Take Charge of Your Email Inbox

I recently found a blog dedicated to Apple email program Mail.app. The site is called Hawk Wings and it’s written by Tim Gaden. He’s got some excellent Mail resources.

The best thing I found on the site, though, was his article on implementing a GTD system in Mail. I can’t say I really know much about GTD other than what I’ve read over at 43Folders, but what I’ve learned has been very helpful in helping me be more productive and get a better handle on all the stuff I’m juggling.

Anyway, Tim’s article highlights two plugins that are available for Mail: Mail Act-On and Mail-Tags. I’ve only been using them for about a week, but I think they’re the best thing since sliced bread (was bread ever *not* sliced?). With Mail Tags, you can attach notes, projects, priorities and flags to any email. I really like the notes section as it has allowed me to jot down my initial thoughts about and email without having to create a reply.
So, for organizing my inbox I’ve basically created five new folders:

  • Action
  • Defer
  • Future
  • Waiting On
  • Reference

Each time a message comes in, I file it in one of those categories.

Then I also have a Smart mailbox entitled Next Actions. Any emails that I mark ‘urgent’ with Mail Tags automatically go in the Next Action mailbox. I try to just keep 5 items in there at a time. Each time I finish something, I look in my Actions folder for another item to mark as urgent and put in my Next Actions folder.
This system has increased my productivity because my inbox is now EMPTY. Yes, empty. Psychologically, that really helps me feel like I’m on top of things and ready to conquer more. Then the only place that I go when I have time to start a new task is my Next Actions folder – which again, only has 5 items it in – it makes it all seem doable.

Again, it’d only been a week, but so far I’m loving my new system. I used to look at the 150+ emails in my inbox and be thoroughly overwhelmed, but now, I look at my empty inbox and I’m ready to tackle some replies.

How do you all manage your email?


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