Pay It Forward Email Management

When I first joined Microsoft, I knew that email was going to be a real challenge. Some people referred to it as the Microsoft fire hose of email. I knew I would need to create a system of email management that would work for me to make sure I got stuff done. I looked all over for GTD templates and rules but really never found anything that quite worked.

Then I found PIFEM…Pay It Forward Email Management. From what I read, this might just work. So I jumped in and did it. (Yoda says…”There is no try”) Now that I have been using this method for over a year, I decided it was time to Pay It Forward. Here are the rules:

IF YOU DECIDE TO TRY THE APPROACH OUTLINED, AND YOU ACTUALLY FIND IT USEFUL, YOU HAVE TO PAY IT FORWARD AND TELL 3 OR MORE OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT IT AND GET THOSE PEOPLE TO CONSIDER TRYING THE APPROACH. IF THIS INFORMATION IS TRULY USEFUL, THE CONCEPT WILL SPREAD. IF THIS INFORMATION IS NOT TRULY USEFUL, THE CONCEPT WILL DIE A NATURAL DEATH.

How I use PIFEM

If I ran my email program all the time, I would never get anything done because I would constantly be seeing the “You’ve Got Mail” toast notifications. So, twice a day, I will open my inbox to review my email. I have 10 minutes to get through my inbox…Delete It, Do It Today, Tomorrow, This Week, Defer to Next Week. I have flags in my Ribbon bar to make this process go very quickly.

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Once I have a zero inbox, then I move to the “Tasks” view. I have a customized “Task” view that sorts the to do items first by Due Date, then by Priority. At this point, most items are “Normal” priority. So I look through the list and see if there is anything that needs “High” priority or can be pushed to “Low”.

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I now have my working list of what I need to do and can begin working down from the top, marking the items complete as I go.

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Here’s the kicker…OneNote!

The best part about all this is that I can use OneNote to also have little To-Do/Ticklers that I can use the “Outlook Task” feature of OneNote to create additional tasks that aren’t emails. Now, I have a single “To-do” list with items spread all over OneNote and Emails…all in one place in Outlook. As long as I can keep up with my list on a daily basis, I am good to go.

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 One Last Thing

At the end of the day, if there is anything left undone (for whatever reason), I review them and determine: Did it really need to be done today? Does it need to be “High Priority” tomorrow? Then I reset the Due Date flag to tomorrow to make sure they show up on my list to get done.

This is not unique to me

This has been going on for quite some time. You can read more about the guys that came up with the ideas here, here, and here.

If you are challenged with your email, try this out. Then if it works for you, be sure to pay it forward. If something isn’t working for you, tweak it…or rethink how you do things. This has made my daily tasks incredibly simple.

Thank you to  Ian Palangio, Angus Logan, and Johann Kruse for the inspiration to get my email under control.