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Will Your New Year’s Resolution Be to Be More Organized and Productive?

I usually pledge to be more organized, but that goal gets lost quickly in the paperwork surrounding my desk and the messages clogging my email. Very recently I participated in an American Association of Law Libraries webinar on getting control of email. I was one of the many participants who had to confess to having over 1,000 emails in my inbox. And I was told by the presenter Randall Dean that the average person spends about two hours a day dealing with email and checks email up to 20 times per day. Dean is the author of a 2009 book, Taming the Email Beast, and has done numerous presentations on his methods.

At the beginning of the webinar he referred to some of the organization ideas in the excellent book, Getting Things Done by David Allen. Dean focused on some strategies that can be applied to much more than email. The first was to use the three minute and one touch rule. Look at every piece of information in any format and decide what to do with it when you first encounter it. If it takes less than three minutes to do, do it right away. If it takes longer, you should add it to your task list. Using Outlook, you can just drag and drop the email into tasks. When things are completed you should delete or archive the email.

Another key strategy is to avoid looking at everything as it comes in because not all emails or senders are equal. This way you can balance responsiveness with more productivity. For Outlook email you can set up rules to direct and announce the most important and time sensitive messages. In Gmail this can be done using some of the setting under filters.

Many of Dean’s tricks and tips apply to Microsoft Outlook, but some can be worked into Gmail too. Many of these Outlook tips can be found in Dean’s 2012 YouTube video , 30 Minutes of Quick Tips for Taming the Email Beast Using MS Outlook.

Please let me know if you want to share any good techniques for ramping up organization and productivity. You might just help me keep my 2017 resolution.

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