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How to become an Outlook GTD ninja

Posted by on Feb 8, 2014 in Outlook Productivity Blog | No Comments

Productivity would never be a problem if we could control the amount of incoming tasks. If only when you get another pile of tasks there was a pause to prioritize, manage and complete them. This would be easy. Yet real life sets its limits and the incoming emails with tasks keep coming while you still need to have enough time to read, prioritize and do what you have to. That is the root cause problem for many issues, from poor productivity to procrastination: when you simply are overwhelmed with tasks it’s hard to handle the pressure. The answer to the problem may lay in basic GTD principles applied to Outlook tasks.

Is your Outlook inbox filled with emails that you cannot delete? It often happens that those emails have important tasks, approvals and decisions that you are going to need a little bit later. As the result, the inbox is constantly full and provides you with a bunch of uncategorized data which has little to do with productivity.

Categorize the incoming mails

Before you’re able to apply GTD to your Outlook tasks, you need to have all of the tasks in front of you. Some of them are still in your inbox, so let us get them out of there.

We don’t start from your inbox by accident. Your task list starts here. The first thing to do would be to categorize emails the way that you take some of them to action and thus place them on your task list. This is the area of Inbox Zero productivity technique. According to it, your emails fall into one of 5 categories: Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do. Defer- and Do-emails should be flagged and sent to your task list. This way you do not simply put your emails from one folder to another. On the contrary, this is the first step of preparation before starting to act.

GTD applied to Outlook task list

When you place a pile of emails into your task list, do you have just another pile which moved from one place to another? How do you organize it quickly and finally start completing?

Prioritizing your task list is probably the most important part of all Outlook GTD methodology. When applied to Outlook this means that you set priority and deadline to each task. This routine activity should take you from about half an hour to an hour each morning, before you start doing anything. One of the easiest ways is to use TaskCracker for Outlook: the GTD Eisenhower matrix add-in that makes it possible to set deadlines and priorities to the tasks at a speed of drag and drop.

How to become an Outlook GTD ninjaAfter you are done prioritizing, you can switch back to the list view and start completing tasks one by one, according to basic GTD principles. You can mix it with other techniques, like Pomodoro, for example, when a task should be completed within 25 minutes followed with a 5 minutes break. (Please note that neither Outlook nor TaskCracker provides a Pomodoro timer in its interface.)

Enjoy being a productivity ninja

That’s all. Now you have your task list organized visually, the important emails are transformed into properly prioritized tasks and basically you have no need to go back to your inbox unless you need to check for new incoming emails which you can deal with in the same Inbox Zero method: Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do. TaskCracker is specially designed for Outlook productivity and Outlook GTD principles application within this common business email and task management tool. The visual view makes it possible to strategically manage your activity to achieve your goals.

TaskCracker looks pure and simple when in fact it combines several time-proven productivity techniques: Eisenhower matrix, Inbox Zero, Getting Things Done, First Things First. You can find out more about those techniques in our previous posts and learn useful tips on how to apply them to your Outlook tasks.


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Anastasia Chumakova, independant marketing guru

With more than 3 years of background in the product and project management area, she’s familiar with most business optimisation systems and productivity techniques. Don’t hesitate to ask your questions or provide feedback via G+ with the #TaskCracker hashtag.