Happy 2019! If you’re returning to work, feeling overwhelmed with all the emails you’ve left untouched during the holidays – we definitely feel you!
If you’ve come here for a guide on how to get things done and reach Inbox Zero in 2019, this is definitely the right place. This article will guide you through:
- The basics of GTD
- The power of GTD + Inbox Zero
- Actionable steps to start your GTD email system
- Downloadable 3-step GTD email flowchart
If you’re already familiar with GTD but interested to know how it works with email management, feel free to jump to Part 2!
1. What’s Getting Things Done (GTD)?
Getting Things Done is a productivity framework for organizing and tracking tasks and projects, developed by business productivity consultant and author David Allen. The original book, Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-free Productivity has been published in over thirty languages globally.
GTD allows you to have 100% trust in a system for collecting ideas, tasks
When implemented correctly, it’s a foolproof method that lets you keep track of what you need to do, should do, or should consider doing.
What makes GTD so special?
Unlike most productivity methods, GTD is not about time-saving hacks or quick fixes.
Instead, GTD focuses on being present, mindful and confident that your current action is the correct one.
Many of our tasks and duties, such as creative thinking, strategies, ideas… do not necessarily take our time – but they take up a lot of room in our brain.
What does this mean?
When we have multiple tasks in mind, we lack the mind space to actually focus on any of them.
This causes us to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and slowly discouraged to work on important tasks.
But when you have external storage for ideas, your brain is no longer clogged by future or past to-dos.
This leaves you a clear headspace for what you should do right now.
When your mind is clear, you are calm, focused, present – and able to maintain your highest level of awareness.
In the age of constant flow of information, GTD is not just about getting things
What’s great about GTD is that it’s flexible and suitable for any kind of workflow. It doesn’t matter what tools you use, as long as they allow you to go through the following steps.
The 5 steps of GTD workflow
1 Capture everything that has your attention: To-do’s, ideas, recurring tasks… You can use pen and paper, a to-do app, or anything that helps you stay organized. Capture everything so you don’t have to think about it until it’s time to do it again.
2 Clarify what you have to do: Break down your ideas into actionable steps so there is no barrier in doing the task. If the action can be done right away, get it done immediately!
3 Organize your clarified items: Organize these items by category and priority. Assign due dates, set reminders so you will follow up on them.
4 Review your system regularly: Reflect on your
5 Engage and get working! Your system is now set up and your tasks have been broken down in manageable ‘chunks’ with varying priority. You can now comfortably engage with the world knowing all your commitments and knowing what you’re doing right now is the best thing to do.
GTD is about being aware of your commitments, with 2 priorities: what you do now, and everything else. When you trust your system, you can allow your subconsciousness to free up brain space, instead of constantly keeping track of tasks.
2 – The power of GTD + Inbox Zero
The average office worker receives 121 emails daily and sends out 40.
Even if you’re not alarmed by this number, at least you’d know how it feels to stare at the unread count in your inbox and think,
‘Well crap. I’m never gonna go through all of this.’
There are countless ways to approach the ultimate dream of Inbox Zero – many focusing on creating folders, filters or multiple inboxes. But first, let’s quickly review the 5 commandments of Inbox Zero, originally coined by Merlin Mann:
1 – Time is precious. We won’t be able to take action on every email we receive. Accepting it allows us to concentrate on what actually matters.
2 – 20/80
3 – Less is more. The longer your emails, the more time it takes for you to write them and for your recipients to go through them. Write concisely and straight to the point.
4 – Cut loose of emotions. Anxiety and frustration can build up when we open a full inbox, but it’s not what we should focus on, but the act of doing.
5 – Set realistic expectations and priorities. Learning when to say no and what deserves your time is crucial in achieving Inbox Zero.
You’ll quickly realize the basic principles behind Inbox Zero is the same as GTD.
We should focus on what’s important now – and accept that not everything can be accomplished. Instead, decide which emails are your priority.
3 – Set up your GTD email workflow
Now that we have gone through the basics of GTD and Inbox Zero, setting up a GTD email workflow is easier than ever.
We designed the following GTD email workflow incorporating many of Mailbutler’s useful and free features, but they’re entirely optional and only serve as additional helpers for this GTD email system. Feel free to use any productivity tools you like!
Before you begin:
1 – Take some time to first unsubscribe from your most recent unwished newsletters. To speed things up, make use of your inbox features, such as Unsubscribe from Mailbutler, that lets you quickly opt out from unwanted email lists.
2 – Decide on how often you want to check your inbox. We recommend you to set up intervals during the day.
3 – Time block yourself for these intervals, so you have dedicated and undisturbed times only for your emails.
Disable your email notifications for times you’re not checking them.
4 – Simple 3-step GTD email workflow (Click to enlarge and download)
1 – Capture
We need to first establish that our inbox is an in-basket that we need to regularly check in order to stay on top of things. An actionable email will result in a next step that can be broken down to
Your email inbox = where potential tasks, ideas or projects enter your workflow.
2 – Clarify each email by asking, “Can I do something about this email?”
- No: delete or archive it.
- Yes: move onto the next step.
3 – Organize. “Can I do this under 2 minutes?”
- Yes: Do it now.
- Reply it -> Archive it
- If the sent email requires a follow-up, set a Follow-up Reminder, and/or add it with your task manager app .
- OR Delegate it -> Archive it
- OR Do the required task -> Archive it
- Reply it -> Archive it
- No: Do it later.
- Defer it -> Add a Reminder to the email and sync it with your preferred task manager -> Archive it
- OR Use inbox features like email snoozing to have them reappear in your inbox later.
- If preferred, attach a note for yourself in the email so you don’t have to read the entire email again. You can do this with services like Email Notes.
Supercharge your GTD workflow with Mailbutler
Whether it’s email, projects, or daily chores you want to regain control in 2019, GTD is the fool-proof and most effective way to get started on your Inbox Zero journey.
Mailbutler‘s inbox features are powerfully designed for Apple Mail & Gmail to help you and your team manage emails flexibly the way you want. Make use of Unsubscribe, Tasks, Snooze, Follow-up Reminders to enhance your GTD workflow even more.
Get started with our free productivity plugin for Apple Mail & Gmail: mailbutler.io