Cannot understand the purpose of @Action folders/labels in e-mail. Explanation is kindly appreciated

thomas b

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Hi all. My first post here (I think. I might have posted several years back, not sure).

I have a question regarding official guide for Google Apps and managing actionable e-mail messages. In fact, it is a more general question, since it applies not only to Google Apps.

So, according to the guide, and the book, it is recommended that a @Action support folder/label is created to hold email that were moved to next action list.

The purpose of this folder is not clear to me. Let me describe my workflow a bit to explain. In Google Mail, when an actionable message arrives, I move it to Gmail Tasks, exactly per official GTD guide. As a result I have a next action entry with original email message linked.

Then, what is the purpose to move that very e-mail message to folder/label called @Action? I am genuinely curious about it. I wonder, maybe its purpose is to browse through that list of emails during weekly review, to look for potential triggers that are not discovered yet and not yet on next action list?

I guess my question is general in nature and does not apply to Google Apps only. The very same concept was implemented in Outlook Guide and official Outlook plugin, which I purchased back in 2010 I think. So this is clearly a well established thing. Yet I struggle to understand it.

Any explainers on this are appreciated! Thanks in advance!
 

Mateusz

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I use Action Support folder within my Outlook because I can’t link email with my to-do app directly. What I do is I have defined a quick step in Outlook which sends actionable email into my NirvanaHQ account and move the original email to support folder. I use this only when the email includes attachments that I will have to go back to or when I will need to deal with the email itself somehow for example respond to it later. I can’t see any reason why to do this when direct linking between emails and tasks is possible. I always treat my to-do app as major tool and go back to emails only when I find such task on my list. Because there is no direct connection I have to have an easy way to find particular email.
 

John Ismyname

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Hello Thomas; First came the GTD official guide for Outlook, which I never read. I can see where the official guide sought to follow a manual, paper-based GTD system. This was followed by the GTD Outlook-addin (GTDOA), which was based on the GTD official guide for Outlook. I bought this in the early 2000s and Outlook became my GTD platform. I never questioned the email @_ folders in Outlook as GTDOA did the grunt-work of moving files into these folders and the system did what i wanted it to.

Sadly, GTDOA went of the market and I created or modified Visual basic programming to emulate GTDOA. This made me question exactly what you are questioning. While my platform is Outlook and not Google, the same thing applies. My platform creates a task from an email that includes a copy of the email and a HTML link to the original email. My Outlook auto-groups tasks based on each task's @_ context. The original email is now a 'dead soldier' in this process. I simply move the email file to its final destination - it gets handled once.

In defence of the GTD official guide for Outlook, I would have found it useful even if there never was a GTDOA. The @_ email directories are a great way to visualize one's GTD system.
 

thomas b

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Hi, Thank you. I second the GTD Netcentrics Ad In and Outlook manuals. I bought them too back in the day and they served me well.

However, the concept of @action folders is still there in the Google Apps guide, despite the clear cut ability to link email to actions on Gmail task list. In fact the guide itself mentions this feature. So I recently did some end of year housekeeping and set up my Google suite properly, following the guide, and have set up the @Action Support and @Waiting for support folders. However, it seems that for me this creates an additional processing step and and in the end of the day I am skipping it.

Just wondering, if this is just taking advantage of my experience and trying to streamline the process to work better for me, of is it productivity porn and pointless tinkeirng creeping in... ugh!
Happy New Year everyone!
 

Oogiem

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have set up the @Action Support and @Waiting for support folders. However, it seems that for me this creates an additional processing step and and in the end of the day I am skipping it.
I'm with you on this one. I have tried using @Action Support and @Waiting folders in my email app (Apple Mail) and I found they were just black holes into which stuff vanished. What I found it used for more than anything were emails about things I might possibly do or events I might attend and emails regarding bug reports on software I've been using. I moved the @waiting into my project support for the items they related to and the event items into my digital tickler file. That left the bug reports and that's pretty much all that is in it now.
 

thomas b

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Thanks. This is interesting. I just wonder why the official Google Apps guide mentions creating @Action Support and @Waiting For support folders? I need to revisit the guide, chances are I am misreading someting...
 

Gardener

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I have a "look at this" folder for when I want to clear a cluttered inbox and can't instantly confirm that something isn't going to produce an action, but when the thing is looked at and I establish an action or I don't, I just throw it back into the ocean, and do a search to go back to it if I need to.

Edited to add: Although if the thing doesn't look easily searchable, sometimes I'll mail it to myself, changing the subject line to something more searchable. For example, if someone has an issue with software and the mail doesn't include the word "bug" or the application name, I may put those in the subject line.

Example:

Original subject: Problem! Heeelp!
My new subject: Reporting bug, WidgetApp, Judy
 

thomas b

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Hm. I used to have something similar to your "look at this" folder, but it quickly overwjelmed me. moving messages to it seemed like I kind of processed them, but in fact I did not, and instead of taking the time and deciding, what to do about them, I moved them out of the way, creating unsurountable pile of goo. I hope this works better for you.
 

Gardener

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Hm. I used to have something similar to your "look at this" folder, but it quickly overwjelmed me. moving messages to it seemed like I kind of processed them, but in fact I did not, and instead of taking the time and deciding, what to do about them, I moved them out of the way, creating unsurountable pile of goo. I hope this works better for you.
I suspect that it's a strategy that collapses at a certain scale. In my job, the number of actionable messages is a tiny fraction of the total messages, so so far it works.

I didn't, I think, clarify that I handle the urgent, move "look at me" to their own folder, and then move all the rest into the archive for the year, thus emptying my inbox entirely so that I have a clearer view of the next batch that comes in and higher odds of seeing the next urgent message.
 
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