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  • What should/shouldn't go in "Waiting For"

    I manage technical projects in a client facing role. Projects typically have quick turnaround times and my email velocity is pretty crazy (like a lot of people). Virtually every email I receive requires a delegation to either the client or to our technical team.

    I often wonder what should get put in my "Waiting For" folder because given the velocity of communication I'm not sure it is efficient to constantly keep up with a folder that is constantly in need of updating. There have, however, been times when things have fallen through the cracks that a folder like this might have prevented.

    Any practical advice on how to manage this folder and what should/shouldn't go in it? I'm using Omnifocus if there are any specific tips to help using that tool.

  • #2
    If your brain doesn't trust there is a better system, it will try to take the job back.

    Whenever I've erred on the side of over-tracking on my Waiting For list, even when it seems tedious for huge projects, I have appreciated it in the long run.

    Comment


    • #3
      Road tested tip/suggestion

      I am also in a heavy-fire email environment where my sent messages tend to be a huge waiting for queue. Here's something that works for me:

      When forwarding things that have to go out to others via email change the subject line.

      For example: incoming message says Subject: Error
      Hit forward and change subject to [projectname] User error on screen X, step 3 of checkout [wf]
      Include one line at top of message body that tells other person what I need, especially if it's not just *fix this*.

      Now, you can either subject search for [projectname] and [wf] to find things and do a quick scan as part of your review process, or you can write a rule to move all those sent messages to a WF folder that you can then review.

      Depending on your email client, you may be able to create a smart folder to keep this from being overwhelming. For example, I have one that pulls all sent messages within last 7 days with [wf] as the tag into a single view. This lets me run through it as a WF tickler in my weekly review and fire off notes where needed to move things along. Caveat... you have to do a weekly review to stay on top of this.

      Comment


      • #4
        Outlook has built in functionality to support this. When you find a message you need to forward, click forward or reply, then type what you need. Then choose Follow Up (it's on the first ribbon if you're using 2007, I think it's in the send options if you're using 2003). when you send the mail, the item will show up in your todo list.

        An alternative approach is to manually copy the item from your sent items into a waiting for folder. Afterwards I flag the copied item and presto, it shows up in my todo bar. I personally do this and also attach a category to it that represents the project under which it's related.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'd probably make these "agenda" or "follow up" rather than "waiting for". And I wouldn't use the email folder as the reminder, I'd create OmniFocus actions instead.

          For example, if John Smith sends you an email today requesting an estimate, and you send it to Jane Jones to deal with, and you expect that she'd normally act in it in two days and you're in trouble if she doesn't act on it in ten days, you could make an OmniFocus item:

          - Action Text: Follow up with Jane re John Smith's 3/25 emailed estimate request
          - Start Date: 3/29
          - Due Date: Set one if it _must_ be done in ten days; empty if it's just an annoyance issue.
          - Context: Agenda Jane (Or it could be Follow Up, or Email, or whatever context makes sense for you.)
          - Project: ?? If this is just the starting point of a project that you'll work or at least track for several steps, then you put it in that project; if it's done when Jane picks it up, then you could perhaps just have a single-action list of all of these followup actions.

          So the action vanishes for four days and resurfaces after Jane has hopefully handled it, but before anybody's in big trouble if she missed it.

          You email her, or call her, or check the estimate database to make sure she's created it, or drop by her desk with a whole list of Agenda Items, or whatever you prefer to do to confirm these items. Maybe you ask people to update you when these things are done, so that normally the update comes to you without you having to go get it.

          If she did it, you check it off. If she says, "John who?" you have enough information in the item to find John Smith's email and resend it, and then reset the Start Date. If she says that she's overloaded and she'll have it done in three more days, you move the Start Date, or you assign it to someone else, or otherwise deal with the delay before it becomes an emergency.

          Meanwhile, I wouldn't bother to make a folder for the email - I'd just stuff it in an unsorted archive, and if you need it, you can search for Sender Equals John Smith, Date Equals 2/25.

          I realize that creating an action looks like more effort than just copying the email somewhere, but I think that in the end you save a lot of time by not having to scan through emails, read subject lines, open emails to remember what they were about and when you can reasonably expect action, etc. I think that getting that over with once and for all when you first read the mail saves more time.

          Gardener

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          • #6
            Everything that is a Waiting For should go on a list.

            Keep the list (all your lists) on paper. Nothing is faster than paper.

            #1 reason to capture all WFs. Do you really want to decide "Do I really want to put this as a WF?" It takes time and cognitive power to decide that each time. Just do it and it becomes a reflex and an accepted part of your workflow

            =================================================
            J.D. Iles
            Hyatt's All Things Creative

            Equipment and Software / Sales and Training
            On-Line Training Coordinator


            direct line or text: (603) 348-7658
            voice: (800) 234-9288 ext. 862
            fax: (603) 962-8522

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            =================================================

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by J.D. Iles View Post
              Keep the list (all your lists) on paper. Nothing is faster than paper.
              I would disagree with that. Paper is fast for initial capture but is incredibly slow and complicated to use to manage all the various GTD lists.

              I think what tool to use depends a lot on your working style and how many items you have as next actions, projects and someday maybes.

              I can't manage my system with paper at all, but then I usually have over 600 someday projects, some waiting for activation when weather or season is right and others more blue sky and usually about 60 active ones with several hundred next actions. There is no way I can handle that on paper if only because I can't carry around paper with my lists on it all the time, I need something small and portable and electronic if I want to be able to move with my lists.

              I've tried paper, it's impossible for me to use but did make a decent emergency system during the change from one electronic system to another but all I did was put the next actions in not any of the project or someday lists. BY Weekly review I found it was causing me more problems than fixing them and I dropped it.

              Comment


              • #8
                If you have 9.9GHz dual-core paper with 1TB of RAM.

                Originally posted by J.D. Iles View Post
                Nothing is faster than paper.
                If you have 9.9GHz dual-core paper with 1TB of RAM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here's a thought

                  For me, in my heavy-email environment, treating my sent folder as a WF review list by tagging outgoing messages creates the least amount of friction.

                  As long as I am doing a regular review, this method works.
                  No review and this becomes a weight on my mind.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Using Outlook, I either send an e-mail to the person I'm delegating to, or an e-mail to myself with the info, and copy it into a folder in my e-mail inbox called @waitingfor.

                    Paper in this case would be far too slow, as I'd have to write sufficient information down to have all the details to hand.

                    Ruth

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                    • #11
                      Most everyone is focusing on figuring out how to easily identify emails that are WF. No one has really talked about how to purge this file easily. Using OmniFocus I can capture any email as a ToDo and categorize it as WF. But 70% of the emails I send (40-50 per day at least), require a response (so I'm "WF" a response). But the vast majority of those get responded to quickly. If I'm creating 40-50 WF "to do's" each day, that seems unproductive especially when I also need to go back in and delete everything that I received back.

                      I'm wondering if it might be more productive to scan my sent mail at the end of every day and see if there are emails sent that I'm still waiting on a response for. At that point I create a WF action. Anyone do anything like that? See any potential pitfalls?

                      Another question... I use Mail on my Mac. Is there anyway to tag an email in a way that only I can see the tag (kind of like flagging an email that only I can see)?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Have you tried Mail Tags?

                        I use Mail Tags to tag my email messages. I also highlight a significant phrase in the email and right click and choose New To Do. If necessary I alter the text of the to do.

                        Regards,

                        Cazza

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Now, you can either subject search for [projectname] and [wf] to find things and do a quick scan as part of your review process, or you can write a rule to move all those sent messages to a WF folder that you can then review.

                          Sealed Lead Acid

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Cazza - When you say Mail Tags are you referring to the software here (http://www.indev.ca/MailTags.html)? If so, can you give me some additional details on how this works and integrates with OmniFocus? Is it worth the $29 just to be able to tag an email?


                            Originally posted by cazza44 View Post
                            I use Mail Tags to tag my email messages. I also highlight a significant phrase in the email and right click and choose New To Do. If necessary I alter the text of the to do.

                            Regards,

                            Cazza

                            Comment

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