I'm searching for some best practices in managing e-mail messages that not only take more that two minutes to dispatch, they take more than one action to dispatch (a mini-project with up to 5 next actions).
David Allen outlines three options for organizing actionable e-mails within Outlook:
- Move e-mails to the @Action folder
- Drag the e-mails to Tasks
- Add an individual Task to @Computer list and move the e-mail to the @Action Support folder.
For e-mails that require nothing more than a reply that will take longer than two minutes, I use the first option. For e-mails that represent a simple next action other than a reply (I sometimes e-mail myself a reminder that I need to do something) I use option two or three, depending on whether or not the original e-mail is needed as support material.
But what about those e-mails that represent a mini-project? You can't simply reply to the e-mail; you need to perform one or more additional next actions to get the information you need to compose a reply (web surfing, telephoning, meeting, etc). Some possible options that come to mind for me include:
- Move the e-mail to @Action but generate next actions until you are able to dispatch it with one action (a reply or other action).
- Add "Handle e-mail re: x" to your Projects list, decide the next action you need to take and add it to the appropriate action list, and move the e-mail to @Action Support or a new project support folder.
I'd like to know how others organize those types of e-mail. Also, do you use only one of the three techniques for organizing ALL of your e-mails, or do you use a mix of the three depending on the e-mail itself?
I'd appreciate any information you're willing to share. Thanks!