View Full Version : Getting the email inbox down to one screen.
09-03-2003, 04:23 AM
I've been doing the GTD method on and off for about a year. October 30 of last year, I took a day off and just inboxed so much stuff. I began using a paper planner, but discovered a plam was better for me (for quick reviewing) and wasn't so bulky. It is also easier to change categories of things.
I have had a habit of sending myself messages by email and using email as reminders for things. Bad idea.
I worked out a system for getting my active email screen down to about 7 pending messages for the first time yesterday. What a relief! I actually had messages from 1999 on the active list, where it built up to about 475+ in total periodically. I just made folders in my groupwise and started filing and dumping.
Now I have an email list that is manageable.
My palm lists are not managable, so I am moving some projects to a "pending projects" list which I can review weekly but not constantly. A renegotiation. I am also putting lots of other stray items on "Someday/Maybe." This after reading post 327 by Cosmo and others.
Lots of helpful advice on this site. Thanks to David Allen for the principles and everyone else for your input.
09-04-2003, 04:56 AM
I can relate to how liberating that feels. But imagine how much better it'll feel to take care of those seven remaining messages...
10-03-2003, 02:46 AM
PRODUCTIVITY PRINCIPLE #49
You can never get enough of what you don't really
Though this profound personal-growth axiom
usually refers to things like "others' approval"
(you really need your own), it is equally
applicable to productivity. Many can never work
hard enough, because working hard is not really
what they need. They need to work on the right
thing. Working hard at the right thing is not
hard work, or haven't you noticed?
"If you don't know what you're doing, you don't
know when to stop." – unknown
"If it moves, salute it. If it doesn't move, pick
it up. If you can't pick it up, paint it." –
U.S. military slogan
"If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing
to do is stop digging." – Will Rogers
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
"IS IT OVERTIME ALL THE TIME?"
Recently while coaching an executive I discovered
another subtle but very real level of the "busy
trap." You know the syndrome: "if I can just be
doing SOMEthing that feels like I'm working with
focus, I don't have to deal with the angst about
all the other stuff I probably should be doing…"
He had processed down to the last dozen or so
emails in IN. They were the ones he wanted to
keep in there, because he needed to spend time
(more than two minutes) on each of the responses.
He had already set up a category of Tasks in
Outlook called "At Computer". Because I wanted
him to stop using IN for a holding bin, and taste
what it was like to really get it empty, I nudged
him to go ahead and move those emails out of IN
and onto the "At Computer" list.
As he did that, you could see the light dawn.
"Wow! Now I see all my work inventory in one
place! And I now realize that I would let myself
spend time on those emails before anything else,
because that would seem the easiest choice to
make. Now I can assess them immediately within
the context of everything to do. They're not
lost, and they're in proper perspective. I've
been letting myself get sucked into the easiest
being-busy thing, instead of feeling better about
Psychic RAM tends to bring to awareness items
based on criteria of latest (most recent in time)
and loudest (emotionally), which is hardly the
most effective file and retrieval system. In a
similar way, if your system of action reminders
is haphazard (post its on the screen, phone slips
on the desk, notes on your chair, people
interruptions), your busy energy momentum will
glom on to the easiest thing to maintain itself.
But the most obviously in your face is hardly the
best criterion for in-the-moment choices of what
Stop. Do what you need to do to feel as good as
you can about what you're doing. You can never be
busy enough to dispel the need to be busy. And
when you really choose the work you are doing,
it's a lot easier to choose not to work.
"It is not enough to be busy... The question is:
What are we busy about?" - Henry David Thoreau
Edit email subject lines, when you store or
reply/reroute. One tiny moment of mental effort
and movement on your part so helps grease the
processing skids for yourself and numerous others
later in assessing what this email is about, as
it morphs into different things with different
10-08-2003, 09:40 AM
Thanks for the comments, Jason.
After doing this originally a month ago, the number of email in my inbox climbed back up as I logged in very long hours on my grant. So, over the last several days I got it down to one screen again. Monday 10/6 I got it to zero. Empty.
It felt really great. It was nice to not have things there used as reminders for some kind of actions, since that action seldom would be well defined. It is very nice to go through my emails and get them to zero, saving emails in appropriate folders and writing next actions to my context lists on my palm.
I started using tickler files a month ago. Again, a tremendous improvement.
I find that the more clean edges there are, the better I feel. I recommend that everyone try GTD behaviors as they have been recommended in the book, to the letter, at first. Doing them as completely as possible really brings much better relaxation and control.