Do you really need all the email you get?

by oneafrikan on March 24, 2005

I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine last night, about two things. One was email productivity, and as he brought up some interesting points, I’ll distill them here.

Typically, we receive a lot of email that’s not really important, from friends doing the usual reply to all, and from co-workers sending you stuff that’s either not relevant, or not important. In my friends job, he has to report to two people, and deal with email that gets sent to a “system” email address asap.

So, answering the “system” email and making the people he reports to happy is his number one priority, everything else is unimportant until those are done. so what he does is “sort by name” in his Inbox, so that he can see immediately if there is anything from the people he reports to. If there is, he gets onto that first, then the system email, and the rest later. If he get’s swamped, he puts unimportant email into relevant folders, to keep focus in his Inbox, and get’s to the folders when he can. If something comes up from someone he doesn’t report to and it’s important, he figures that the sender will get back to him soon enough. When he gets emails that are reply to all’s, he simply skips to the very latest one, and reads that from bottom to top. All the other emails are deleted as a matter of course.

And that’s how he stays sane. It’s a slightly different approach to the David Allen GTD approach, but in essence it’s the same thing – he’s devised a system which keeps him up to date with the really important stuff, and puts everything he has to do in one place, that he can access in the office, or on his Blackberry. It works for him, and more importantly, it keeps him gainfully employed!

What do you do?


Luckily, I don’t get many emails (at all). The people I have to report to, I see daily throughout the office, so I just speak to them directly. Also luckily, my friends and family don’t include me in their email spamfests of “BLONDE JOKE #151031” and other such things. I’ve politely asked to be left off of those mailing lists.

by Teeters on March 24, 2005 at 9:15 am. Reply #

I recently did a long overdue email task — revamped my Yahoo filters. I really like having my inbox relatively empty so I can see at a quick glance if I’ve gotten anything from one of my family members or friends. But I was getting buried in Google Alerts (that I do like to look at, but don’t always have time). Just by creating a filter to put all those into their own folder has definitely lightened my mood everytime I log in to find a manageable list of things in the inbox.

by Laura on March 24, 2005 at 9:55 am. Reply #

I completley hear you with what you’ve both said ;-)

While I do get jokes from time to time, I just delete as a matter of course, unless it comes from people who’s sense of humour I like – I may even send a joke once a month, but then I BCC everyone so I don’t clog up peoples pipes (some of my mates are in South Africa, and boy does a 1MB attachment clog things up!).

As for filters, they’re the best. Like you Laura, I get a lot of Google alerts which just become too much when I’ve got a lot on, so I just put ’em in a folder as well, and get to them when I can. I’ve also set them to weekly so that it reduces the amount of info I have access to.

One of my weaknesses is that I’m like a sponge – I just coak up everything I come accross, so I’m learning to limit what I expose myself to, as well as choose the best sources for it, and it’s starting to work really well. That said, things still go pear shaped from time to time, and I lose my way.

Right now, it’s 18:30 and the day before easter weekend, and I have 7 emails in my Inbox, all of which will get actioned on Tuesday, and it’s a great feeling. I can remember the days when I had literally 2000 emails in my Inbox, and the sense of overwhelm was immense – I feel completely different today, than I did then ;-) David Allen has a lot to do with that, so for his teachings I am eternally grateful…

by oneafrikan on March 24, 2005 at 10:29 am. Reply #

Josh, you’ve got a great site – subscribed to the feed, and really like your content ;-)

by oneafrikan on March 24, 2005 at 10:32 am. Reply #

Laura, like yours too – especially that post about the best use of time – I think much could be done!!

How did you find GTD?

by oneafrikan on March 24, 2005 at 10:34 am. Reply #

oneafrikan: Thanks! I came across your site via checking out the productivity tag at Technorati. I just recently (read: about a week ago) started into the GTD system.

Thus far I’m loving it. I don’t have a solid system in place yet, but so far, what I’ve done has helped a LOT.

Expect to see more of me here. :)

by Teeters on March 24, 2005 at 10:46 am. Reply #

I have emails sent only to me in blue, emails cc’d to me in gray, email sent by me in green, and the rest in black. (My default folder is both Inbox & Sent Items arranged by conversation).

This way I can easily spot what I need to address (blue), what I can ignore safely (gray). I can also see my half of the conversation too.

It is trying to get a gmail feel in outlook. I’m not saying it’s a good system, but it’s what I’m using at-the-moment.

by Norman Rasmussen on March 24, 2005 at 11:35 am. Reply #

Cool glad you found it useful. I came accross it by accident on Google, can’t remember how, but it’s made a huge differnece in my life so far, and will play an even bigger role once I strt refining the system and getting my black belt.

I really like what you’ve done in Outlook, but don’t really need the “conversational” features you’ve put together. Gmail is superior to Yahoo!, you’re right!!

Why don’t you post a tutorial on how to do it? I reckon more than a few people would find it useful ;-)

by oneafrikan on March 30, 2005 at 5:41 am. Reply #

Here’s what I do:

by Marc on April 1, 2005 at 9:26 am. Reply #

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