Posts categorized “gtd”.

Using MYN with GTD

TWC BookIf you are a fan of both MYN and GTD, Michael Linenberger has a guide for integrating both into your workflow:

“My strong encouragement to use next actions in your MYN Now-Tasks list (see Lesson 6 in my Outlook book) is about the extent of the obvious overlap between MYN and GTD. MYN’s unique approach to task management is otherwise a quite different system. But they can easily be used together and so you can get the best of both. If you are a GTD user and are looking for more ways to integrate MYN with GTD, here are some ideas on how to do that.”

For more information on MYN and ClearContext, see our TWC partner page.  Download our free Outlook GTD setup guide here.

GTD Setup and ClearContext v5.4

To better support our GTD customers, we introduced the Context Category dashboard in v5.4.  Now you can use the Dashboard to review your To Do’s by category, project, next action and/or date.  Here are some of the more significant changes from our GTD Setup Guide.

imageDashboard

From the Context Category view in the Summary Dashboard, double click a context to quickly jump to your action lists (@Work, @Phone, etc.) or a list of all Next Actions. From the Project view, pin the projects that are most important to you. Identify Next Actions by Project. Double click a project name to take notes and display all related tasks, appointments, contacts and files.

Inbox Processing

Process the inbox using the ClearContext workflow buttons (task, schedule, defer, etc.), answering those emails that you can, deleting those that you don’t need, filing reference material using ClearContext File buttons, and creating tasks or appointments for future work. As tasks and appointments are created, assign a category context using Outlook’s native category assignment feature and one the categories created above. This will automatically associate the item with the appropriate action list.

Work on Next Actions

Select a Context Category view from the Summary Dashboard menu (Active in the image to the left). Double-click !Next to open the Next Actions Detail Dashboard, showing all tasks designated !Next. This allows you to focus on those tasks that are most important to the progress of your Projects.

imageSummary Dashboard

The Summary Dashboard in the ClearContext Sidebar is the control panel for your day. If you close the Sidebar, access the Dashboard from the button in the toolbar or via the ClearContext menu.

Categories and Projects

The top half of the Dashboard allows you to quickly see which Context Categories or Projects require your attention. Select either a Context Category or Project view of tasks via the menu at the top right of the Dashboard (Active in the image to the right).

The Context Category view only displays categories with special characters in front of them (i.e. @Phone). The large count to the left of each category indicates the total number of due tasks. Counts highlighted in red indicate categories with overdue tasks. Double-click to open a list of all tasks for the selected category. Double-click !Next to see all tasks that have been marked as Next Actions. Double-click <Unassigned Tasks> to open the Organizer and view a list of all tasks that have not had a category assigned to them.

When viewing Projects in the Dashboard, large counts to the left of each Project give the total number of due tasks, highlighting in red those Projects with overdue tasks. Projects with Next Actions assigned show a small arrow next to the Task count.

Use the pin icon to pin your most important Projects. To view only pinned Projects, select a view from the Project header (Active in the picture to the left). Double-click <Unassigned Tasks> to view all your tasks without Project assignment. Double-click individual Projects to open a Project Dashboard.

Tasks/Appts

The Tasks and Appointments section of the Summary Dashboard shows all of your Tasks across projects and Categories. Use the filter selector in the header (All in the picture to the left) to filter by date or priority. When ready to focus on a single context (i.e. @Phone) or a single project, open a Detail Dashboard.

The Due Date and Priority buttons at the bottom of the Dashboard can be used to quickly change task information. Highlight multiple tasks and click the Due Date button to change the date due for all selected tasks. Assign Next Action, Date and Priority by right-clicking a Task.

imageDetail Dashboard

When ready to focus on an individual project or category, open the Detail Dashboard by double-clicking a Project or Context Category in the Summary Dashboard.

Category Detail

When viewing the detail for a Context Category, ClearContext displays all tasks and appointments with the current category assigned. When you’re ready to work on a single context/action list (i.e. @Phone), this is the place to do it. As in the Summary Dashboard, right click a task to assign Due Date, Start Date, Priority or Next Action.

Project Detail

In the Project Detail, add project related notes and view all tasks and appointments assigned to the Project. Use the Change menu in the Project header to quickly open pinned Projects. Click Folder to open the associated Project folder. Move or Pin a Project from the Actions menu. As in the Summary Dashboard, right click a task to assign Due Date, Start Date, Priority or Next Action.

Files and Contacts

Click the Files tab at the bottom of a Project Dashboard to view all attachments that have been emailed for this Project. Click the Contacts tab to view all Contacts you have corresponded with for this Project.

Download our complete GTD setup guide, Using ClearContext Pro for Microsoft Outlook with Getting Things Done.  See What is GTD? to learn more about the GTD system.  GTD and Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of David Allen & Company. ClearContext Corporation is not affiliated with David Allen & Company in any manner.

ClearContext v5.4: Getting Things Done with Categories

Since early releases of ClearContext, we’ve always had a significant group of passionate users who are also fans of productivity systems like Getting Things Done and Total Workday Control. We’ve had a special build customized for our TWC users for a while. We’re now pleased to announce the release of ClearContext Pro v5.4, which includes some much-requested features to better support our GTD users as well.

Review your highest priority projectsGTD users and other users who organize their tasks using special Outlook categories can download a GTD setup guide for ClearContext with detailed setup instructions.  Here’s a quick overview of some key features to help GTD users stay organized with ClearContext:

  • Context Categories – You can now manage your tasks based on either categories or projects. Select a category view on the ClearContext Summary Dashboard to display a count of tasks and appointments by context category in the dashboard, highlighting due and overdue categories.  Context categories are denoted by a special character in front of the category name (i.e. @Calls, !Next, *Phone).  
  • Category Dashboards – Double-click a context category on the Dashboard to open it in the Detail tab (formerly the Project tab).  This will show all tasks and appointments with the assigned category.  Add new tasks to the category using the Add Task function on the detail dashboard and ClearContext will automatically append the current context category to the task.
  • Next Actions -  Right click tasks in the Dashboard or Organizer to mark them as Next Actions.  A small arrow will appear next to those items you have identified as Next and a category of !Next will be assigned to the task. Use the Next Action filter on your task list in the Dashboard to see only those tasks marked !Next.

More details on these and other GTD-related features can be found in the GTD setup guide.

Upgrade ClearContextThe v5.4 upgrade is complimentary for registered v5 customers, registered v5-TWC users and active Connect members.  Download here.

GTD and Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of David Allen & Company. ClearContext Corporation is not affiliated with David Allen & Company in any manner.

Using the new Next Action features in v5.3.0

Yesterday we announced the release of v5.3.0.  One of the key new features of the release is the addition of Next Actions to support GTD processing.  Here’s an excerpt from our GTD setup guide on using the new features.

Next Actions

Use the ClearContext Dashboard to quickly identify your Next Actions; those tasks required to keep your projects moving forward.

imageMark Next Action

After you have processed your Inbox, view the ClearContext Dashboard in the Sidebar to see your task list by Project. If the Sidebar isn’t open, open it via the Dashboard button on the ClearContext toolbar or ClearContext menu.

From the Dashboard task list, right click a task to mark it as a Next Action. A small arrow will be added to the left of the task and a category of !Next will be added to it.

imageReview Next Actions by Project

Scan the Project list in the Summary Dashboard to view your active Projects. Those projects with Next Actions assigned will have a small arrow next to the total Task count. Double-click a project without a Next Action to open it. Right click the next task required to move the project forward and mark it as a Next Action. If none of the tasks listed are an appropriate next action, quickly create a new task using the Add Task entry box above the Task list.

Work on Next Actions

imageOpen the Summary Dashboard to work on your Next Actions throughout the day. On the Tasks\Appts section of the of the Summary Dashboard, select Next Actions (Category: !Next) to see only tasks that have been designated !Next. This allows you to focus on those tasks that are most important to the progress of your Projects.

For more information, download our GTD Setup Guide.

GTD & ClearContext: Other Useful Features

The release of v5.1 has made it easier than ever to implement GTD within Outlook.  This is the final excerpt from our GTD Setup Guide.  See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

Other Useful Features

In addition to the above, ClearContext provides many additional features to help you focus on your most important work and manage your email more efficiently. Here are a couple that are of particular interest to our GTD customers.

Prioritization

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A core feature of ClearContext is the automated prioritization of individual email messages. Though email prioritization is not a core tenet of GTD email processing, ClearContext’s prioritization engine can be extremely helpful when trying to get the Inbox down to empty. When there are too many messages to process in the time available, ClearContext’s prioritized view allow you to address your most important messages first while saving the less important items for later.

Priority is determined by the sender of the email and the directness of the email (CC: vs. To:). Designate given senders as VIPs and ClearContext will use that information to prioritize the Inbox. Messages are color-coded by priority, with the most important email from the most important senders highlighted in red. In addition, as you process individual emails, manually mark email conversations as important and future email in this conversation will also be marked important.

Measurement and Metrics

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The ClearContext Scorecard provides a way to track your progress implementing GTD. Click More at the bottom of the Dashboard to measure how effectively you are staying on top of your Inbox, response time, etc..

AutoAssign

Use AutoAssign to create rules that automatically file incoming messages to Project folders. Rules can be based on sender or keywords. Access AutoAssign from the ClearContext menu.

Do Not Disturb

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When you are ready to focus on your projects in Outlook, use Do Not Disturb to turn off all new message notifications for a given time period. For example, select Do Not Disturb from the ClearContext menu and set it to 3 hours. For the time period you have specified, ClearContext will suppress the Outlook pop-up alert, the new mail icon in the system tray, the cursor change and the new mail sound, allowing you to focus on your work without distraction.  This feature is available in Outlook 2007 and earlier.

Additional Information

There is a wealth of additional information on the use and optimization of Outlook available on the ClearContext Website. Of particular interest is our ClearContext Daily Workflow, a lightweight process for managing email on a daily basis. All of the above features are documented in more detail in our User Guide. We have created several short tutorials to help learn about the product. Check out our weblog for tips and techniques for getting the most out of ClearContext and/or our User Forums for technical questions and features and tips suggestions.

