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Advice on Outlook folders & when I should 'go through' my inbox

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  • Advice on Outlook folders & when I should 'go through' my inbox

    Dear members,

    I currently have:
    & a few more could you please advise the best format/folders to use & also whats the best way to work these? i.e. Should I go through them as and when throughout the day? or first thing in the morning or last thing at night.


  • #2
    There are three ways you could be spending your time at any given moment:

    1. Doing defined work
    2. Doing work as it shows up
    3. Defining work

    You handle the actions you defined when you are doing your defined work during discretionary time when you have context, time and energy to do them. There's no set scheduling.

    I've found that e-mail folders present a danger. It's simple to just move an e-mail into them without giving them the appropriate attenion during processing to define all of the work embedded in them. I limit my use of these folders to "reply to" type actions.


    • #3
      David Allen Company has a setup guide for outlook. It probably has the answers to your questions about outlook.

      There is also a free article that has lots of tips on how to handle email folders and processing.

      In the GTD book, there are plenty of suggestions about how to work the system.



      • #4
        I don't use emails as placeholders for my actions. I want my actions to be in a list where I can easily see, in a single line, what each action is. There may be support material with more details, but when I'm deciding which action to work on, I don't want to have to see extraneous stuff. It can take a couple of minutes to open an email, read through it, and remember what action I thought it triggered; to me, that's an unacceptable amount of delay when scanning my action lists.

        So I put the actions triggered by emails into Omnifocus, sometimes with an atttached note telling me which email (From and Date or Subject and Date) I might want to search for when I start working on the task. Then I put the email in one massive archive with all the other emails for that year. I normally do not sort email - on the rare occasions when I do, the sorting usually just consists of a temporary folder that I may use for a few weeks because I'm referencing a specific set of emails extremely frequently as I work on a project. After that phase of the project is over, the email gets dumped back in the archive.

        This means that if I _had_ to use my email client to sort my actions, I'd re-mail each relevant email to myself, changing the subject line to an action description. If a single email produced four actions, I'd forward it to myself four times, each with a different action as the subject line. I'd probably have an email folder for each project, plus one for Someday/Maybe.

        This may or may not be the least bit relevant to your question.

        Oh, yeah - when to go through the inbox. When I'm working my system properly, I get my inbox to empty, all emails converted to actions (if appropriate) and moved to my archive, two to three times a day - first thing in the morning, after lunch, and I may or may not do it again before I leave for the day.

        When I'm working my system sloppily, a few dozen emails may pile up, but I _always_ maintain the rule that emails not yet fully processed are either (1) left in "unread" status, even if I have to reset them that way after I read them, or (2) moved to my "when I can breathe" folder so that I know that immediate processing isn't urgent. Any "read" emails in my inbox can be moved to the archive without further review.

        One more edit: I don't use the two-minute rule when processing emails. When I'm processing my email inbox, any and all actions trigged by emails are entered in my OmniFocus system. Moving something from the email inbox to the OmniFocus inbox only takes a few seconds; immediately performing two-minute actions distracts me too much.



        • #5
          Thanks to everyone for the replies, I'm looking forward to trying what you suggested & I'm now going to click on the links you kindly posted.
          I'll let you know how I get on.

          Thanks again.


          • #6
            I first tried using the email as the action reminder, but found I would often re-process emails because I forgot what the action was, so now I put all my actions into Pocket Informant, and in the notes field a comment like 'email J.Bloggs 23/10' so I know which email to refer to.
            So my Outlook folders are the areas of focus (with subfolders for projects), reference, tickler, read/review, and calendar support.


            • #7
              Hi I'm not certain I know what you mean? Do you mean you file the email but put the action in the subject? or do you mean you leave the mail in the 'action' folder (Like I'm doing)?




              • #8
                I file the email and put the action in my iPhone app, Pocket Informant. For me Outlook only stores action support, no action reminders. But I found it tedious to have an action support folder, once you've done the action you have to remember to file the email away, which I never ended up doing. So I would end up with 100 emails in an action support folder, with only a vague memory of which ones I've done and which ones I've haven't done.
                But I realised the action support folder is redundant in my system, all the emails are support and I just file them and if you want to find them again quickly you can search or flag them. This way you only move the email once, not twice.


                • #9
                  I noticed today that if you click on the 'completed' bit in the 'Actions' folder on the email it disappears, does anyone know where it goes?



                  • #10
                    I use my emails as action(s) reminders because I find it quicker to define the actions upon email re-read than to diligently convert them to actions in my main list manager (OmniFocus on the iPad).

                    My folders currently look like this:

                    Data entry
                    So there is a degree of up-front decision making, but not too much. I find the "Data entry" and "Reply" folders the most useful.

                    I also like the idea of simply archiving emails right away as reference or project-/action-support material, but couldn't work out how to quickly get the various next actions from my email into OmniFocus (given that I'm often in email on the computer - sometimes a Mac, sometimes a PC - but pretty much only interact with OmniFocus via the iPad).