Monday, June 15, 2009

GTD Email

OK. Let's try and pick up where I left off the other day. Right now I've got everything collected and am ready to start with my GTD email. It's been a few days since I last posted about getting my getting things done system back into tip top shape. I've been able to maintain my current level of black belt GTD which is at the voicemail level and reduce my inboxes to items that are just actionable. But, I'd not been able to get any further down my GTD checklist.

If you remember what I emphasized last time then you know that once you get your system in shape to a certain point, it's important to keep it that way and at least get it to that level each day. I think for a lot of people this kind of thinking might be kind of basic. But, if you have had problems getting things moving through your GTD system, or getting yourself moving for that matter, taking small steps at a time is a great way to create some momentum for yourself and get a mental victory. Those are very important.

At this point, I've got everything collected except for probably some mental notes I've maybe not captured yet. This leaves me with inboxes, both electronic and my physical inboxes. If you have done what I suggested in an earlier post, you will have a list of those on a sheet of paper now so you won't forget to process any.

It's at this point that I move onto my next phase of mastering my GTD worflow and that is by processing stuff into my GTD system. So, I've moved out of the collection phase. This is an important distinction because now I must be in a different frame of mind. That's the hat of a processor.

What I want do is get my GTD inboxes to zero. I've already got my voicemail to zero and what I usually do at this point is get my email to zero. If you want to start with a different one that is ok too, just remember to do it in the same order each time and include it on your GTD daily review checklist. The other thing that I think is important is to do is leave your physical inbox as the last one that you master. Why? I use it to force stuff into to get other inboxes empty to again gain a mental victory. I've got a good size stack of paper so I know that I have my work cut out for me.

Back to my GTD email processing. Right now, I've whittled my inbox to zero in my email account and now have 174 messages in my action folder. The next goal I have is to get that folder to zero and to keep processing my email each and every day.

These are some tips:

  • Optimize the way you have your folders set up for processing email

  • Make sure you have your email account, calendar and lists manager open

  • Sort the email by sender and process them by sender. You might find that you can delete many at one time.

  • Get rid of as much of the easy stuff as you can to make the email list as small as you can

  • Print out the David Allen's workfow diagram. You can get it at his site davidco.com

  • Open one email at a time and take it through the workflow diagram.

  • Any email that you have problems with deciding on, print it out and throw it in your paper inbox to act on later. This will help you get the satisfaction of getting your folder to zero.

  • If you can't get it to zero today, then get as far as you can. Look to improve your processing skills each day by getting a little farther each day.

  • If you find it difficult to move stuff into your system, it could be because you haven't got that part of your setup in place. Make sure you have all the lists, reference filing, waiting for etc. in place. Otherwise, you'll be making an additional stack or leaving it in your inbox.

  • Extend the two minute rule to whatever it takes to get that item to move to improve your processing strength.


The goal is to get your email account to zero. When I first started it didn't happen right away. It took a while, but once I got there, it was quite a feeling. Once your email is at zero, it will be easier to get the next time. For me, setting up an action folder was a key ingredient to getting it there.

My email system got in shape by:

  • Creating a folder setup I was comfortable with

  • Creating an action folder to empty my email inbox

  • Spending time focusing on keeping it empty

  • Taking steps each day to get the action folder to zero by processing it or moving it my paper inbox.

  • Creating a checklist of steps I took to streamline my processing.


So, I'll check back in when my GTD email processing has gotten my email account AND my action folder to zero.



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