I think many people would agree that it is important not to let emails containing tasks that you must carry out — or appointments that you need to keep — get buried in your email inbox to be overlooked and then forgotten or discovered too late.
This being the case, productivity gurus such as David Allen have devised strategies for getting to “Inbox Zero.”
In his book, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen relates the “4 D’s” which entail going through your inbox on a regular basis (such as every weekday morning) and applying the following criteria to each of your email messages:
– Do it (if the email contains a task that can be accomplished in less than two minutes)
– Delegate it (if you’re not the right person for the task, forward the email message to the person in your organization who is)
– Defer it (if the task needs to be carried out at a future date)
– Dismiss it (delete the email if it contains non-essential information or archive it if it contains information that may be useful at a later date)
NOTE: You can apply this same criteria to your other “collection buckets” (such as your physical mailbox and your physical inbox).
How you carry out the 4 D’s of course depends on the software that you have access to or your personal preferences.
Email programs such as the Apple “Mail” program and “Microsoft Outlook” have an archive folder that you can move email messages into for safe keeping.
You can retrieve email messages from an Archive folder fairly easily usually by way of a keyword search or by sorting the emails in the folder by date.
Mail and Microsoft Outlook also enable you to “Flag” email messages for organization and faster retrieval.
Some people choose to transfer the content of email messages into a “Notes” program such as Evernote.
If you need to defer an email message, Microsoft Outlook has a handy “Follow Up” feature that you can apply to individual email messages:
If your email program of choice does not have a “defer” feature, you can simply put the task on a paper calendar and/or copy and paste it into a calendar application on your computer or smart phone.
According to David Allen, everything that you need to do (or may need to to do at some point) must be captured into an organizational system that you trust.
How to process stuff – A comparison of TRAF, the “Four Ds”, and GTD’s workflow diagram
Staunching The Paper Flow – Tips For Time Management
Take Back Control of Your Email Inbox Without Breaking a Sweat
Anything that causes you to overreact or under-react can control you, and often does.
― David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity