As I mentioned in my last post, Gmail’s Priority Inbox – a great tool, I recently took a vacation during which I managed to almost completely keep my efforts of separating work and home going – just one short call with my boss towards the end so I wouldn’t be blindsided when I returned.
Unfortunately that meant a backlog of email to deal with and I thought I would share how I triaged it.
- Delivery/read receipts – I started by sorting my inbox for these and then deleted them.
- Meeting requests – next I sorted my inbox for meeting requests and deleted those that had already passed. I then reviewed the remaining and accepted as appropriate.
- Forwarded items – typically these fall into one of two categories – items for my information, which were immediately moved to my reference folder, and the second those that required me to take some sort of action. The action items are flagged and filed as appropriate, more on this in a moment.
Sidebar – I should note here that when I triage my inbox after a vacation I do not follow the two minute rule of David Allen’s GTD system (if you can do it in two minutes or less just do it) instead I’m trying to get to Inbox Zero as quickly as possible.
- Response emails – you know the ones, they have an RE: at the beginning of them. I plow through these fairly quickly as most are in reference to emails I sent prior to vacation in most cases these are items that allow me to close out outstanding projects. Like forwarded items I do have to pay attention to those that create new projects as I am frequently copied into an email thread for an already existing project.
- Remaining emails – at this point I’m left, for the most part, new items that need to be read and dealt with – delete, file for reference or tag for action.
Now, in item number three I mention that I flag and file action items, this due to my requirement to use MS Outlook (at least for now). I realize that in true GTD implementations these items would get moved to an action list and tagged with appropriate contexts but for me working entirely in Outlook at work just make more sense and is quicker.
So, when I need to take action on an item:
- I hit Control-Shift-G which brings up the flag dialog box where I set the flag type and due date.
- Control-Shift-V to bring up the ‘Move to Folder’ dialog box where I select where I want the item to live going forward – typically a folder for the associated project
- Refer to my ‘For Follow Up’ folder search which pulls in all the items flagged in item 1.
So that’s how I go about the triage of an unwieldy email Inbox when returning from vacation – how do you handle it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!