Friday, March 20, 2009

Why Outlook is awful as a collection tool.

As I said in a previous post, at work, I use Outlook as my information gathering process.

Why Outlook?

Because I don’t have the choice. I also chose not to install third party software to complement Outlook. I just wanted it to work out of the box.

As you might have remarked, I do not use some of GTD’s principles: the Context for example. I just don’t need it.

Also, when in the Act part of my mailbox, the mails are sorted by status, not by project.

After a bit of fine tuning, I just figured that I would rather have a few big buckets with stuff in it that I can review at a glance, than a lot of tiny very organized buckets, that I have to review one after another. It just takes me less time, and I do less routing errors.

And this is something you have to address when implementing a GTD system: you have to trust your collection process, but ultimately, even if it is very reliable, you will make some errors when collecting, and put stuff in the wrong buckets. It has to be simple enough to minimize errors when collecting.

My system, however simple, has nonetheless some serious drawbacks due to Outlook limitations.

As you might have remarked, an email represents a line of my to-do list. But if it is a conversation, then ten mails can represent the same action. Or two actions, or more.

It can be partially solved by the threaded view mode. I just don’t like it though. Never have, never will.

Another big problem is that a single mail can contain info about more than one project. Where do I put it in my reference part when I finish the actions? I often try to forward myself the mail to archive it in another folder, but to be honest it’s a pain.

Last but not least, Outlook search is miserable, to say the least, and in huge projects, I sometime find it hard to find a particular reference mail.

Maybe you begin to see where I’m coming to? How could we collect email efficiently in a GTD fashion?

The answer is Gmail. And it’s not a small improvement over Outlook. It’s a quantum leap. And used with firefox and GTDInbox, it's just the simplest and yet most effective solution I know. Stay tuned ,).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment

Search Results