gtd, management

Are we getting things done yet?

Don’t you just hate to be told how to do things? I do. Yet, we keep looking for advice on how to be more efficient. I do too. In this post I’ll try to share what I do to get things done. I never actually put it into words before, but after becoming familiar with the likes of David Allen and his Getting Things Done and Merlin Mann‘s Inbox Zero and 43folders, I found some striking resemblances to what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. Watch the inspiring Google Tech Talk presentation held just recently by Mr. Mann below if you haven’t already.

Now this is what I do: I identify if any call, meeting, comment or email requires me to take action(s) as soon as they come to my attention.If no action is needed, I forget about it. It’s either resolved by reading/receiving or the action(s) is required from someone else. I’ll label this as a ‘No action’ action. I share info if appropriate, but only after considering signal to noise. I archive, never delete. (Yes, I’m a veritable digital information hamster.)

Next up I have ‘Immediate action’ – Does it take only a couple of minutes to do? I do it straight away or delegate it to someone that will do it instantly. (Delegating in general usually falls into this category, I would think.) Does it take longer? I let it sit in the inbox to deal with at an opportune moment, later same day. Do the gravity of the action require my immediate and unscheduled attention that will take the focus away from my current schedule? I reshuffle and reschedule current actions and do it now or re delegate, redistribute and/or re prioritise if possible. Archive.

Then there are the ‘Time/place action’, in lack of a better label. (Yes, I’m aware that my labeling is lacking in the sexy department. ;) Is my action needed at or before a certain time? At a certain place? I schedule it as a todo and/or a calendar event by date with timely reminders. I try to group similar actions. Archive.

Finally, there’s the ‘Future action’, a fuzzy nondescript action with no deadline. I keep it in the inbox and let it mature or either upgrade to time/place action or forget about it if someone else will get back to you on the subject at some future point or if it becomes irrelevant and automagically expires. I delegate it if needed/wanted. Archive.

Repeat, rinse and lathe.

With regards to mails, my inbox is my list of todos. I reply at once (‘Immediate action’), reply timed ( ‘Time/place action’), let simmer and mature (‘Future action’) or archive/file at once without reply (‘No action’) or after reply or when irrelevant like outlined above. I keep a minimal of mails in the inbox and try to deal with them all within a workday. There should ideally be no mails in my inbox at the end of the day. I do not keep separate folders for anything other than archiving purposes (tech restraint at my place of work). I do not waste time labeling or tagging emails, if you were wondering. Mails get archived naked.

Keeping physical in and out boxes does not work for me. I’ve tried and failed miserably. I keep physical in/out material annoyingly close to the keyboard on my physical desktop until action taken. This is ridiculous suboptimal, but works for me ™.

Does this make sense to you? I would be thrilled to hear about what you do to get your things done!

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  • Ruben Beer-Svendsen

    Thanks. I have regained control of my inbox! Soon I will look into the clutter which is my office.

  • Ruben Beer-Svendsen

    Thanks. I have regained control of my inbox! Soon I will look into the clutter which is my office.

  • http://www.blacktar.com/ Vidar Andersen

    Hey Ruben! Fancy seeing you here.

    What did you do to regain control of your inbox? Did you change anything in the way you deal with your emails? Did you find something that works for you?

    With regards to cleaning up the office I recommend fetching a really rather large recycle bin and throw everything in it! :)

  • http://www.blacktar.com Vidar Andersen

    Hey Ruben! Fancy seeing you here.

    What did you do to regain control of your inbox? Did you change anything in the way you deal with your emails? Did you find something that works for you?

    With regards to cleaning up the office I recommend fetching a really rather large recycle bin and throw everything in it! :)

  • Ruben Beer-Svendsen

    Actually I just created one huge folder named ‘archive’ inside my inbox where I put ALL my mail (deleting old subfolders, moving content to the archive folder). Then I browsed quickly through the 13489 unread mail (the oldest from January, and I seldom read my newsletters) and marked all older than one month as read. In my new regime, ‘read’ and in the archive folder means no further action needed. The few recent mails needing attention I processed this way:

    – Answer
    – Action
    – Future action

    Future action: put in my tasks or calendar folder, with a date and reminder. (using Outlook here)

    …and voila, more than 7 months of procrastination gone. I am able to keep my inbox empty. I am also in the process of figuring out which, if any, newsletters I’ll continue subscribing to.

    Like you, I keep all my mail in searchable archives for reference. Once a year I move everything older than a month away from the server.

    I have two huge cardboard boxes full of “all that was on my desk and floor at the time” under my desk, but I don’t have space for more. Also, I have to sort it. Can’t just throw everything.

  • Ruben Beer-Svendsen

    Actually I just created one huge folder named ‘archive’ inside my inbox where I put ALL my mail (deleting old subfolders, moving content to the archive folder). Then I browsed quickly through the 13489 unread mail (the oldest from January, and I seldom read my newsletters) and marked all older than one month as read. In my new regime, ‘read’ and in the archive folder means no further action needed. The few recent mails needing attention I processed this way:

    – Answer
    – Action
    – Future action

    Future action: put in my tasks or calendar folder, with a date and reminder. (using Outlook here)

    …and voila, more than 7 months of procrastination gone. I am able to keep my inbox empty. I am also in the process of figuring out which, if any, newsletters I’ll continue subscribing to.

    Like you, I keep all my mail in searchable archives for reference. Once a year I move everything older than a month away from the server.

    I have two huge cardboard boxes full of “all that was on my desk and floor at the time” under my desk, but I don’t have space for more. Also, I have to sort it. Can’t just throw everything.

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