As you may or not know, I am a big fan and active user of GTD, an organizational methodology by David Allen. I've written blog posts and created five videos on how I use GTD - and how you can use it too.
The most important criteria for GTD is to use what works for you. If a recommendation doesn't work for you - you don't have to do it!
I've been on the GTD train since December 5, 2005. So I've had a lot of time to internalize the system and customize it based on my own trainwreck of left and right brain organization. I even stole/modified a note-taking idea from Tim Ferris before his superstardom and use 1 notebook to take notes on ALL my projects, creating an ad-hoc Table of Contents as the notebook gets filled up with notes.
But today, I want to tell you about how I was just able to GTD my inboxes of > 500 email messages (from the weekend) in 20 minutes and be left with just 4 messages in my inbox.
There are three steps
- Set up your system
- Use your system
- Care and feeding of your system
I'll just mention item 1 today. First, you've got to (start to) set up your system.
@, in_, L:, P:, z
The first thing I did was create GTD specific folders in my gmail.
- @: The "@" / "at" folder. e.g. @ActionItem, @Email, @waiting
Your "@" 's are where you put emails into general buckets for "actions." Like it an email needs an action items (to be responded to, to be read, to do something and then respond, any kind of action). My @ActionItem folder is like my Todo list in my email inbox. My @waiting is where I file emails I am waiting for a response from (that I want to track). I use @ActionItem and @waiting the most in this category.
- in_ : I have many email addresses and I filter them all into my gmail account. I filter several addresses directly into their own folders. For those acconts, I preface them with in_nameofemail. I process these folders when I process my "inboxes."
- L: I am on a lot of lists, and some of them I filter directly into their own folders. I often don't go into these folders, but filter them because they automatically get tagged if they also go into my inboxes. For lists that are of similar topic, I just filter them all into the same folder. E.g. All my tech email lists get filtered into L: TechLists.
- P: or the Project "Folders" aka google labels. I was a power Outlook user before I switched to gmail, so I love folders and preface project folders with P:. This makes it easy for me to see my active projects at a glance. (I hide or archive any labels that are not active.)
- z or Archive. When I'm done with a label or folder, I will either roll those contents into another general folder (e.g. zArchivedClients) remove any organizational prefixes and replace with a "z" prefix. I started doing this before they offered the "hide" function. Sometimes now I will just hide the label instead of zArchiving it.
Check out the screenshots below.
OK, give this a little food for thought and think about what folders of the above might be appropriate for your own style. Next post, we'll talk about using your system.