Need some guidance, best practices for processing email

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by KW7, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. KW7

    KW7 Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2017
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    I've been attempting GTD for 4 months now and I've got lots to work on. For now, one of my greatest failings is getting email inbox to zero. I have a lot to read in my job so I waffle back and forth between reading items from my inbox and moving anything that violates the 2-minute Rule to a "Read" folder to tackle after I'm finished with the inbox. It's a basic question, for sure, but I wanted to see what other folks have done that helped them tame this particular tiger.

    Many thanks for your input.
     
  2. kelstarrising

    kelstarrising GTD Coach

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2002
    Messages:
    3,739
    Likes Received:
    338
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Location:
    Ojai, CA
  3. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Messages:
    681
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    28
    So I'm looking at a somewhat neglected email box now, and I'm going to get it to zero.

    First, when an email doesn't need attention (I already answered it, I don't care about it, it was an FYI and I shrugged) I leave it "read". If an email needs attention but I'm not going to process it now, I mark it as unread after reading it. Obviously if I haven't read it, I haven't read it. So when I sit down to do this, I have a mix of read and "unread" emails. I keep up with at least glancing at email, so I know that anything older than the last day I worked is not truly "new", it's just glanced-and-marked-unread.

    Anyway, right now I:

    - Drag everything that's read (not displayed in boldface, in my email client) into my unsorted email archive for the year.

    - Sort the remainder by "from" because it's easier to find junk that way.

    - Do "mark as read" on assorted junk--announcements of new training titles, notifications from systems where I know that the notifications are never for me, etc. Move them to the unsorted archive. If there were any actual junk mail, I'd delete it, but the corporate filters seem to do a good job on that.

    - Scan what's left. There are some actual tasks in there, though some are as unrefined as "Think about 3/12 email from Fred".

    - Open Jira, which is where I'm keeping my work lists right now. At high speed, create tasks, type in a rapid summary of the email (rarely more than about ten words; if I'll need more I'll note the date and sender of the email and go look at the email when I get to the task) and mark those tasks so that they appear in the Backlog for my "MyBoard" board. (Most will be demoted to Someday/Maybe but I want to at least glance at them before that.) Mark those emails Read and put them in the archive.

    Inbox is empty. On another day, there might have been some email relevant to my personal system, such as something telling me where to go find my W-2. If there had been, I would have forwarded them them to my personal email address and marked/archived the work copy.

    I move email from email to Jira with limited processing because I find tasks much easier to process in Jira. The work isn't really fully processed, but my email is clear, and Jira is nicely predigested for better processing later.
     
  4. Geeko

    Geeko GTD since 2017

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2017
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Germany
    I use labels and virtual folders to keep my email organized (I use thunderbird). So I can file each email in its appropriate folder and still see it on my lists. I use the following labels: action, answer, read, waiting for, important information and later.
    I don’t like the idea to use “mark read/unread” because it gives you too little freedom.
    Additional to this system I use a paper planner for next actions.

    I hope, this helps you.

    Cheers,
    Tristan
     
  5. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,432
    Likes Received:
    256
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Female
    I tried a to read folder for e-mail and it became a black hole. I know it's not best practice but if I can't fully process the item when I first read it I just leave it in my inbox for processing later. The reason things may take time to process is I might only have a few minutes to work on my e-mail inbox. I get to a message and just figuring out what it is and whether it's actionable may take 10 minutes or more. SO if I only have 5 to work on stuff I pass over that one and move on going for the quick win of clearing out as much as I can vs sequential processing.

    I do use a number of mail rules so that ads and newsletters sort out into a separate folder I only try to clear out a couple times a week.

    I have one action support folder where I put messages that I've processed that support an action or project. They are then a link in my Omnifocus system. I go back through and clear it out during weekly review as often I either didn't really need the e-mail when I got to the action or I finished the action but didn't clean out the e-mail folder. That is also where the e-mails about possible future items go, things like invitations or events where I may or may not go. The item goes into my calendar with a ? in front of the title so I know I've not committed to it and the e-mail is in action support. If I decide to go I may reference the e-mail if I need to bring something or I may just trash it once the time has passed, esp. if I never went. Most of these items are invitations to attend various community meetings about issues I care about. Some I can make, some I just am not able to make and some I don't have the mental bandwidth to attend when the day finally comes.
     
  6. Melissa Strayer

    Melissa Strayer Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2018
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Project Manager (healthcare)
    Location:
    Northeast Ohio
    As a project manager, I focus on the ACTION question. Is there an action step in this email? Is it mine or someone else's? In the end, everything in your "read"' folder must be aligned to some desired outcome that doesn't yet exist or some next step that needs to be taken since your job must add value to the organization in a way that those reading materials do not provide in and of themselves. Perhaps scanning new emails may require a little more time per message for you to really read the email, passim the attachments, and then decide the next action and if it's yours or someone else's. Are you finding that you are moving things to "read" and having to re-read them several times? If so, it may take less time to really read up front and then decide if it goes in your next action (e.g, should you schedule a meeting with folks about the topic of the message?), waiting for (e.g, will a government agency be releasing a final rule next month?), agendas (e.g, is there a question you need get an answer to from someone?), project support (e.g., is this a key event in the project's path?), general reference (e.g., is there a new concept introduced in the message?), or any other action folder you have set up (e.g., research online). Perhaps designating times of the day to properly process and focus on emails may help give you the space and permission to do a decent read of messages up front. I have found doing an end-of-day, scheduled "shutdown" ritual for 15-30 mins that includes a mindsweep, processing physical inbox items, and getting inbox to zero enormously helpful for my peace of mind (and since I'm eager to get out the door it focuses me to decide, decide, decide quickly!).
     

Share This Page