Archive for the ‘E-mail’ Category

Another small Gmail bonus: Hide Read Labels

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Gmail Labs has some of the coolest stuff.  I try to keep it as clean as possible (Inbox Zero!) and I’ve shown you other small time-savers from Gmail Labs, like “Send & Archive“.  This is along those lines.

Recently, Google made it where you could hide labels (if you’re not familiar with Gmail, labels are similar to folders) from the sidebar on an individual basis.  I took that opportunity to hide most of mine and keep them out of the way.  Now they’ve added a tool in Labs to let you hide any that don’t have unread items in them.  This keeps them all out of the way for me, unless something drops in to one of them.  Most of the time, those e-mails would go in my inbox too, but I have a few mailing lists and such that I have go straight to a label.  This will alert me when those arrive.

This is certainly not as cool as “Send & Archive” (which I still love), but it’s a nice tweak nonetheless.

How I use Dropbox to get things done.

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

I’ve found Dropbox to be a huge timesaver, and it’s an essential part of my GTD system.  Watch this short screencast to see how I use it to Get Things Done:

A real cost saver due to GTD — fewer administrative needs

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Late last year, I was considering getting an administrative assistant for myself.  I simply had too much to do — to many e-mails, too many tasks.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hire a local person to help, or just use a virtual assistant.  During that internal debate, I was also trying to get more organized.  As you can see in my initial post on this blog, I dove into GTD and started using Nozbe to manage it.

The result? I have no need for an administrative person of any kind.  By keeping my email inbox at zero and my task list up to date, I can easily find the information I need and get to work.  Having another person in the mix would only serve to complicate things.

I’m sure there are many jobs that require an assistant of some kind.  Anyone that deals with a large volume of incoming calls and meetings would do well to have someone sift that information for them and keep their schedule up to date.  However, I’m finding that simply dealing with email and tasks is best managed by myself.

It’s hard to calculate the exact savings, but let’s go with this: $10/hour, 20 hours/week = $200/week or about $800/month. That’s some nice savings!  Factor in the small costs to get GTD in place (buy the book, get a filing cabinet, perhaps pay a little bit for some software), and you’re still saving a ton of money.  Not bad.

Get rid of your email folders

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

This tip might not work for everyone, but it has been great for me.  I use gmail for most of my e-mail, but I need to use Outlook at work.  For years, I had a complex series of nested folders in Outlook, along the lines of this:

  • Staff
    • Bill
    • Jane
    • Steve
  • Website
    • GoDaddy
    • Hosting
    • Problems
  • Programs
    • Adults
    • Children
    • Mission

And on, and on, and on.  Probably about 150 folders in all.  I was very proud of myself.

The problem was trying to keep myself at inbox zero.  Gmail makes it easy with their “archive” feature (and with cool things like “Send & Archive” in the labs section), but Outlook doesn’t do that.  Instead of quickly archiving an e-mail and moving on, I had to think about where it goes.  Does the one from Steve about the Missions part of the website go in “Steve”, “website” or “missions”?  I’d probably spend 10-15 seconds deciding where to file an e-mail, then drilling down to file it.  I get maybe 25 emails/day on this account, so that’s 25 emails x 15 seconds/each x 260 workdays in a year = 27 hours/year I spend just filing e-mails.  Brutal!

If you handle your inbox properly, you don’t need to fish for past e-mails very often — you just deal with them and move on.  I have Xobni installed, which makes the search process much faster when I need it, so that solves the search issue.

My solution? Treat it like gmail.  I now have a single folder called “archive” under my inbox.  When I’m done with an e-mail, I “archive” it.  Much faster and much easier.

How do you handle your folders in Outlook?

Inbox Zero is my key to GTD

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Whenever I feel like I’m falling off the wagon with GTD, it always comes back to my inbox.  If I don’t keep it at zero, things pile up quickly and I lose some control.  Even if you’re not a believer in the complete GTD system, Inbox Zero can help you out a LOT.

This video is from a few years ago, but has some great tips on how to achieve (and maintain) inbox zero. Merlin Mann really knows his stuff. Check it out:

The little things can add up: Gmails “Send & Archive” is great!

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I’ve been a huge fan of Gmail for a few years now.  I can run a variety of addresses through my single Gmail account, then access it all from anywhere.  One especially neat thing about Gmail is the “archive” feature.  When you’re done with an e-mail, you can just tell it to “go away”, whether you label it or not.  If you need it later, just search for it.  It’s great!

In trying to keep my inbox at zero, archive is gold. As a general rule, whenever I send an e-mail to someone and require action back on it, I archive it.  When they reply, it’ll pull the entire conversation back into the inbox.  Perfect!

Now Google has saved me a step.  My old method of sending and archiving was:

  • Send the e-mail.
  • I’m returned to the inbox.
  • Select that conversation.
  • Archive it.
  • Move on to the next one.

Thanks to Google Labs (go to [Settings] –> [Labs] in Gmail), you can enable a button called “Send & Archive”.


Now my method looks like this:

  • “Send & Archive” the e-mail.
  • I’m returned to the inbox.
  • Move on to the next one.

It’s just a small thing, but those small things add up.  I send maybe 50 e-mails per day.  Suppose this new button saves me 5 seconds each.  That’s about 4 minutes per day, or nearly 24 hours per yearI can save an entire day just because of this little button.

I’m a big believer in streamlining my most frequent tasks to shave precious seconds that can add up.

What tips do you have to help people shave off a little more time?