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Process vs. organize and dealing with your email inbox Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
We all read about the 5-phases of the GTD workflow: collect, process, organize, review, and do. My system is weak in the "process" phase, especially when it comes with processing my email inbox. While trying to improve myself at "processing", I stumbled upon the distinction between "process" and "organize".

In a nutshell, I am wondering if you can process without at least doing some organizing. Consider that while processing you find an item you need to do, but can't do in less than 2 minutes. It is not related to an existing project, so you switch to omnifocus and:

1) Create a new project
2) Assign a default context to that project
3) Consider what your next action should be, and capture it
4) Maybe assign a due date (in particular if it needs to be done in the next 24/48 hours)
5) Maybe capture a link back to the email (for instance if you need to respond to that email)

That is a lot of work, and to me sounds like organizing. This especially feel like a lot of work if you know what this is something you'll need to do in the next 24/48 hours: in that case you might be tempted to just leave the item in your inbox, knowing that you have to it soon anyway, and being in your inbox is enough to get it out of your head as you know you will come back to your inbox later.

I'd be interested to know what your perspective is on this. Have you found a better way to streamline progressing? A better way to deal with tasks which are due in the next 24 to 48 hours and taking more than 2 minutes without incurring all the overhead of organizing?

Alex
 
I've struggled with this too. I have tried to avoid using the default miscellaneous list but lately I've found that for those little one off things, it works very well. I give the action a context, click cleanup and poof, off goes the action. I begun to stop spending the time to think up a proper project description for the little actions. I can't say that this is the way I will do it from here on out but for now, it's less work and that's a good thing since right now I'm too busy to spend much time organizing. This is a good topic. Thanks for posting.
 
I do most of these steps as one step when I am in the quick entry panel. For example, if you have an email that is creating a new project and first step is going to be responding to that email, I use the Send to Inbox service, which I have set to open the quick entry panel. Also, it is auto-entering the link. Now you can tab over and type in the name for your new project right there, and apple-enter to create a new project. For an email, I always tab over and put in a due date because it is so important to get out at least some reply. Then I would hit return and put in an action to fill out the rest of that project and jot down any major things that have to be done etc, and give it the same project. Save and you're done and it skips the inbox. For me, that's processing without organizing.
 
I occasionally fall into the trap of organizing when I should be processing also. To avoid that I use two different approaches. If I have time and clarity on what to do with an email, I follow Lucas's plan (though I almost never create a new project that way). Otherwise, particularly if the item belongs in a new project or if I'm trying to process my mail inbox quickly, I'll just hit the hot key and rewrite the action item to start with a verb. I'm religious about daily reviews so nothing lingers for more than a day before I organize it out of my OF inbox and into the right project and context.

The five phases really multiply in value when you're doing them all well. Personally, mastering review to the point of complete trust is what allowed me to make progress on separating processing from organizing. YMMV, of course. Hang in there!
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Personally, mastering review to the point of complete trust is what allowed me to make progress on separating processing from organizing.
Yes! That was my experience as well. When I first came to OmniFocus (and GTD), I knew that I was weak in the review area. I had been keeping lists and doing mind dumps for years, but once an action was added to the list it was in great peril of disappearing into the abyss, never to be seen again (cue ominous music).

It took time for my reviews to become habit and to feel natural in my routine. But once they did, my confidence in the system skyrocketed and I became much more comfortable with letting things go into my database.

-Dennis
 
Curt,

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Personally, mastering review to the point of complete trust is what allowed me to make progress on separating processing from organizing. YMMV, of course. Hang in there!
If you're not organizing while processing, and you regularly review your projects (and I assume re-organize them at that point if necessary), when does the organizing phase come in the picture as something that is done independently from processing or reviewing?

Alex
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by avernet View Post
If you're not organizing while processing, and you regularly review your projects (and I assume re-organize them at that point if necessary), when does the organizing phase come in the picture as something that is done independently from processing or reviewing?
Alex,

I tend to organize in a couple different places. I'll sometimes reorganize a project during a review, especially if I notice that I'm not making progress on the project due to a lack of sufficient planning or to poorly specified next actions. The David advocates for this in the GTD book. I'll also do some organizing if OF is showing a "next" action that isn't actually actionable. Finally, I'll sometimes just create a new next action, "organize foo project" if foo is completely out of whack.

I know I'm mixing some phases, but I find mixing processing and organizing to be the most harmful personally, so try hardest to avoid that.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
 


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