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27 Mar

Beware of flags

Datum: 2017-03-27 16:42

You have the option of mark­ing e‑mails with flags in Out­look, Mail (OS X) and Lotus Notes, and with stars in Gmail. Many peo­ple I meet use this func­tion for e‑mails which con­tain some­thing they need to do some­thing with. They there­by cre­ate a kind of to-do-task. Anoth­er vari­a­tion is mark­ing these e‑mails as unread.

I can see the inten­tion and I do think it is good to mark them in some way rather than just try to remem­ber that I need to do that which the client e‑mailed me about”.

But, there are bet­ter ways to do so than indi­cat­ing tasks with flags or stars.

Speak up
What you get when flag­ging and mark­ing e‑mails with stars with the pur­pose of remem­ber­ing to do some­thing with them, is only a sec­ond to-do-list par­al­lell to your actu­al list. You see the sub­ject lines of the high­light­ed e‑mails in a long row and they are rarely phrased so that you imme­di­ate­ly know what to do with it (but rather more like Re: re: re: ans: fwd: re: The new project”).

The list is vague and ambigu­ous. You need a very good mem­o­ry or a burn­ing desire to reread the same e‑mail sev­er­al times, to work with this type of list.

Every­thing you do are to-do-tasks
It is much eas­i­er to for­mu­late what you are going to do as a to-do-task right after read­ing the e‑mail the first time (if it implies that you need to do some­thing). If you have your to-do-list on paper, write the task on the list and then save the e‑mail where you gath­er the e‑mails which you do not know when you might need, but need to be able to find eas­i­ly once you do.

If you have a dig­i­tal to-do-list, it is eas­i­er to do the following:

  • In Out­look you click, drag and drop the e‑mail on the Tasks-but­ton, and there­by cre­ate a task which con­tains the e‑mail.

  • In Lotus Notes you copy the email into a to-do-task.

  • In Omni­Fo­cus (OS X) you send the e‑mail to Omni­Fo­cus Inbox through the Mail Drop-func­tion and in Things (OS X) you mark what you want to copy and cre­ate a task though the Quick Entry-function.

  • In you use Gmail you cre­ate a new task in Todoist​.com through the Add e‑mail-but­ton in the Todoist-box or in Too​dle​do​.com by for­ward­ing the e‑mail to your unique (just to men­tion a few possibilities).

There is a way of trans­form­ing an e‑mail to a to-do-task in most dig­i­tal list-ser­vices. Are you hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing how it works in your par­tic­u­lar tool? E‑mail me, and I might be able to help you.

Do this
If you have pre­vi­ous­ly been using the stars or flags to indi­cate that an e‑mail con­tains some­thing you have to do, and have had a reg­u­lar to-do-list as well, then trans­form all these high­light­ed e‑mails to clear and con­cise to-do-tasks and add them to the list.

Are they too many of them to deal with them now? Then at least trans­fer a sin­gle e‑mail into a prop­er task and sched­ule time in the cal­en­dar for as many and as long peri­ods of time as you will need to soon be rid of all the flags (or stars), and again only have one, and only one, com­plete and com­pre­hen­sive to-do-list.

Read and pri­or­i­tize eas­i­er and faster
If you cre­ate to-do-tasks out of e‑mails rather than just leav­ing them high­light­ed by stars or flags, or marked as unread, you will have a list made up of clear and con­crete to-do-tasks which are much eas­i­er to under­stand and perform.

You now no longer have to read the same e‑mail sev­er­al times just to real­ize that it con­tains a task you do not have time to do now any­way. Instead of feel­ing frus­trat­ed, you will now make deci­sions on what to-do-task that is the right one to pri­or­i­tize next faster and with much greater ease. There will also just be one list instead of two (one con­crete and one ambigu­ous), which will give you a bet­ter overview of all the things you have to do.

What is your tool?
What kind of dig­i­tal to-do-list-tool do you use? Per­haps it is one I have not yet head of (since there is, as we all know, always anoth­er app to become aware of). Give me a chance to learn some­thing new! Leave a com­ment below.