Hi all -
I work for a family business and am in the process of trying to handle more and more of it on my own as my parents ease into retirement. GTD has been instrumental in helping me maximize my effectiveness and take control of my time.
As we primarily deal with colleagues, suppliers, and customers overseas, much of our business is conducted via email. I receive and send hundreds of emails a day. As it is extremely important for me to make sure that I follow up on every detail (because without fail, the minor detail I fail to follow up on turns into a crisis), I used to funnel copies of all my sent mail into my "waiting for" folder.
The problem is, my waiting for folder was huge, and it was difficult to distinguish which items needed to be followed up more urgently than others. It was difficult to sift through my entire waiting for folder every day to make sure that there was not something urgent that I was neglecting to follow up on in time.
Recently, I've been bypassing the "waiting for" folder entirely and using my calendar (I use iCal on my Mac) to set follow up reminders for a few days ahead, depending on the urgency of the issue. Essentially, my calender becomes my tickler as well, and using an electronic calendar makes it easy for me to move my items between days, and having a long list of items does not bother me. Furthermore, reminders for less urgent issues are put further ahead, so they do not occupy my pysche unneccessarily.
Essentially, my routine has become as follows:
1.) I BCC myself on every sent email, and my sent emails for that day are all kept in a mail folder.
2.) The next day, I move all of these sent emails into my inbox, and use the "view as threads" feature so that emails that were received overnight are linked and grouped with the emails that I sent the previous day.
3.) I process emails as normal, and sent emails where the response or issue has already been received do not go into my calendar. Emails that I sent that are still open are entered into my calendar depending on their urgency and need for follow up. This helps prevent unnecessary data entry for issues that will most likely be resolved in 24 hours.
Let me tell you, this has done so much for me in terms of giving me full trust in my system and has taken me one step closer to "mind like water." I have full confidence that I will review an issue when it needs to be, and if at that time I choose to delay a follow-up further, I can do so without stress or worry.
But taking this further, unless you have issues with using electronic calendars (I know some people prefer paper, and I understand and respect that), I'm starting to think that the ease of creating entries in a calendar on your computer or handheld, and the ability to move them around easily, I feel like this approach is much better than using a "waiting for" list. It really forces me to close my open loops and conclude my projects faster, while previously I would let things stagnate in my "waiting for" folder because they weren't really urgent. By forcing me to decide upfront what is the acceptable amount of time I'm willing to wait for someone to get back to me, this system helps me relax and trust it so much more.
In my opinion, this electronic tickler approach for any "waiting for" issue, whether it's a business issue, or whether you are waiting for someone to return something to you, etc. creates much more trust in the system and helps move things forward much more quickly.
I'm starting to think that I may eliminate my "waiting for" list entirely (I still use a waiting for list for personal matters) in favor of moving completely to this electronic tickler approach.
I would be interested in hearing people's thoughts on this.