I never liked RSS Readers (sorry, Google Reader). But I do like to be up-to-date on good reading. So here’s a “What Works For Me” that you can easily set up if you’re using Gmail. And if you’re not, why not? It has some nice features.
Step 2: Start receiving! As you do, be aware of what you like to read, and what you tend to skip. Unsubscribe as necessary. If the volume is too high, many sites offer options to reduce down to a weekly or monthly option.
Step 3: Organize. Open one email from the first company/blog/person. Go to “More Actions” and choose “Filter messages like this.”
Step 4: Now Google will show you all messages from that sender and/or with that subject line. The sender is a good way to filter messages for this purpose. Click “Next Step” to continue setting up your filter.
Step 5: Check off these two check boxes:
- Skip the inbox (Archive it)
- Move to Label… Browse…
Browse to the Label “@Read & Review” or whatever you call the folder for incoming inputs you may want to read, but are not immediately actionable. I use this folder to accumulate good reading material that I want to keep separate from my “actual email”.
Step 6: Click “Create Filter”. Optionally, click “Apply this filter to the conversations below.” That will move any other messages from this sender into @Read & Review.
Step 7: Review “@Read & Review” daily, or every other day. Remember, anytime you create another bucket, it’s important to empty it regularly. Otherwise it won’t work! I know myself and know that I am good at checking each of my folders regularly, reading the stuff I want and tossing the stuff I don’t. If you have any doubts about setting this up, don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.
Step 8: Enjoy staying up on the reading you like. Continually get better about discerning what you do and don’t want coming into this folder.
But, but, but… GTDers might ask, “But isn’t that creating a second in-box?” “Doesn’t that mean you never have everything collected all together in one inbox?” My answer: yes, you’re right. Now I have two folders with unread messages. But as long as only @Read & Review materials filter into their folder, and I have it clearly defined inside of me what emails can go in there and which ones can’t, then I’m in good shape. Again, only reading material that is not actionable gets to be filtered away from In. A good metaphor for these @Read & Review emails would be magazines sitting in a waiting room. You’re not obligated to read any of them, but having them around gives you nice enriching options.
Examples of emails I filter into @Read & Review:
- Inspiring quotes (I like Loving Each Day and HeartQuotes)
- All blogs that I follow through Feedburner, FeedBlitz, or other RSS sources
- Company newsletters that I use for inspiration
- Special offers on products I may want to buy
- With the recent elections, I filtered all political campaign messages there. This was just advertising from the politicians, stuff I might want to skim or might want to toss. I’m looking at my recycling bin bulging over with the mailers these same politicians sent me this season (feels like hunting season, doesn’t it?) If you come up with a way to filter your snail mail as effectively as Gmail filters emails, you win a million dollars. Or save a million trees, at least.
Why This Works For Me
This tool saves me a lot of time. Before I did this, I needed an RSS Reader. To me, an RSS Reader is yet another inbox to process and organize. And I have to go somewhere to get to it. With this system, my little @Read & Review folder is always at my fingertips in Gmail, where I spend a lot of time anyway. I might need a 15 minute break in my day, and happen to glance down and see 14 unread items in my @Read & Review. So I go in there and fish out a little burst of inspiration.
Why I Hate Priority Inbox
I love Google and many of their tools make a difference in how I work, and certainly in how I think. But I think Priority Inbox is lame. If you’re not familiar with it, here is Google’s promotional video (cute). Basically, it’s the latest attempt to get a robot/computer to do your work for you. But anyone who has been around David Allen knows that your system is only as good as you are. The best way to process information is to process it yourself. Only you can know what your priorities are in a given moment, and if you rely on a tool to pre-sort the important stuff for you (no matter how good it is), you will train yourself to overlook the non-urgent stuff. See, Priority Inbox just pays attention to what emails you actually read and answer. It doesn’t pay attention to all the things that are important to you that you procrastinate on. It doesn’t know what you’re resisting (but you do). So I don’t think a robot should do a human job, and I also don’t think a human should become dependent on a robot to make executive decisions about how they focus their time. That’s my 2 cents for now, and I’m always open to having my mind changed. Here’s a link to Lifehacker asking what real people think about Priority Inbox so far. Seems like the verdict is out so far.
About “What Works For Me”
As you can see, this is a new section of my blog where I’ll be offering techniques that I use to stay productive. Don’t expect any Earth-shattering revelations here. Just simple innovations I’ve either used for years, or new ones that I’m trying out and want to share. The purpose of this section is to inspire you to get creative about your own productivity systems. It’s not to say that anything I’m doing is the “right way” or that it will necessarily work for you. But having a conversation about highly personalized tips seems like fun.
But it will only be fun with YOU participating. So please leave me a comment and let me know what you think about any of it: about filtering emails in Gmail – do you do that, or something completely different? Do you think email is dead? Why? Are you testing out Priority Inbox, and what do you think?
Or, what suggestions or ideas do you have for the “What Works For Me” section? Your questions are welcome, and I will do my best to post about any aspect of my own personal productivity that you care to know about.
So please leave your comments below…