fear OPENING an email that could generate a lot of ideas because that will be just e anotehr "subrprocess going on in mind" untill I send it

            hhmm. this has been elucidating however your questions about Which emails hang me up, and it's usually the HELPFUL emails!!! TRUE!! This is bizarre. the Helpful emails I want to write back all this positive praise and how it was helpful....not unlike this post..hmmm..

            TBH i am not good at keeping my inbox at zero. Stuff is sort of half spread between inbox and an action folder, but luckily most of my email is FYI, rather than requiring a quick response.[/QUOTE]

            I think I hve a problem in feeling a need to write lengthy well written article responses to emails I have to eliminate the guilt of getting a helpful email and then feeling obligated to share like 5 paragraphs of response.

            I guess learning email typical amounts.

            LONG emails hang me up!!! YES!!!!!!!! If I get a short snippet, of something highly specific I'd love to respond. it's the Vauge, general, long emails that kill me (that are from someone I know), like newletters I can skim and have ownership of my time with.

            Thanks. great questions. they helped. still working on this though.
            Last edited by validatelife; 05-02-2009, 12:30 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Brent View Post
              First off: Email from other people is messier than your personal system, because you can't sync with other peoples' thoughts as easily as you can with your own system.
              nice. thanks. good thought. and.....true.
              But that's okay. It sounds like you're unclear on how to process email, though I'm unsure.

              Here's how I deal with email:

              1. Do I care? If not, trash it. Don't reply.

              2. Is this just letting me know about something, i.e., no further action is required on my part? Okay, file it or trash it. Don't reply.

              3. Is there work here? Do I have to do something in response to this? If so, note down as appropriate on my NAs/Projects/etc. and reply. Then file the email.

              There's an important balance to be kept with communication. On one hand, communication is key to the healthy functioning of any endeavor, so it's generally better to over-communicate than under-communicate. On the other hand, we all already get too much email, and long missives are too often ignored or misunderstood.

              If you're spending too much time on it, spend less time on it. Cut your responses in half.

              Does that help?
              Well I know the steps. I guess I have difficulty saying "do I care" in general. Indifference takes awhile to get. Maybe I should "not care" first until proven "worthy"?? lol

              2. Is this just letting me know about something, i.e., no further action is required on my part?

              good evaluation..this is a snag because If I "learn something" from an email sent directly to me from someone (esp if I know them) i feel obliged to "over"communicate back how helpful it was and why and what I learned etc......I think it's easy to assume that I am not like this with email in general. In other words, in a phone conversation or a relationship, if someone provides me with a great tool, ideaological gift, inspiration, or idea, I put a lot of time into communicating my gratitude. That's a GREAT GREAT quality. However, I need to balance it with time-management so that I still get done the high quanitiies and qualities of stuff I want to do, while maintaining a good high amount of gratitude too (which is very important anyway) . k.

              Comment


              • #8
                Something you might think about... is an overly exuberant message of gratitude really going to be appreciated by the recipient?

                When I help someone, I certainly want to be told that I helped, and how my advice turned out. But if the message of gratitude is longer than my original note, or clearly took longer to compose than my note did, it starts to put me in an uncomfortable situation. Taken to extremes, such a message could even become an intrusion, making me wish I'd kept my thoughts to myself.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Glad my questions helped a bit
                  I get bored with answering emails. A combination of knowing what i want to write, and perfectionism i think for me. I try to split up email rather than the usual chunking it up, so i don't get too fed up with it.
                  As for bouts of inspiration and gratitude: do you blog or twitter or something like that? If something is so inspiring/helpful, maybe you could channel it into telling others about it. I can't think of a better way to say thanks than wanting everyone to know about it

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