In a previous post, “Getting Things Done with the GTD Method”, I provided a brief overview of GTD and why this is my preferred work/time management method. I promised that I would provide a post that shows how I implemented the GTD method. I have decided to create this implementation guide into a seven part series because there is just too much information to cover in one blog post. Here is Part 4 of the series – Apple Mail
Getting Things Done Seven Part Series:
- Getting things done workflow overview – This is an overview of the work flow contained within the GTD system and will serve as a foundation to build upon so you will understand my daily actions and the tools that I utilize.
- Getting things done daily processing overview – This is an overview of how I organize my stuff into buckets and how I process those buckets based on the GTD workflow.
- Getting things done Software and Tools overview – This is an overview of the software and tools that I use in my GTD system.
- Getting things done and Apple Mail – How I setup Apple Mail and process my email within the GTD workflow.
- Getting things done and Evernote – How I utilize Evernote in my GTD system.
- Getting things done and Things for Mac – How I utilize the Things productivity software in the GTD workflow. (coming soon)
- Getting things done and Nozbe – How to utilize the Nozbe productivity software in the GTD workflow. (coming soon)
As mentioned in my last post in this series, I utilize an IMAP setup for all my email accounts, as opposed to POP. IMAP stands for “Internet Message Access Protocol” and POP stands for “Post Office Protocol”. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details of the differences; IMAP essentially means the messages are stored in the cloud and with POP, messages are downloaded from the server on to your local PC.
I utilize IMAP because it is easier to keep my email in sync across all of my devices. I can also access email through the web client and have access to the same information as if I were using Apple Mail on my Mac.
I currently manage four different email accounts. My personal email, professional email, blogging email, and work email. My personal email is used to communicate with friends and family. I utilize my professional email account to communicate on business opportunities that are personal in nature. My blogging email account is associated with all correspondence related to this blog. Finally, my work email is just that, any correspondence that deals with my job.
I don’t maintain a complex folder structure. I simply file all of my emails into an archived folder. This is essentially a folder of all of my processed emails. A complex folder structure is not necessary with Apple Mail because of the built-in search functionality (more on that in a bit).
A complex folder structure can lead to procrastination in processing emails. For example, say I received an email from John that pertains to Sally and a project that is being worked on. Would I file the email under John, because it is from him? Would I file the email under Sally, because it is about her? Would I file the email under the project, because it is about the project? Or, would I make copies of the email and file it under all of the above? See how this can get messy quick?
Rules of Engagement
If you don’t use email rules, you are losing out on an enormous time saver. I use rules for a variety of situations. I suggest that you use two rules that will help in processing your email inbox:
- The “CC” Rule:This rule moves all emails in which you are just CC’d on into a separate folder. The premise here being that the email was not sent directly to you, so it is most likely not urgent or important. This gets the email out of your inbox so you can concentrate on the more urgent messages. Make sure you check this folder in regular intervals.
- The “BACN” Rule: BACN is solicited email newsletters, social media correspondence, coupons, etc. It’s not spam because it relates to something you would have subscribed to. Again, email that is not urgent, nor important, but something that you will want to read when you have time. This rule will move all such mail automatically into a folder labeled BACN so you can concentrate on the important messages.
I use other email rules, but my list is mostly subjective to my work requirements, which may be different from yours.
I use the same GTD processing method as stated in a previous post in this series. Is the item actionable? If not, file or delete. If so, you only have three potential outcomes:
- Do it- If the email will only take you 2 minutes or less, just do it.
- Delegate it- If someone else is better suited to do the task, delegate it. Add the task as a waiting for item in your task management system. For me, I use Things for Mac. I can do this with one quick keyboard shortcut.
- Defer it - If the item will take longer than 2 minutes to complete add it to your next action list. Again, this is something that I can add in one quick keyboard shortcut.
In the GTD method it is recommended that you keep a copy of the email filed in a folder named for the appropriate chosen outcome. In other words, you would have a folder for next actions to store emails that relate to next actions and a folder for waiting for emails. I don’t utilize this particular setup because I have four different email accounts in Apple Mail. This would mean that I would have to have folders for each account.
I utilize the flagging mechanism in Apple Mail instead. The flags are color coded so you can apply different flags to emails. I have a flag for “Next Actions”, “Waiting For”, “Reference”, and “Urgent”. I keep the email flagged with the appropriate flag and then archive the message. The email will be visible by selecting the appropriate flag mailbox. Once I finish processing the email I remove the flag and it drops out of that flag mailbox.
Finding emails is a cinch in Apple Mail. Remember the example I gave above about the email from John pertaining to Sally and a project being worked on? I can utilize multiple search strings in the search box of Apple Mail. I can enter John’s name into the search box and select the from option. Then I can enter Sally’s name and select the to option. This will show all emails that have John as the sender and Sally as the recipient. If need be I can add additional keywords, like the name of the project, to further refine the search.
Apple Mail and GTD
This is how I setup Apple Mail in my GTD system. I hope this was informative and helpful. If you don’t use Apple Mail, no worries. Most email clients can handle the same setup as stated above. Good luck and happy emailing!
Question: What type of email client do you use? How do you have it setup to handle all of the emails you receive?