e-mails management / multiple actions lists


Hi guys,

(sorry for my English)

regularly, I ask myself if my GTD method is on track or fit and if I don't lose a part of my rigor.
Question about mails :
For the moment I keep my zero inbox, at the step of clarifying :
An e-mail enters, I read it fast and :
- if not actionable => reference or trash
- if <2 min, I do it
- If >2 min, I transfer it to a "TO DO" file in Outlook
But all my actions are kept in another to-do tracker.
So I have 2 different to-do trackers and I'm not sure it's totally correct. Because in my "TO DO" folder in Outlook, yes I know that this e-mail required more action, but I didn't really clarify WHAT IS this action (answer, research, deep work,...).
Furthermore doing this, my real action list is not really complete, because I've some "hidden to-do's".
Should I transfer my actionable e-mails to my action tracker (Evernote here)? But is it not a little bit overkill? Or keeping my actionable e-mail in this folder but adding a clarified task to my official to-do list?

Thanks, guys!


A few things to note:

1) David Allen talks about this in his book: I think it's at the "Emails and Contexts" section of the organizing chapter. However, before a prerequisite for even being on the organizing stage is the clarification stage, so either directly on your email or in your action tracker, you must have a clarified what the stuff means to you.

2) David Allen suggests two approaches to the organizing aspect of your question: either all your reminders are in your action tracker, or your emails are processed within your email software. In the latter case, he says when reviewing action lists, you must open both your action tracker and email software to be able to see all of your actions. Yes, you mentioned your real action list is not complete, but this is an inevitable side effect that is remediated by reviewing the two split parts.

How I see this, it's a balance between two stages in which you want to develop more. You can either put more effort into your organizing stage (i.e. creating a reminder in your action tracker for actionable emails) or your reviewing stage (i.e. reviewing both your emails and your action lists). In my case, I decided to go with the former, since I'd rather be as smooth as possible during my reviewing stage.

Jeremy Jones

This is something I'm working to improve. My method is pretty good, but could be better.

I use Todoist for my actions, projects, and horizons of focus, as well as reference and someday/maybe. Outlook and Gmail are used only for email and calendar purposes (and I'm pretty strict about my calendar).

These days I'm deciding what needs to be done about an email before filing it in the correct bucket. If I can do it quickly, I do it and then archive all the communication in the thread.

If I have to defer it, ideally I'll decide right then what needs to be done, add a task in Todoist, like "@calls Xavier to get dates for Charlotte trip," and then move the email relating to that subject into my @ACTION SUPPORT folder. The "@calls" tag in Todoist is set up so it goes into a bucket exclusively for calls, so I can see it when it's time.

If I'm waiting for someone else on it, I'll move it into my @WAITING FOR SUPPORT folder. I'm not great at adding a Todoist task for these unless they're critical. In that case I'll add a task like "@waiting-for Phil to answer about call with XYZ." Here the @waiting-for is a Todoist tag again, that puts it into that bucket.

So with the example of WAITING FOR, I can go into that bucket in Todoist, see what I need to follow up on, and do so using the email in my Outlook or Gmail folder. After I follow those up, I look at the less important items in that folder and follow up the ones I need to do along the lines of priority.


I have found this is one area I do pretty well and it makes processing email super fast for me.....

First off, 2 minute rule. If I can complete something in my email within 2-3 minutes I do it immediately.

I also have rules setup for certain things. For example, in my work role I have to sign off on proposals. They come in a certain way (subject line etc.). I have a rule setup in Outlook to auto send it to my task manager as I get an inbox email with Omnifocus and move the email into my @action support folder. So this Outlook rule auto processes that email for me and I never even see it in my email inbox.

Anything longer than 2 minutes that I cannot get to right away I quickly acknowledge so the client, sender, etc. knows I saw it and I bcc my omnifocus inbox (or forward it in and rename the subject). I move the email into my @Action Support folder.

This enables me to process email very quickly, everything thinks I am super responsive as I always acknowledge the email same day, but I work on it at my pace.


Many thanks for your replies.

I made some modifications to my routine and so, the new one is :

- If I send an e-mail that needs a waiting-for action, I tag it in Outlook and I add an item to my weekly review checklist in order to review these tasks. This solution simplifies the "kind reminder" I send to the concerned people.

- Of course the 2 minutes rules !

- If action >2 min => adding a task in my task manager and put the mail in my outlook action-support folder.

After reading your comments (again: thank you !), I realize that I didn't follow (although I thought so !) the one-touch rule. In fact, I MUST decide that, when I read my mail, it's a clarify/organize time, and not an "I will look at these e-mails to pre-read them and imagine what I will perhaps do later". Grrrrrrrrr.
=> I now work in offline mode in Outlook, and when I know I have a short clarify/organize period, I activate the reception.


- If action >2 min => adding a task in my task manager and put the mail in my outlook action-support folder.
You can automate this process and reduce it to two short cuts with a "Quick Step".
1. Mark Message as read.
2. Create new task with message.
3. Move to folder action-support.