Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April - GTD and Toodledo #11: Inbox Zero tip

We're getting somewhere now.  I've had a few days of overwhelming workload - things that didn't get done over the past few weeks are screaming for attention and getting it.  Yikes!  I am whittling down my out of system work; meaning, more and more of my task management is actually happening in process.

Inbox Zero tip:
As I am reading my email, I want to erase or file the contents of many of these. Following the general GTD idea that every email is either an action, project, something I wait for, reference or trash... I have two new tricks.

5 minute rule enforcement.  

This concept isn't invented by me, but perhaps my hyper literal approach is.  I am using an online timer called Apimac, an awesome Mac Timer App. So, there is no accidentally stretching 5 minutes into a hour.  I have the timer running with a 5:00 countdown in giant numbers and running on top.  I glance at it periodically and it helps me keep the pace.  As I was clearing my inbox, I was tempted to spend more time on things, but killed them when the timer had a few seconds left.

The key here is that 5 minutes becomes a (wasted) hour when we aren't rationally, explicitly making the choice to spend that hour on that task. When it stretches a minute at a time we aren't seeing the hour, just the tantalizing promise of some fun or knowledge that would justify the jaunt.  Usually doesn't happen.  The timer has power.

Forced accountability.

Before I archive an email that I plan to act on ( I use gmail, so archiving isn't deleting ), I put the item into Toodledo first.  I literally draft the response to the person who sent me the note but don't send it, then I put it in Toodledo, then I send it.

Bill, thanks for the content for your atomic horseradish site.  I can't process it right now but wanted to let you know I have received it and I'll have the new site up in a week or so.

I put the item into Toodledo, using a convention of 'subject line' and (date) for capturing the email subject and date.

I go back and hit send; then archive the email.

This way... the inbox in clear, the task is accounted for, and I couldn't get screwed up if I'm interrupted!

GTD with Toodledo 30 day project


  1. Hi there - I've been following your ToodleDo and GTD blog for a little while now. I'm newish to both, but familiar with Gmail. Just wanted to let you know there's a Gmail Labs option I use a lot called 'Send and Archive'. It gives you a new button that you can click so you both send your mail and archive it and your response at the same time.

    I love your idea of a timer and may implement something similar. I've only been using ToodleDo for a few weeks and have been learning the ropes. You could say I'm a work in progress!

    Reading your site has helped me feel less alone in the whole learning process. Keep up the great work!

  2. @FlitterandWonderby Thank you for the tip and note! I appreciate the kind words.

    I meant to add in the post that I actually use delete now whenever I'm sure I won't need it. Even though archive on gmail is essentially endless, it can sometimes (often) end up with cluttered search results when I'm looking for something. Also, I kind of thing it's good personal mental training to actually delete when I can - like putting something in the trash vs. on a shelf for the distant chance of future usefulness.