Email management and GTD

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by ggray50, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    Hey Kelly. Quick update. Have renamed 'archive' folder as 'action support'. Why? Because for some reason I found it difficult to differentiate between the 'archive' and 'reference' folders in the heat of battle. It would always stop me in my tracks, requiring a tiny bit of extra effort which interrupted my flow. Since replacing 'archive' with the two folders: 'action support' and 'waiting for support', its become far more intuitive.

    Should've listened to the Kelstar from the start. Lesson learned lol.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  2. Castanea_d.

    Castanea_d. Registered

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    I have an “@Action” folder for e-mails, also a “@Projects” folder with sub-folders for each project, and a “@Reference” folder. Also a “@WaitingFor” folder, and Archive folders for each year.

    I take a while every morning to process the e-mail In box to zero as Gameboy described above (especially including the liberal use of Project folders). Those items needing further work are in Action or WaitingFor. I scan both of these folders one or more times daily and consider them a part of my task list.

    If the e-mail is part of an ongoing project, it doesn’t go directly into the task list, but instead I add the task(s) to the project checklist (a text document) and move the e-mail to its project folder in the e-mail system. When I work on any specific Project (especially the determination of its next action), I look at both the checklist and the e-mail project folder. When the entire project is done, I move the folder and its contents to Archive.

    If an actionable e-mail is complex, incorporating several things I need to do, perhaps in relation to several different projects (and I’m sometimes guilty of writing this sort of e-mail to colleagues!), it will go in “Action” but will probably also be unpacked into items on my task list.

    Anything that is still in the “Action” folder by the time of my weekly review gets moved into an item on my task list as a further reminder that it remains pending (or onto my calendar, if appropriate). I make a strong effort to get the Action folder to zero at this point, but some weeks two or three e-mails carry over. If it gets to be more than that or if they continue to reside in Action, I recognize it as a problem and re-think the items. Perhaps it is something that is not very important, and the fact that I haven’t cleared it is an indication that it is (at best) a “someday/maybe” item. I don’t have a folder for that (maybe I should), so I move the item to Archive and have a marker for it in the "someday/maybe" part of my task list. Or perhaps I haven't dealt with it yet because it is amorphous and I haven't clarified it. If it is still there by the second weekly review, I will devote however much time it takes and figure out "What is it?" - as with any other incoming Stuff, I might get no further on a really thorny issue than getting it into my system as a Project with the next action being to think through it/brainstorm/talk with others. But at least it is out of my "@Action" box and into a form where i can deal with it appropriately.

    I pay more attention to “Reference” than I used to, for our current priest (my boss) tends to provide policy statements as e-mails, covering situations that may not arise for a while – but when they do, I need to remember her policy. I suppose I could distill these things into checklists or just do global searches through the archives, but so far putting such e-mails into Reference is working; the list remains short enough so that an occasional scan of the folder is sufficient for me to retain a grasp of what resides there.

    I deal with “Sent” items as others have described; a bcc to myself if it is something that I want in my “WaitingFor” folder for followups, or if it relates to a project and I want a copy of what I wrote in the place where I can find it readily.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2017
  3. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    That's interesting Castanea. I've now changed it up again. I've got Action,Waiting for, Ref, To Read and Action Support Archive. Project Support is in OneNote. Was getting far too many emails such that I was constantly updating my lists (or worse, forgetting to update lists such that I was losing track of where things stood). It was taking forever to administer and as I say, things were so fluid that I was constantly playing catch up with my action lists. Going to try using the emails themselves as the reminder and will see how I get on.
     
  4. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    My main GTD lists (projects, next actions, waiting for, to read) are kept on an Excel spreadsheet which I can sort using filters. Why Excel you may ask? Well, because my main area of "overwhelm" is work based with limited options to explore alternative IT based solutions. However, I'm able to access Microsoft OneDrive and so can work on stuff from multiple devices and locations using Excel. But I've struggled integrating the management of emails into my whole GTD system because things change so quickly in the world of email. As soon as another email is received, it has an impact on one or more of my existing projects which is logged on my Excel spreadsheet. I know this can't be unique to me, but I think I've finally figured out my issue with all of this.

