Travel documents. Emails that need a follow up in a week. Bills due in 15 days. Messages where you're awaiting a reply. Stuff you'll get to next week. An email with a phone number from someone you're meeting for coffee next Tuesday.
Yesterday, we asked you to use Archive as your primary email management tool. When an email no longer requires attention, Archiving lets you get it out of your Inbox and out of your mind, but keeps it available in case you need it someday. But what about messages like the ones above? Some messages require action or your attention later. Research from Carnegie Mellon University estimates that a whopping 37% of all email falls into this category.
For example, if you're flying to Paris next month (lucky you!), you'll want your airline ticket in your Inbox the day you fly, but you don't need to do anything with it until then. One option is to leave the message in your inbox until that time. But remember, you're only supposed to leave messages in your inbox that are unread or require action today; if you include all of these, you'll be right back up to 100+ messages in no time flat. And you'll likely forget to check back on it if it gets buried by incoming messages.
Today we are going to introduce an extremely powerful concept that solves this problem. It's known as Deferring, and it's been popularized by David Allen as part of the Getting Things Done workflow. When you defer a message, you move it out of your inbox, but set up a technological solution to bring the message back to your attention at a later date.
If you use Outlook or Gmail, we recommend Boomerang for email reminders. If you use another mail client, the best methods are to add the email to your calendar or to create a folder structure that supports deferring messages. When you Boomerang a message, it is archived for now (more precisely, moved to the Boomerang folder/label) and automatically returned to the top of your inbox at the time you need it. The Gmail version also supports returning messages only if you don't get a response. If you choose the calendar/folders approach, you'll need to replicate much of that functionality manually; a somewhat tedious but not overwhelming challenge.
So for all emails that require action, attention, or follow up in the future, defer them to get them out of your inbox now and remind you later. Here's how.
Other mail client users who prefer to create a folder structure to defer messages
|We defer action on a whopping 37% of emails. Do so more effectively.||Tweet|
|The best way to defer an email is to get it out of your inbox & get a reminder later.||Tweet|
|You can defer a message using 43 folders, calendar, or a reminder service like Boomerang.||Tweet|
The last couple days have focused on how to use Archive as the primary action for managing our email. Today, we learned how to handle the roughly one third of our email that needs attention later. Tomorrow, we'll talk about the delete button - when to use it, and why you should.
In the interest of transparency, we'd like to explicitly make it clear that we are also the people that make Boomerang. We're mentioning it here because it works better than anything else we've found for solving this problem. All of us find it indispensable. While we do benefit from selling subscriptions to the service, we will not use any revenue from ReviveYourInbox sources to torture small animals, prop up dictatorships, or sow chaos across the world, we promise. FYI: two more days from the course mention our products, the rest do not.