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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

GTD-style email in Thunderbird

entropic principal: Using Thunderbird to Get Things Done

Clever way to use Thunderbird’s excellent (semantic) flags to implement a GTD-inspired email triage system:

So I also have a saved search I call “Next Actions” to keep up with the stuff I need to pay attention to. The criteria for this one is: “Match any of the following: Label is Action Required; Label is None; Label is Wait”. See what that does? Anything I need to do something with, anything I’m waiting for somebody else to do, and anything that I haven’t made the first decision on, all shows up in one place. As soon as I mark something as Archive, Delete, or Defer, it disappears from this view on my next refresh. So my to-do list is always up-to-date, always right there. As soon as a task is complete, I can mark the message as Archive and forget about it.

I’d love for Mail.app to allow multiple semantic flags like this. You can get pretty close with Mail Tags or categories in Entourage, but it would be great to have this kind of functionality native to the app and easily exposable via Spotlight.

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Merlin's picture

I guess depending on what...

I guess depending on what you mean, this is partially do-able in Mail.app, as is.

What’s nice (and in my opinion much improved) about Thunderbird flags is that they are a) numerous (Mail/IMAP has one digital flag: a message is either flagged or it’s not flagged), b) semantic (they mean something—don’t just change the background color, etc.), c) keyboard-assignable (remember, we have multiples here, not just one CMD-SHIFT-L), d) customizable.

So theoretically (and I haven’t really thought about this that much), I could have an “URGENT Work-related” email and an “Answer Anytime” email live in the same “Email to respond to” mailbox. This keeps everything under my nose (not buried in a folder someplace); they’re functionally the same (they both require an email response) but their semantic flag status lets me filter to just what I need without changing views (or waiting for Smart Folders to churn).

Being able to blast through a screen of messages with just keyboard commands every hour or so is basically my Email Valhalla.

(I’ve actually developed something similar to this by combining Mail Tags and Mail Act-On that I’ll be writing up soon.)




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