Filing Reference Emails

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by sesteph6, Apr 16, 2018.

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How are you Filing your Reference Email?

  1. I use 1 folder that everything goes into.

    37.0%
  2. I use many topic folders.

    63.0%
  1. sesteph6

    sesteph6 Registered

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    I follow GTD pretty much by the book. So I have topic folders that I file emails in. I get between 100-200 emails per day. I now have over 150 folders to file reference emails under. Some have moved to a single folder, then use the powerful search features. DA addresses this directly in GTD and advises against it. YET... Filing has become a chore.
     
  2. kelstarrising

    kelstarrising Kelly Forrister / GTD Coach / GTD Connect Trainer

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    Can you find something in under 60 seconds the way you are doing it now?
     
  3. sesteph6

    sesteph6 Registered

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    Yes! I sure can. But.... and there is always a but... it probably takes me 20-30 seconds to figure out where to file the email, find the folder, then move it there. Multiply that by 200 emails on a busy day.... plus its a really annoying 20 seconds of scrolling through my ever growing folder collection. So, I think myself... self, how excellent would it be to read an email, hit a file it quick action button, and move on to the next! However, with 5 votes in, it looks like the many folder approach has a clear lead.
     
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  4. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Assumptions:
    -- Average number of incoming emails per day = 200.
    -- Average time of filing an email in a topic folder = 25 seconds.
    -- Average time of filing an email in one big archive folder = 2 seconds.
    -- Average number of searched emails per day = 20.
    -- Average time of searching for an email in topic folders = 25 seconds.
    -- Average time of searching for an email in one big archive folder using search function = 60 seconds.

    1. Filing in topic folders.
    -- Filing: 200 emails * 25 seconds = 5000 seconds/day.
    -- Searching: 20 emails * 25 seconds = 500 seconds/day.
    Total time: 5000 + 500 = 5500 seconds ~ 1 hour 32 minutes.

    2. Filing in one big archive folder.
    -- Filing: 200 emails * 2 seconds = 400 seconds/day.
    -- Searching: 20 emails * 60 seconds = 1200 seconds/day.
    Total time: 400 + 1200 = 1600 seconds ~ 27 minutes.
     
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  5. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    One more vote on big folder, and we'll have a tie!

    However, I don't think that you can really choose a universal solution for this. How often do you use your emails for reference? How quickly do you need to find them when you do? What percentage of your emails are valuable for reference? Can you predict, ahead of time, which emails those are? Can you at least predict that some will not be useful? Are you nevertheless filing those types?

    If there are types of emails NOT useful for reference, I certainly wouldn't bother separating these--I'd dump all of them into one big folder.

    If there are types of emails that are critically useful for reference, but the volume is fairly low, I'd probably just take them out and put them in some other system.

    If you could easily search all your emails if you could just remember what person is associated with what project, maybe you stop filing emails and maintain a cheat sheet of people's names associated with projects.

    And so on. I think it's very dependent on the individual situation.

    I meant to ask:

    Can anyone point me to where it's addressed? (a section title, say?)
     
  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    1 big folder here, I tried sorting into folders but the time is not worth it in the long run for me. What I may do is sort send into the same big reference folder to keep things in easy date sort order.
     
  7. sesteph6

    sesteph6 Registered

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    TesTeq... You and I did similar math on this question.

    I think my challenge is I go to the COAO (Church of Allen Orthodox). I try not to over think GTD... if david says this is the best way to do, then I just tend to do it that way. He specifically addressed this question in the newer addition of the book. So... everytime I consider deviating, I think to myself, "have I really thought this through more than David and arrived at a different conclusion.... um... unlikely".
     
  8. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    - "GTD 2015" book, Chapter 7 "Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets", section "The Variety of Reference Systems", page 173 (Kindle Edition)
    - "Getting Email Under Control" white paper
     
  9. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I copy threads of critical email conversations outside the email system into text or PDF files that are stored in the Project's reference folder.
     
  10. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Remember that David was using Lotus Notes for email. Search function never worked in Lotus Notes, so email folders were the only option to find anything. ;-)
     
  11. sesteph6

    sesteph6 Registered

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    TesTeq... if Im ever in Poland.... I owe you a beer..... :)
     
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  12. sesteph6

    sesteph6 Registered

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    upload_2018-4-17_9-11-44.png

    Here is my new folders view. ;)
     
  13. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Very similar to mine, My additions are that I do have folders that sort out incoming mail into the 2 organizations where I am an officer, ads and news,Orders waiting and orders rcvd and 2 temporary folders for current ongoing projects. I also have reference folders for old e-mail lists that I was on because it's convenient to keep their messages in one place.
     
  14. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Thanks!

    Hmmm. I don't read this as David Allen saying that you SHOULD use multiple folders, just that most people do, and if you do, they shouldn't be nested. I may have misunderstood what was being said earlier in the thread.

    Edited to add: Ah, no, I see. I still won't be filing, but, yes, I see.

    Edited again to add: No, I take it back. What I see seems to be about getting things out of your Inbox, not filing it in multiple folders.

    I'm going to stop editing-as-I-read now. :)
     
  15. Michael Woods

    Michael Woods Registered

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    I use multiple email folders by topic. I try to be consistent to how I would file them if they were paper (alphabetical order). When in doubt, I add a folder because it is usually easier to find when I am trying to track something down. I do clean up the list at least annually and remove folders that only have one item in them or are no longer needed.

    My biggest challenge is with my Action Support/Waiting Support folders. I am not consistent about what I put in these folders. Sometimes I put the email in the Support folder and sometimes I put it in the reference file corresponding to the project. At least I have two possible places to look for it... Definitely room for improvement here.
     
  16. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I agree. David doesn't say that we should use multiple email folders but suggests that most people do. So some readers may interpret it as a "majority" recommendation. ;-) IMHO folders were necessary when a software search function was absent or weak (like in Lotus Notes).
     
  17. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Great! Come to Poland! David was here several times and survived! ;-)
     
  18. PBrinton

    PBrinton Registered

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    I have to agree with TesTeq on this one. I've tried both ways and a single folder has been by far more efficient for me. To speed up the process of finding emails, I also created a dynamic search folder in Outlook that contains all emails I received in the past week, one for last week and one for the past 30 days. Since the emails I search for are most often ones I received recently, this cuts down on the number of emails I have to search through. I just have to remember approximately how long ago I received it to know which folder to start my search in.

    I also set up a system where every incoming email gets flagged. I then created another dynamic search folder called "To Be Processed" that contains all flagged emails. Once I determine the next action related to an email, all I have to do is click the flag icon next to the email to turn off the flag and it is automatically removed from my "To Be Processed" search folder. This way I don't even have to drag and drop the email to my single consolidated folder, which can become tedious if you have a lot of emails. This system has worked extremely well for me.
     
  19. TruthWK

    TruthWK Registered

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    So while finding a particular item if you know what you want may be better through just search, I think the benefit of using folders is when you want to see everything on a particular topic or review an entire project or area of focus and go through all the emails in a folder or set of folders to see if there are any new next actions, things to be trashed, projects, etc in there. You may only do this occasionally but I think that's where the real added value of folders comes in.
     
  20. Gardener

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    My view, though, is that I would extract those next actions, etc., when I receive the mail. I see the archived email as a sort of empty husk; everything should have already been harvested. Now, the "harvesting" may refer to the email (Next action: "Analyze Widget bug; email from J Smith 6/5/18") but I still wouldn't need to scan through the folder of emails.

    That's not to say that I see zero value in those emails--just today I went through some archived email to create a history of some work, pulling out information that I didn't realize, when I got the email, that I would need. But in my case, that happens so very rarely, and the search is so easy (I looked at this year's emails to and from one person) that for me, filing is not worth it.
     
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