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  • Review asked: My email-processing GTD setup

    i just started recently with gtd, have read the book and a lot (!) of forums, threads and blogs about the gtd setups.

    Because in my work i send and receive lots of email (i'm a project manager at an internet development company) which create next actions i'm trying to move my emailing into the gtd proces. Here's my setup, i would like to get comments from you guys for approvements, changes, etc

    here are the preparations i did
    1. i created the "standard" gtd context actions (outlook categories): .projects, @agendas, @office, @calls, @waiting for, @someday/maybe
    2. i created an outlook search folder on my inbox and sent items box, this is the base for processing email
    3. created the outlook folder views as outlined in "GTD and outlook 2007" pdf from davidco shop
    4. i already had lots of reference folders before i started gtd (divided as client / project)

    how my email is processed
    1. every mail that comes in is reviewed for "delete, file, do, defer, delegate"
    2. mails for delete, file or do are being processed immidiately
    3. items that need to be deferred or delegated are transfered to tasks (i am trying to create an outlook macro so i can hotkey that action)
    4. in the task the email is added as attachement, a start and/or due date is added and i change the subjectline if needed and add the correct context action
    5. if i send an email (delegate) to one of my project teamworkers, i follow the same route with the sent email (convert to task with attachement, change subject,etc) and set the context to @waiting for with the send-date added to the subject line
    6. if the email is processed i move it to a project reference folder of store it in an "global" archive folder

    please post your comments to this setup, i am still looking for the best setup.

    ronald

  • #2
    Just a warning from someone who's gone down the outlook path.....

    I made the assumption that since I was in an office position, I assumed most of my inputs would be email based and that my system just HAD to be set up with email management at it's core. Very similar to how you have set it up --- except I decided it was best to just purchase the gtd outlook add-on instead of trying to configure outlook myself.

    It took me TWO YEARS of fiddling with that system before I realized two things:
    1. I was not able to complete my weekly reviews. I may schedule them, I may start them...but I couldn't complete them. Once I was in "outlook" and on my computer it was hard for me to not look at something and go straight back into "do" mode.
    2. I became obsessed with trying to link my projects with my actions. (partly because I wasn't doing a complete and consistent weekly review)
    3. I then obsesed about the "portability" of my system and started to tweak my blackberry.
    4. Emails (coming and going) were the be-all end-all of my "to-do's"....which they most certainly are not.

    All this lead to me NOT getting stuff done buy constently tweaking my system --- and as The David says, if you have to think about GTD, you're not doing GTD. I was thinking way too much about my system and not just using it.

    My solution? Paper and pen (supplemented by some digital).

    One notebook. It has these tabs:
    - In
    - @Home
    - @Work
    - @Errands
    - Agendas
    - Waiting For
    - Projects
    - Someday/Maybe

    I use outlook and my blackberry for:
    - calendar (that's just easier digital)
    - notes (for all my other lists like things to buy, movies to rent, 20,000+ horizons, ect)
    - contacts

    So when I get an email, this is my process:
    1. every mail that comes in is reviewed for "delete, file, do, defer, delegate" (same as you)
    2. emails for delete, file or do are being processed immediately. However a "do" email may include me adding one or all of the following:
    - a new project in my paper project list
    - a new "waiting for" (with date, person, subject line and perhaps a reference to what outlook folder I stored the email in)
    - some other "action" for my actions lists
    3. for deferred emails I add an action on my @work list with a reference to where I have stored the email (likely a project folder in outlook). For delegated, I just forward the email on and track the response in my waiting for as listed above.
    6. if the email is reference, 50% of the time I just throw it into a catch all FYI folder which I would search for using Google Desktop...or if it's something I want to clasify I would throw it into a reference folder with a speicific title like "Drainage Design"

    So what has changed for me?
    - I no longer live in my email. I live in my action lists and calendar. It's a great feeling.
    - I carry my notebook with me everywhere I go and am in and out of it way more often then Outlook Tasks or my blackberry "NextAction" program.
    - I can't wait to check things off in my book.
    - I can't wait to review my entire game via the weekly review and can actually do my weekly review anywhere ---- like a nice quiet coffee shop --- instead of at my desk where I am likely to get interuption after interuption (either internally or externally).

    But that's just my story. You'll have to figure all this out for youself. And it does sound like you're on the right path - keep it up.

    One last thing.....I realize my biggest concern with going with my notebook instead of outlook was the thought of running out of pages. Give me a break....if or when I come to that point I will be laughing my ass off (as it'll be an indication that I've actually worked the system to that point...) And then who knows, maybe I'll just have to ponny up for a GTD Coordinator. (Even paper/pen guys like myself can still dream of the glittery gadgets)

    (:

    Ryan

    Comment


    • #3
      E-mail processing

      Ronald,

      I had been processing my email similarly to your approach. I have found that I am more productive putting my next actions into Outlook tasks, but leaving Waiting For in a @WF folder in my mailbox. When I review and email that is a "defer", I make an entry either in my calendar or tasks about what to do next with the item. It may be a next action, or it may be a new project entry -- something I need to spend some time thinking about before I know what next action is needed. I then put the email in an @Action Support folder in my mailbox. That way I have the reference to the email, but it takes less time than trying to copy or attach the email to the task.

