Becoming Master and Commander of Your Inbox
Kelly Forrister of David Allen Company is our guest columnist with this follow-up to one
of last year's most popular articles, Empty That Inbox.
For many BlackBerry® smartphone users, email is where much of your work lands in your personal and
professional life. What used to happen in a face-to-face conversation, now gets handled through
a myriad of messages that land in your inbox from, "Can you buy dog food on the way home from work
today?" to "The proposal just changed and I need your edits by end of day tomorrow," and everything
For many people, mismanaging the Inbox can become the source for a gnawing sense of
anxiety about what's lurking, ready to attack your time, attention and focus when you scroll down.
Typically, that scrolling often causes you to rethink the things you've already thought about,
like "What was I going to do about that one?!" As busy as you are, you can't afford to spend more
time handling each email more than it deserves.
Productivity expert David Allen, in his bestselling book Getting Things Done®(GTD®), gives the
best practices for becoming master and commander of your workflow with the least amount of effort
possible. The principles of GTD are universally applicable to any piece of input you get, including
emails on your BlackBerry smartphone, papers that land on your desk, ideas you capture in a meeting, etc.
Buried in Inbox backlog?
Do yourself a favor and get rid of the backlog sitting in your Inbox. Sort emails by date, sender or subject to see which ones you can delete, archive or organize into a folder.
Here are two GTD strategies for getting control of your email Inbox. Pick the one that works best for you.
1. Use the email as the reminder
What to do: Create an email folder called "@Action"
How to use it: When an actionable email arrives that you can't finish in less than 2 minutes, decide your very
next action, then file it into your @Action folder. Tip: On most email systems, the "@" symbol ensures this folder
moves to the top of your email folders for easy access.
Why this works: It's out of the Inbox because you processed it when it first showed up. You've decided you need
to take action and that reminder is parked in a trusted place you can get back to when you're ready to take action
(hence, you don't need to keep seeing it over and over again in the Inbox until you're ready to actually
DO something about it.)
If you need to
take action ON a day or time, put the action reminder on your calendar. If it needs to be done BY a day or can be done ANY day, organize it on a Task list.
2. Use your Task list as the reminder
What to do: Create an email folder called "@Action Support" and any other key topic or project folders you need.
How to use it: When an actionable email arrives that you can't finish in less than 2 minutes, decide your very next
action then file it into your @Action Support, project or topic folder. Then navigate over to your Calendar or Task
lists to capture your very next action.
Why this works: Since the email is no longer the reminder, it's organized out of the Inbox into a place that makes
sense to you (by project or topic works for many people.) Your Task list becomes the central hub reflecting your work
GTD won't necessarily change the volume of email that you're getting, but knowing a few master moves will certainly
help you stay in control of your Inbox rather than being controlled by it.
To learn more about David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, check out the book on
http://www.davidco.com or your favorite bookstore.
GTD Coach & Presenter
David Allen Company
Article: Empty That Inbox
Tips: Receive Important Emails Only with Filters