You can spend a lot of time blogging. That’s my experience. You kid yourself that you are doing something productive to make the world a better place, but really you are just surfing around and waiting to see if more people on the East Coast or in California hit your blog before Morning Tea or whether more people in London or New York fool around on Fridays, reading your blog instead of working.
It’s not sustainable. Something has to give – either you blog less or get more efficient about the rest of your life so that blogging-time is not threatened. Obviously, one chooses the latter option.
I like to think that Mail.app can do anything that Thunderbird can. Mouse-less spam reporting? No problem! Getting things done? No problem!
I’ve found it hard to beat the summary of “Getting Things Done” in the entropic principal entry:
GTD is heavily dependent on keeping track of “next actions”, essentially a comprehensive to-do list. The idea is to know what you’re not working on so you can make reasonable choices about what’s important to work on right now. The concept of the “In” box is core – for every item you take out of “In”, there are only a few options: toss it in the trash, decide on a required next action, or file it for reference. (Technically, there’s also “waiting for somebody else” and “defer until later”, but these are next actions too.)
“Next Actions” and “the Inbox” seem to be the guts of it. It reminded me of something I was once told years ago in a professional development seminar, before email was widely used. “The key to being productive”, the consultant told us, “is to only touch each piece of paper that comes across your desk once. Just once.” (How we laughed! We were young and hadn’t yet seen much paper in our lives.)
So, the first step in setting this up in Apple Mail is to use MailTags to create projects that I will use to label the emails. I created six projects – Action Required, Wait, Defer, Archive, Delete and Untagged.
Then, I created six rules in Mail Act-on, setting the background colour for each email to a particular colour and labelling it with the appropriate MailTags project. I set them to the numbers 1-6, so that Control-1 (and so on) are quick and memorable shortcuts.
Then, also following the lead in the Thunderbird article, I created a Smart Mailbox, set to match any of these three conditions – MailTags Project is “Action Required”, “Wait” or “Untagged”. I charged through my inbox, faster than I thought I would, marking all the emails.
My Smart Mailbox now shows me everything that I either need to act on, wait for someone else to act on (and that usually means chasing them) or that I have still to make a decision about.
I could have set up six mailboxes, one for each project, but (i) that would be overkill and (ii) I already have a lot of mailboxes in my Mailbox Drawer and I like to be able to see them all at once without scrolling up and down.
There you have it – a functioning “Getting Things Done” set up in Apple Mail. Will it make me more efficient? I’ll let you know.
UPDATE: More GTD posts on Hawk Wings
Got some things done in Apple Mail, Part I
Got some things done in Apple Mail, Part II
AppleScript to create and run a GTD “Tickler file”
GTD Tickler file: Another approach with MailTags
Transfer Mail.app emails to your kGTD Inbox
- Got some things done in Apple Mail, Part I
- Two more apps offer MailTags integration
- GTD Tickler file: Another approach with MailTags
- MailTags: Irresistable force meets immovable object
- Thunderbird, Growl and Getting Things Done
Tags: Apple Mail, Apple Mail Tips, getting things done, gtd, mail act-on, mail.app, mailtags, Productivity, rules, thunderbird