My Outlook Review Process

In a previous post I spoke about my use of Rules and Custom Actions in Outlook. In this post I’ll talk about my Review process which I adapted from David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.

There are several decisions that need to be made when reviewing email:

  1. Is this for me?
  2. Is it something that I need to do right now?

If the email is not for me then I need to decide who it is for. Once I have made that decision I Delegate the responsibility of the email.

I will forward the email (or write up a new email with the salient details) and send it to the person that I’m delegating the responsibility to. But here’s the trick … I have a rule that if I put my email address in the BCC line it will be moved to a folder called @waiting and flagged as a follow up item.

I then review the @waiting folder once a day or every other day and will send a follow up email if needed OR delete the email once the person has responded to me.

The next decision I need to make is “Do I need to do this right now?” If I don’t, then I’ll Defer a response or action to the needed time. Unfortunately Outlook doesn’t have a good defer mechanism like my beloved OmniFocus, so I will convert the email into a meeting and remove the attendees other than me to a data and time when I need to work on the email.

Finally, the email may require me to Do something right now. In that case, I focus fully on the requirements of the email and do it.

This may involve scheduling a meeting, or supplying times when I’m available for a meeting, or it might be answering a question asked of me. I will do any necessary research OR as I start working on the email that requires a decision I’ll discover that I don’t have enough information to actually make that decision.

When that happens I’ll send an email (either forwarding or creating a new one) to the person I think that can supply the information and, you guessed it, I’ll BCC myself so that the email is put into my @waiting folder.

Using the above methodology I’m able to manage the massive amounts of email that I receive. Hopefully this helps someone out there who is drowning in email.