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How to Best Manage Ideas/Notes/Reference in Outlook?

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  • How to Best Manage Ideas/Notes/Reference in Outlook?

    Hi Everyone,

    I've just been trying to get my arms around GTD these past couple weeks and I'm struggling with figuring out the best way to manage notes/ideas/reference material within Outlook.

    For example, if I read something online that gives me an idea of how to better do something in my business, how do you about recording that type of information?

    Do you create a task to do the new thing? Do you add it as general reference information to inform your overall strategy?

    Also, if something is general reference information, do you just add put it into an Outlook note? Do you categorize like items you would place in a paper file folder?

    I'm trying not to over think all of this but also hoping I can get some advice from people a little further along than I am.

    Thanks very much!

  • #2
    Notes section of Outlook

    The "Notes" section of Outlook can work well for this, if you are looking to keep this in Outlook.

    The GTD & Outlook Setup Guide describes that feature of Notes and ways to get creative with that kind of information.

    Hope that helps.


    • #3
      For me, I dont keep things in outlook. I try to make outlook data file as small as possible so it will open and respond faster.

      I do keep active project related stuff/emails organised by folders in outlook. after the project is done, I will move the folder to another .pst file or delete them.

      For reference item, if text only, i'll copy and paste to .txt file organised with windows folder and TOMBO which sync to my PDA for on the go reference. (do a google search for how to create a button to archive all images from an email automatically, which is very useful if the email has embedded image.) If pictures only, I'll save the pictures and organise with windows folder. If pictures with words, i'll print as PDF, save as MHT or I'll save it to KEEPNOTE database.

      I have googole desktop installed + ScanSoft OmniPage Search Indexer plug in, to index and OCR my pdf and image file so i can search them whenever i wanted.

      Hope this helps.


      • #4

        I use Outlook for storing small bits of information, but only short-term. A website that I may visit will go into my Someday/Maybe list.

        In Outlook, Notes are useful but keep in mind that they can be deleted with a single keystroke. For this reason, I use Tasks for such lists.

        I used to have many many lists, but I found that I did better to have a few larger lists. For the moment, my most important lists are:

        1) Quotes, Thoughts, and Vocabulary -- these are vocabulary words I'd like to learn (any language), quotes I like (either inspirational or just because I found the wording eloquent), or thoughts to ponder. I very much enjoy reviewing this list.
        2) Someday/Maybe -- this includes Someday/Maybe's related to any project. 3) Accounts Payable for this month
        4) Accounts Receivable for this month

        At a weekly or monthly review, I append each of these lists to master lists -- either PDF or Word documents.

        In my case, I only let Outlook carry a small amount of information because I use a Blackberry, and the Blackberry can only handle so much information per task. My master Someday/Maybe list is over 70 pages long (sorted by date), and the Blackberry would lop off the last 69.5 pages.

        Here is a Task naming convention you can use for lists:
        Z-List-Quotes Thoughts and Vocabulary - Mar 2010

        (The Z will put it at the bottom of your To Do's, so they won't be in the way of reviewing Next Actions)



        • #5
          My work email has a size limit on my mailbox so I don't keep all my reference in my mailbox that's stored on the company's servers. Instead I create a local PST file and add it to outlook. The PST file is stored locally on my hard drive so I can move whatever I want there without a network storage quota to worry about.

          I try to keep it as linear and simple as possible. I've taken the advice that David Allen talks about in his book regarding reference. Instead of creating a deep hierarchy of reference folders, I basically have a simple list of alphabetical topics that come to mind. In his second book, David remarks that organizing your reference folders is a self-policing activity that you need to experiment with over time. It's an organic process that is unique to each person. The goal that I think should be strived for is the ability to quickly access the information you want without being bogged down in the organization. If the organizational format prevents your from being organized, then your organizational format isn't very organized.

          Recall that David suggests making lots of folders in your paper based reference system, giving them a subject name that accurately describes the content. I'm currently experimenting with maintaining 3 reference systems at work - paper based in a filing cabinet, electronic based as folders on my desktop, and email based as folders in my local PST outlook file. I use the same theme in all three and it's working pretty good so far. As a software engineer, I've been able to quickly (within 2 minutes) find exact, particular material/conversation that I've worked on months ago. In my line of work, that's quite rare indeed. That's probably been one of the biggest boons to my career so far with implementing GTD.