Getting More Done, Mac Edition

Calendar, E-Mail & Address Book

Microsoft Entourage

In addition to having several personal e-mail addresses, because I work in a corporate environment, I have an Exchange e-mail account. This handles my calendar, address book, and corporate e-mail. It would like to also handle my notes, tasks and projects — but the Mac version of Outlook: Entourage just doesn’t sync these items for some reason. Also, it doesn’t synchronize categories in my calendar. I’ve never understood why, but I’m forced to accept it.

One of the great things I’ve achieved using GTD, is the empty inbox. I used to keep perhaps between 30-100 messages in the inbox for each of my e-mail addresses, which meant at any time, I was waiting to deal with perhaps 400 messages. If it is in my inbox, then it is on my mind. By creating a simple filing system, I can keep important items that will take some time to handle in the foreground while pushing less important items that can be handled at a later time into the background. They’re still there, visible to to, but I don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about them until I’m ready to handle them.

Here, for my work e-mail, I’ve created four categories: @ACTION, @DEFERRED, @RESEARCH, and @TO POST.

  • @ACTION – These are items that I need to take a specific action on. This may be a simple reply, an offline conversation or a request.
  • @DEFERRED – These are items that either require a specific, discrete action, but have been filed into OmniFocus (see below) already because they are part of a larger project. The difference between @ACTION and @DEFERRED may seem arbitrary, but it works for me. @ACTION is filed only here in my e-mail, @DEFERRED is referenced in my action tracking tool.
  • @RESEARCH – Anything I may want to refer to later, but there isn’t a specific action I need to take. This gets reviewed every few days, if not daily. It may be an e-mail about an upcoming seminar, or a sales e-mail about a product I’d like to spend some time looking at… but not at the moment.
  • @TO POST – This is specific to my job. I’m constantly receiving useful information and articles relevant to my business, which need to be published to internal blogs. Rather than leave them sitting in my inbox and then dealing with them one at a time, I can schedule a block of time during the week to schedule postings en-masse. This is generally a low-energy task (there’s not a whole lot of critical thinking I need to do when I’m posting that type of content) — in fact, I’m considering delegating this entire function in the future, but this would still be where stuff gets collected before being delegated.

I also have additional “reference” folders that work as a basic filing system. Things like e-mails containing account information, old expense reports, etc that I refer to on¬†occasion. Some people might also use a @DELEGATED folder, but I’ve found it redundant because I keep track of what other people owe me within OmniFocus. Again, read David’s book to understand the thinking behind the different phases of getting things done.

Each of my e-mail accounts are set up in a similar fashion, and I click through each of the folders at least a few times a day. Some people would say that I’m maintaining too many inboxes, but at least with e-mail, I find it useful to segment among the various accounts this way. Perhaps this will change over time.

My calendar, obviously is my central scheduling tool. The trickiest thing I had to overcome was figuring out what goes on my calendar, versus what goes in OmniFocus. Do I include it in both places, or do I have an incomplete picture of everything I have to do in OmniFocus? The criteria I came up with was, “does this task have to happen at a specific time and date?” If the answer is “yes,” then it goes on my calendar and not in OmniFocus. If the answer is “no,” (as in, it can happen within a range of dates/times, or it may shift depending on my availability), then it goes in OmniFocus with a due date (and a start date if I can’t take any action on it until a later date).

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