How many times have you been ready to hit the “send” button and thought, “I should add this to my to-do list,” or, “I’d better check up on this later?” Both GTD and an enhanced system, Total, Relaxed Organization (TRO), teach that you must follow up on tasks. However, manually typing every little job into your task list can be a hassle. When it’s a hassle, it’s easy to forget.
Want an easier way?
If you know the secret, Outlook and other email programs can automatically create follow-up tasks. Go through the simple setup that I’m about to show you, then type anywhere in the email title … and presto! The task is created for you, allowing you to check on the assignment later. Easy!
The W/F Secret
So why “W/F”? In the world of Total, Relaxed Organization, W/F stands for “Waiting For.” For example, let’s say you’ve asked Fred to write a report. Now you’re “Waiting For” Fred to report back.
In GTD, these tasks live in a “Waiting For” list that gets scanned weekly to decide what needs attention. That’s pretty time-consuming. Plus, long, unordered lists are stressful, and we’re in the business of eliminating stress!
Instead, TRO recognizes that “waiting for” actually means “if I haven’t heard back by a certain day, I’m going to look into this.” So with TRO, you simply assign W/F to the tasks as the “follow-up” action verb. For example, Ask Fred to write report becomes W/F Fred to write report. This lets you track W/F tasks in your regular task lists, where you schedule the follow-up just like any other action. Simple, fast, no sweat!
TRO training shows you exactly how to handle W/F steps with your particular choice of tools. It includes:
1. Decide ahead of time what day you will check up on the task. That date can be either loose or firm—TRO works both ways.
2. Schedule the step in your task list (not your calendar) when you “process” your tasks.
3. Review W/F tasks at the right time, automatically, as part of your 5 minute Daily Reviews or 5-10 minute Weekly Reviews.
4. Until then, the follow-up is off your mind and out of your way, because you don’t see tasks in your lists until the date approaches.
This method works with almost any tool (click here for a list of more than 110), including Microsoft Outlook. However, if you have Outlook and you’re not already using TROG Bar, you should consider it! Trog is a TRO and GTD-friendly Windows sidebar that manages your Outlook task lists for you. It recommends projects and areas it thinks you should work on next, gives you easy access to meeting agendas, and lets you drag and drop tasks into a pop-out calendar; that way, you can create linked appointments.
Setting Up Auto Email Follow-Up
Once you decide on your tools, you’re ready to set-up your inbox so it can create follow-up tasks from emails. Think of it as teaching a new language to your email: once it understands what you’re trying to tell it by typing in (W/F), it will know exactly what to do.
Here’s the setup procedure. Scroll down and find the instructions for your kind of inbox.
Outlook Email Users (with or without Trog Bar):
1. First, open up Outlook and take a look at your inbox.
2. Follow this step if you HAVE Trog Bar: Make sure you see an [Action] folder at the very top of the folder list. If not, Trog’s Inbox Relief may not be set up properly (click here for instructions).
3. Follow this step if you DO NOT have Trog Bar: Create an email folder named [Action] by right-clicking Personal Folders or Mailbox in the folder list, then click New Folder.
4. Go to the main menu and select Tools, Rules and Alerts. (If you don’t see that option, set up an email account first in Outlook.)
5. Here, you’ll click New Rule.
6. Select Start from a blank rule, and Check messages after sending, then click Next.
7. After that, check with specific words in the subject.
8. Then at the bottom, click the word specific to open a dialog box for options.
9. Now enter (W/F).
10. Click add, then OK, and then Next.
11. Check Move a copy to the specified folder.
12. At the bottom, click the word specified to open a dialog box for options.
13. Select the [Action] folder. This should be at the very top of the list of folders!.
14. Click OK.
15. Then keep clicking Next (without selecting anything else), until you finally reach the end of the wizard file.
16. Select the option to Turn on this rule, but do not check the option to Run this rule now in folder.
17. Hit Finish.
18. … and you’re set!
Other Email Programs:
Many email programs support rules for outgoing emails. If yours falls into this category, follow these general instructions to get the same benefits.
1. Create an [Action] folder for filing your W/F and other actionable emails.
2. Create a rule for outgoing emails like the rule described above for Outlook and Trog Bar.
Using Your New W/F Feature
Congratulations! From now on, all you need to do is plug (W/F) into the subject of an email, and a copy will be created in the [Action] folder for you to check out later. And if you have Trog, it will automatically appear in your Unprocessed Tasks list. If you don’t have Trog Bar, regularly grab your W/F emails and “process” them into tasks if further follow-up is still needed. (Note: If you wait a few days, many of these emails will already be handled. You can just delete the W/F email copy. This kind of “constructive procrastination” can save you a bunch of time.) Welcome to automated, relaxed organization!
By the way: When someone replies to these emails, (W/F) will still be in the subject line. If you respond to that email, a copy of your reply will be placed in the [Action] file unless you remove the “(W/F)” first! It’s no big deal, but to avoid duplicating tasks, get rid of the (W/F) before you respond.
… You’ll also find this information in your Day 11 Follow-Up Lesson in Total, Relaxed Organization training. It’s part of our built-in 21-day follow-up and accountability to ensure correct, lasting habits.
Not familiar yet with all the jargon?
Check out the lingo list below for some quick definitions.
GTD: Acronym for “Getting Things Done” an action management system developed by David Allen. GTD software helps you do exactly that: get “things” done, whatever “things” may be for you. See our list of 111+ researched GTD software applications. Anywhere you see the Priacta “14-hour clock” in the list, you’ll find software that works with the TRO Online Training.