No Post-Vacation Email Woes

Editor note: This is a guest post from Amanda Bauman that was originally posted on the Lotus Technical Information and Education Community Blog. She regularly blogs there. Amanda first learned about eProductivity and GTD from the "Getting Things Done with Lotus Notes" webinar in April 2010. She is now a passionate fan and is working on sharing her story with others.

As you may know by now from my previous blog posts, I've been trying out David Allen's GTD methodology, and have also taken a keen interest in eProductivity, created by Eric Mack.

Lucky girl that I am, I got to take a much needed vacation with my family in Mexico for almost 2 weeks. In the past when I took any sizable chunks of time off, It was always with the dread knowledge that I would come back to hundreds of emails to wade through, many of which require me to do something, and many of which would fall through the cracks until somebody reminded me that I missed something. Not what you want to face when you're coming down from a sun-soaked, fun filled, stress-free couple of weeks with the family, right?

So it was with a little bit of pessimism that I started my day on Tuesday  -- my first day back at work.  I felt myself kind of wince a little bit as I launched Lotus Notes and synchronized my local replica mailbox. I had visions of a slot machine in Vegas with prize going up up up, finally stopping at the number displayed in my inbox, but without the euphoria. Let's just say that had my number of  unread emails equaled a Vegas jackpot, I might consider taking another (shorter) vacation ;).

So I set about processing my emails. I'm using the eProductivity for Notes 8.5 beta. I chose to process newest to oldest because in the past I've gone the opposite way and managed to respond unnecessarily to a couple of issues that had resolved themselves in my absence. Turns out I shouldn't worry about this in the GTD model anyway because you sort, organize, THEN act. Or at least that's how I chose to implement it for myself. So the order in which you tackle your in box backlog isn't important.

So I sorted, organized, filed, and deleted my way through my in box until I had what I thought was a pretty good representation of all the things that I needed to respond to or handle in some way, in my "Action Needed" folder. Then I employed the power of eProductivity to create projects and actions for each one.  When you copy an email into a new action or project in eProductivity, the system asks you what you want to do with the email: do nothing, move to folder, or delete. I mentioned in my previous blog post on this subject that  I have a bit of redundancy in my process and that I would always choose to move the original email to my "Action Needed" folder because I wasn't quite ready to let go of my old (but relatively new) system. I suppose 2 weeks of not thinking about GTD gave my brain the time it needed to let go, because I found myself choosing to either delete, if it was something I could just do and move on from, or move to one of my project folders for reference if I thought I'd need to go back to it later.  Now I had a nice tidy (but long) list of "Actions" to work from.

It took me only a few hours to get to this point and I observed that in the past it had taken me many days, sometimes over a week to get to this point. This made me think of using GTD and eProductivity as having a time machine. It gave me back hours if not days of time I might have spent getting a handle on all the things I had to do. It also gave me confidence that I hadn't dropped the ball on anything, and who doesn't want to feel like that? (picture me now standing on the bow of a big yacht with my arms outstretched yelling "KING OF THE WORLD".)

Yesterday I attended the two eProductivity webinars hosted by Eric Mack (there are more if you're interested in attending: Webinar schedule). As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not a "read the manual" kinda girl, so I purposefully attended this webinar to learn more about the capabilities of the software. I'm not going to list all the features because, of course, you can read all about it elsewhere, but I will share a couple of things (tips from Eric and features)  that I didn't realize were there, that I found interesting and, upon starting to use them, very helpful

The "today" view: Initially, when I saw this it looked like my "day at a glance" in Notes (which I love and use every day). It listed all of my calendar entries for the day. So I pretty much ignored it. Then I learned that there's a little flag you can use to flag something that you need to do today, which causes that action item to then show up in your "today" view along with your calendar entries. So using that tip, this morning I went through all of the actions in my "At computer" context view, which is where I categorize almost all of my actions, and flagged those that I could commit to completing today (one of which was to finish this blog post). I like it. I can use the "today" view as my dashboard for all the things I need to accomplish today.

Waiting for: If I'm sending an email, and I need to wait for a response before I can act, I can flag the email as "Waiting for" with a check box. This automatically puts the email in the "Waiting for" view. I tried it this morning, and when I get the response back, i'll then turn that response into an action.

Language to use when creating actions: I found this tip interesting. Eric recommended that you put your to do/action items in past tense, for example "Updated wiki help". The logic here is that your brain automatically checks to see if that's a true statement and if not, you'll feel compelled to make it a true statement (get it done and off the todo list) - That's my interpretation of what Eric said. He was far more eloquent.

So I'm going to continue to explore eProductivity. I see it's potential, I'm already hooked, I love it, love it, love it. Did I mention I love it? My only hesitation is this:   what if I become dependent on this tool? (which is SO easy to do) and what if my license expires? (which it will), and what if I can't get access to it in the future?  What if I had to revert back to using Vanilla Notes and folders? what would happen to all my actions and to-dos and waiting fors and flags? It's not keeping me up at night (I have other things for that), but it is something I think about.

If you're interested in trying out eProductivity, you can download a trial version for Free.

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