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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How I use GTD to manage my email

I am a big fan of the David Allen getting things done system. His tips and tricks for time management are effective because they work whether you are paper based or electronic based in how you apply them. I have been able to achieve remarkable productivity increases use a combination of paper and electronic based tools to implement the GTD system.

If you go to David Allen's web site you will find some great tools and he has a free download that will explain how to set up a series of folders in your email system and mobile device. I use a blackberry connected to my office outlook, though this is a greatly reduced in capability blackberry for various compliance reasons. This is where mine is set up. The first thing I did was set up a series of folders in outlook to support the two minute drill.

In the outlook mailbox I have
1) @Actions folder where I drag any mail items that will take longer than the two minutes to process
2) @Waiting for folder where a copy of any request I have outstanding with someone else is placed. I review this file to determine what is outstanding and who needs to be followed up with.
3) @Touchbase here is where I place any emails that represent an ongoing exchange and though not a priority action or a waiting for I want to make certain to follow up with this person. This is a once a week folder versus everyday.
4) I then have a series of offline folders or in outlook terms "PST" files that I use to manage the large amount of emails and projects. These folders are set up by year and quarter
  • 2008 - Q1
  • 2008 - Q2
  • 2008 - Q3
  • 2008 - Q4

Under each of these folders I place sub folders to file all of the inbound emails

Alerts
These are auto generated emails from the various servers that provide activities of the status of their performance and batch jobs. They typically require no action on my part, my team is responsible but they are important for service level performance measurement. So I keep them filed for future reference.

Projects
Every project seems to have some form of email trail and I am still, many years after completion, referring back to legal contracts or other documentation related to project in 2005.

each major project has notes/minutes, documents/presentations, and other

I try not to get carried away with excessive file and directory structures but when you have to find something quickly a year later this system sure helps.

I then have a personal folder with Transactions, Network Activity, Travel, and Other.

With this set up I am able to handle my email traffic very easily and then incorporate this into the rest of David Allen's recommendations in the book Getting Things Done.

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