Jun 4, 2006

Using Outlook Without Folders, Without Filing

Over at Mark Rosenberg has published a tutorial on Using Outlook Without Folders, Without Filing.

This is so much un-GTD that I had shivers going down my spine when I realized what this was about. This is also likely targeted at those lucky among us that don't fear seeing an inbox full of 12,345 messages — then waiting for them to get sorted, the way author suggests.

I have known people to go by "my inbox is the place I keep all of my messages" approach — but I could never equate them with the most productive folk. True, Mark does suggest a few enhancements to how you keep all this info in one big pile: color, use different font, etc. Yet you're likely to go crazy if you do need to manage too many tasks/projects/relationships this way (say, is bold-italic-lime related to that mega-project or not?). This approach does not really help you organizing your info, it only reduces that 15-second decision you should have made when you got your message (and if you remember, David suggests that you should never file it in multiple places, you should rather go with the folder that first comes to mind, that's it).

Folder-wise filing, with a very quick heat-of-the-moment filing decisions coupled with a good search tool like (no longer available for download) LookOut — this is what does make your mind flow, not a big pile of info.

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous09:04

    I was browsing for feedback on our no folders tutorial and was delighted to come across your posting as it was the first I've found that hated it. Waaaait a minute - delighted??

    As illogical as this sounds I find this very valuable info. When I first started using Outlook without folders I had the "fear" as well until I kept at it and realized that it was unfounded. The realization came when I started looking at WHY I started using folders in the first place. For me it was generally to shrink the list of things I needed to look through so I could reduce the fear. That fear was directly proportional to the size of the list. Gradually though, that fear went away as it sunk in that the list did shrink conceptually by sorting the fields.

    But this concept has to be learned, which takes effort, which takes time, which is something people generally have very little of. I hate drilling new habits as much as anyone, but my inconsistency with and distaste for filing necessitated that I do.

    So back to being delighted. We're developing an email tagger for Outlook in order to address some of the short comings of not using folders. Even though we strongly believe that people could get away with 95% less filing, there is undoubtedly a need for SOME type of categorization.

    The fear you described is the most important factor in designing a functional UI for the email tagger - how are people going to react to 10000 messages in one place?

    We've posed a number of questions to stimulate product suggestions, but the best feedback we've rec'd to date comes from saying to people, "Do it this way" and they tell us why the don't want to.

    Please have a look and tell us more.


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