Here’s a tip for tracking important email responses that you’re waiting for. Many email clients these days support flagging or labeling items as well as rules for processing items. I use Outlook as my email manager which has a robust set of rules and in the 2003 version, something called “search folders” which are saved searched that you can quickly access. Using Outlook I can set up folders to automatically sort all of my emails with a certain flag into one place for quick access. In my email system I use flags for managing the flow of “Next Actions” as defined in GTD (Getting Things Done by David Allen). Right now I have a fairly simple set of flags that I use, “Action”, “Deferred”, and “Waiting For”. Anything else that is not flagged is by default considered reference information (or completed actions if I have checked them off).

The “Action” and “Deferred” flags are pretty self-explanatory; it means that there is an action (or possible future action) that I need to perform; usually something that takes more time than a quick response. “Waiting For” is also fairly self-explanatory but its use is sometimes a little more complicated in practice.

In most cases I use it to simple flag something that I am waiting for, such as flagging an order shipment email or flagging something important that someone has told me they would follow up on. Where it gets more complicated is when I need to track a request that I am sending to someone. In those cases I use a special rule to flag a copy of the item as “Waiting For”. In Outlook I have a rule set up that checks for emails that I have Cc’s to myself. When Outlook’s rule engine finds those items it marks them as read and flags them as “Waiting For”. Now whenever I want to track a request to someone, I just Cc myself on the request and a reminder will automatically be generated and filled in my “Waiting For” folder.

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Flux and Mutability

The mutable notebook of David Jade