What’s the Best Email Client for Getting Things Done (GTD)?

8th May, 2010 in Emails 2 Comments

In a recent post I talked about searching for a perfect task management system to help organise my work project and tasks with the goal of becoming more productive. I have since started to use Todoist, and although lacking in some areas, it is so far the best Task Manager I have found to suit my needs. Integrating with my GMail is crucial and this was one if it’s selling points.

But now the focus is on my email management. With so much email coming in and out it is crucial to manage email effectively. Some days I have been known to spend all day answering emails and not work on any important projects at all. That is not good! It is of course important to answer all emails effectively and quickly, but there is something seriously wrong when it takes too much time away from money earning projects.

In my opinion email clients are not designed with effective work practices in mind. They are designed for emailing not working. With automated sending and receiving, pop up notifications, lack of task manager integration, your email client only serves to push as much emailing activity on you as possible! This is not good for your actual work.

At the time of writing I cannot find a suitable email client that supports effective working and the principles of Getting Things Done. The key points for me are:-

  • Manual Receiving – Check email when you are ready to deal with email, not when email wants you to (which is usually immediate if you keep your email client open)
  • Manual Sending – If you have many emails to reply to, do not send them one at a time after writing it because it is possible your recipients would reply back before you exit from your email client, and if you decide to reply back again then you could get stuck in an endless loop of emailing. It is important to write all your replies first, hit the Send button to send all at the same time, then close your emails and get back to work. Check for any more replies at your next scheduled emailing time.
  • Fast Software – I used to use Outlook, but with thousands of emails archived, even across multiple Outlook files, it was sloooooooow.
  • Fast Searching – Nearly all my tasks and project information are in emails. Having a good archiving system (and empty inbox) means I need to search for emails often. Not only searching the content, but labels too. Again, I found Outlook too slow due to so many emails.
  • Online Storage – I work from multiple computers and need to access my email often, in varying locations. So it’s crucial my email is stored on the email server (or in the cloud) so I can access it from any computer. I also do not want my email client downloading the email to my computer, because I will have several Gbs of space taken up on every PC. Leave it on the server please! So that’s another no no for Outlook.
  • Browser based – Not essential, but if I don’t have to install any software then fantastic (thumbs down Outlook!).
  • Task Manager Integrated – When an email comes in that requires a task (most of my emails) I don’t want to copy and past the information into a new task in my task manager, I want to save that actual email, or link to it, in the task itself. This is one area email clients seem to be seriously lacking in and only integrate with selected task managers. The task manager I use needs it’s own features so I cannot just use any task manager like Outlook Tasks.

At the moment I use GMail. It does excel at many features over other email clients such as fast software (browser), fast search (they are a search engine after all), excellent labeling and filters to be organised and online storage for access anywhere, integration with popular task management systems. But it is crucially missing a manual send and receive that to me is extremely important for more efficient working. GMail immediately shows your new email in the Inbox, and sends email straight away. You can save a message in Drafts to send later, but it’s not an Outbox. You have to send each email one at a time.  I suppose I can close down Gmail when not in use… but I need to access my archived email for project information often so  this is not practical. As a workaround I have to setup some filters and labels to deal with incoming email so I am not distracted by it, but it’s not ideal.

So I now have another quest, to find that perfect email client to support Getting Things Done. Any comments welcome!

Comments
Picture of scottini

scottini 2nd January, 2012 at 17:49 pm

Any news finding the perfect GTD compliant email client?

Picture of Laurence Cope

Laurence Cope 2nd January, 2012 at 17:49 pm

@scottini Not the perfect one no. I use Gmail and have configured it to help with my productivity. See this blog post http://www.amityweb.co.uk/blog/gmail-tip-how-to-stop-checking-email-all-the-time.



One major issue with web based email clients is you cannot control when it receives email, it is instant. As I need my email open all the time to reference information for my work, when new mail arrives I see it instantly and it distracts me. So the above link is a way to configure GMail so you do not see email coming in instantly, then you can check it as and when you need to.



I also have a Label called To process which is my collection in GTD terms, and allows me to have Inbox Zero. Then each day I go through my To Process inbox and either reply, delete, archive, do it (if quick) or create a task from it.



My task manager of choice is ToDoist because it allows a quick task to be created from a Gmail email with a link to that email.

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