    Say you're dealing with a project because its been allocated to you as a result of a meeting. To progress it, you make some calls, have some lower level meetings, do some research, and answer some emails. All of these actions are linked to that project. But...and here's the rub, as Shakespeare would say: 2 min rule actions aren't supposed to be tracked. So, I'm batting off those 2 min emails thinking that they fit the 2 min rule so don't need tracked, as it takes longer to track and organise them than to just to deal with them. But these little 2 minuters aren't stand alone actions, they're part of a bigger picture. Before I know it, I've lost track of where I left things when I look back at this in a week's time, because I've dealt with half a dozen 2 min emails on multiple projects.

    So, I've come to the conclusion that it's important I do track them, even though I deal with them immediately, because I want to know where I left that particular project when I look at it again at the weekly review. Tracking these 2 min rule actions becomes essential when you're dealing with 50-70 projects, if you want to know where you last left things. You can't and shouldn't keep those sort of things in your head...that's breaching the fundamental rule of GTD of using your mind for having ideas, not for storing stuff. However, tracking them also cuts across the 2 min rule principle of simply "doing" but not tracking these suckers. My approach? I've concluded that it its not practical to track them on my main GTD system due to the time and effort involved (primarily because they change so frequently - up to as much as 8 times a day in my email environment). I have decided to track project-related 2 minuters locally, in their own email environment, but not in my main GTD system. I can do this in seconds by dragging and dropping into the appropriate email folders whereas it would take much longer to update my main lists on my spreadsheet. Yes, there is a danger that my system isn't current, but the weekly review is an opportunity to ensure that both ecosystems (email and spreadsheet) are brought back into alignment.

    The danger with just firing off 2 minute rule emails without tracking them is that my lists are no longer current, which threatens the whole viability of my GTD intentions. Solution? Deal with the emails as a subset of the main system as described above - I think Kelly Forrester called this Option 1. Hope you're up for some irony: I initially poked holes in this proposal and tried to resist it when it was first suggested to me. But, in the end, I've gone from having a single email archive folder to setting up folders within my email client for new actions, ref, waiting for, to read, action support archive. And I'm finding things a lot easier to manage as a result. From experience, I just know that it takes too much effort for me to constantly keep amending lists when you're dealing with ping pong emails on a project. Far better to manage it within its own ecosystem.

    Its bizarre because only a few months ago, I was so sure that having a single GTD environment was the way to go. I've had to do a complete U-turn on this as it just wasn't working for me. TBH I still struggle with the thought of 2 major environments, but it simply wasn't working before. Since creating the folders in my email client, everything has become much more manageable. I can't say I'm overly comfortable with having an email system running in parallel (albeit connected on a weekly basis) with my main GTD system, but I am determined that I have to keep tweaking my system until it really works for me. And I think I'm getting there. Slowly, but surely. Sorry for ranting on about this, but its one of those things that's kept me awake at nights. Yes, that means its ripe for a mindsweep capture. And if I'm honest, no - I didn't even capture this on my lists. But at least I now think I've given it the appropriate engagement it deserves. At last.
     
  5. Suelin23

    Suelin23 Registered

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    I include the Sent folder in my processing. I have a separate Waiting For folder so I move them out. I also move out any project reference or reference material. Anything else is not important to keep so either delete immediately or after a set period eg 1 month.
     
  6. JodieFrancis

    JodieFrancis GTD Novice

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    I process my 'Sent' as vigorously as my Inbox. Items either go into Project Reference or into Waiting For. (and I review my Waiting For about twice a week)
    There are many balls in the air around here, and I continue to amaze my co-workers at my ability to follow up / keep things moving / instantly retrieve the last active item. It's probably my biggest GTD 'win' ;)
     
  7. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I'm beginning to think that might be useful. I'have had to track and follow some conversations lately that would have gone faster if the sent messages were in the same location as my received ones. My problem is I look at the backlog of 20k+ messages in my sent messages folder and instantly hit overwhelm. And yes, I do actually refer to messages that are decades old so I can't just delete them willy nilly.
     

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