      When I reply or forward an email, it often means I will be waiting for someone else to do something. If that is the case, I store the sent message in a @Waiting for folder in my mailbox, rather than the Sent folder. You can specify where to store a sent message using message options when creating a message.

      When I do my weekly review, I review my calendar and tasks, and my @Waiting For mail folder as well. I also take a look at my @Action Support folder just to make sure I have a related task for any email in that folder, or have moved an email to the right project reference folder. (I do set up a folder for each project in Outlook; my Outlook project folder basically mirrors my project file folders on my hard drive.)

      Kim

      Comment


      • #4
        I think your setup looks good, Ronald!

        I agree with the others that this path might not be ideal for you, but I recommend that you continue down this path for at least a few weeks. See what works (and what doesn't). If you do decide to change systems, it's better to do so with a clearer understanding of what you need.

        Comment


        • #5
          first of all, let me say thanks for the replies and suggestions

          @roakleyca: thanks for the warning, but i think i stick to the oulook approach. main reason is that i spent lots of time already working in outlook, and for me it seems best to use just one system (instead of a combination of analog and digital). You made me aware of the risk of "do" while you're in weekly review, i will try to avoid that trap (actually i have not done a weekly review yet, i planned the first one for tomorrow -- using the today's tweekly review of twitters gtdcoachkelly)

          @Kim M:
          I then put the email in an @Action Support folder in my mailbox. That way I have the reference to the email, but it takes less time than trying to copy or attach the email to the task.
          Does this mean you have an email folder for @Action and that way you gain time because you don't convert an email to a task?

          @Brent: can you explain more why this path might not be the right one? Like i mentioned before, my setup is a mixture of information from The Book, forums, blogs and several other sources. I have not found a step-by-step guide for setting up the system (i slowly start to understand why: for everyone their perfect setup is based on personal choices ) so any thoughts of other --more experienced-- gtd users perhaps can make the start of my gtd-way-of-live easier.
          Finding the correct setup is not a project, but an ongoing quest of talking, learning, tweaking and tuning

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ronjon View Post
            @Brent: can you explain more why this path might not be the right one?
            In the war between paper and electronic systems, I see many people abandoning the electronic for paper. Paper just has a lot of inherent advantages over electronic systems (it has disadvantages, too).

            I've also noticed that some people find Outlook a frustrating place in which to maintain their productivity system.

            But, again, I don't know that it'll be wrong for you. Many people are effective and productive with pure electronic systems, and lots of folks maintain their system in Outlook.

            Comment


            • #7
              GTD Email Setup Video

              I made a video of my email setup and how I process. Maybe that would help as well.

              Here is the link:

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGdzvj1mjcM
              Last edited by BlackBeltProject; 06-02-2009, 01:34 PM. Reason: Corrected link

              Comment


              • #8
                a question not an answer

                Originally posted by ronjon View Post
                [*]i created an outlook search folder on my inbox and sent items box, this is the base for processing email
                what do you mean, please, for search folder? Then the sent items box is different from the sent emails folder?

                Comment


                • #9
                  a search folder is like a custom folder where you can show the contents of multiple other folders.

                  to create one: File - New - Search Folder
                  Then select custom - Button Choose - Browse and then select your folders you would like to combine.
                  Give the search folder a name and you're done.

                  in the navigation pane your new folder is created (look under Search Folders)

                  Ronald

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Tracking Next Actions

                    Ronjon,

                    I haven't been online in a while, but if you are still interested in the question you asked, I do create a task in Outlook when an email triggers an action. I tried just putting the email in an @Actions folder, but it did not work as well, for a lot of reasons -- sometimes an email triggers multiple tasks; I would have to reread emails to remember what I needed to do, etc.

                    I keep the email in an @action (support) folder so I can reply or forward the email when I complete my task.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ronjon View Post
                      a search folder is...
                      Thank you, now I realized what you meant. I prefer to use Google desktop search. It keep me more freemind

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Kim M View Post
                        Ronjon,

                        I haven't been online in a while, but if you are still interested in the question you asked, I do create a task in Outlook when an email triggers an action. I tried just putting the email in an @Actions folder, but it did not work as well, for a lot of reasons -- sometimes an email triggers multiple tasks; I would have to reread emails to remember what I needed to do, etc.

                        I keep the email in an @action (support) folder so I can reply or forward the email when I complete my task.
                        Sorry Kim,
                        but I cannot see where is the difference between the two folders. What do you do when you receive an email that require an action?

                        Comment

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