GTD & ClearContext: Review

The release of v5.1 has made it easier than ever to implement GTD within Outlook.  We’re posting excerpts from our GTD Setup Guide.  See Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4.

Review

Once the Inbox has been processed, ClearContext provides several methods for reviewing and acting on To-Do Lists.

imageSummary Dashboard

The Summary Dashboard in the ClearContext Sidebar is the control panel for your day. If you close the Sidebar, access the Dashboard from the button in the toolbar or via the ClearContext menu.

Projects

The Projects section at the top of the Dashboard allows you to quickly see which Projects require your attention.

Large counts to the left of each Project give the total number of Due tasks, with a red dot indicating those Project with overdue tasks.

Use the pin icon to pin your most important Projects. To view only pinned Projects, select a view from the Project header (Active in the picture to the left).

Double-click <Unassigned Tasks> to view all your tasks without Project assignment. Double-click individual Projects to open a Project Dashboard.

Tasks/Appts

The Tasks and Appointments section of the Dashboard shows all of your Tasks across projects. Use the filter selector in the header (All in the picture to the left) to filter for date or category. When ready to focus on a single context (i.e. @Computer) select a category filter to view only those items in that Action List. The <Categorized> filter shows only those items with categories assigned to them; a simple way to view all of next actions in one place.

The Due Date and Priority buttons at the bottom of the Dashboard can be used to quickly change task information. Highlight multiple tasks and click the Due Date button to change the date due for all selected tasks.

imageProject Dashboard

When ready to focus on an individual project, open the Project Dashboard from the Projects section of the Dashboard.

Project Summary

In the Project Summary, add project related notes and view all tasks and appointments assigned to the Project. Use the Change menu in the Project header to quickly open pinned Projects. Click Folder to open the associated Project folder. Move or Pin a Project from the Actions menu.

Files and Contacts

Click the Files tab at the bottom of the Project Dashboard to view all attachments that have been emailed for this Project. Click the Contacts tab to view all Contacts you have corresponded with for this Project.

ClearContext Organizer

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Click the Organize Tasks button at the top of the Dashboard to open up the ClearContext Organizer and perform the weekly review. There are four tabs in the Organizer:

  • Dates – view overdue and pending tasks at a glance. Highlight multiple tasks and use the Due Date button to quickly move tasks due dates.
  • Project – see project assignments for all tasks and quickly assign Projects to unassigned tasks.
  • Category – view all tasks by context and assign new categories as needed.
  • Review – view completed or pending tasks by week. Filter by Project or Category.

The Weekly Review

Many GTD users find David Allen’s suggestion of a weekly review to be the most critical component of their GTD implementation. To automate the weekly review with ClearContext, use the ClearContext Organizer and ClearContext’s custom Inbox views to process actions by project. To perform the review, use these tools on a weekly basis:

  1. Empty the Inbox – Go through the email remaining for the last week – starting with high priority email first – and action it using Task, Schedule, Delegate, Defer or Delete.
  2. Empty the Head – Capture new tasks using the quick Add Task function on the Dashboard.
  3. Review – Select Organizer from the ClearContext menu.
    • Click the Date tab. Mark items complete as needed and reassign dates in bulk.
    • On the Project tab, ensure that all tasks have Projects assigned to them.
    • Open the Category tab and assign tasks to Action lists as required.
    • Click Review and look at the past week’s completed items to see if further action is required and/or document for reference.
    • View Pending on the Review tab and review tasks and appointments for the upcoming week. Right click and reassign dates as necessary. Capture any new actions that are triggered. Optionally filter by Project or Category for closer scrutiny.
  4. Review the Someday/Maybe folder and transfer any items to your system that have become active or delete any items that are no longer relevant.

MessageContext

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The MessageContext is a view of all related items for a given conversation. For example, your Inbox is empty and you receive a new message regarding a meeting you are attending later in the week. Open MessageContext to see previous emails about this meeting, along with any tasks or appointments created from the conversation. In Outlook 2003, access MessageContext via a button on the toolbar.

For Advanced Outlook Users: Creating Custom Task Views that Include the Project Name

The Dashboard and ClearContext Organizer are the quickest ways to view all To Do items, including Tasks and Appointments, by Project name. If desired, the Project name can be added to custom task views so that tasks within the native Outlook task pane can be sorted by project as well. To add Project to a Task view:

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  1. 1. Go to the task pane and click on the view that you want to alter.
  2. 2. Right click the header on the tasks list (i.e. where it says Subject, Due Date, etc.) and select "Field Chooser."
  3. 3. Select "Form…" in the drop down where it says "Frequently Used Fields:"
  4. 4. In the "Select Enterprise forms for this folder" dialog select Application Forms.
  5. 5. Highlight ClearContext and press Add…
  6. 6. Close the current dialog.
  7. 7. In the Field chooser, add CC-TopicName by clicking it and dragging it to the headers you initially right clicked.
  8. 8. Exit out of the field chooser.
  9. 9. If desired, change the name of the header on this field by right clicking CC-TopicName, selecting Format Columns, and changing the Label.

Repeat for each view that you want to alter.

GTD & ClearContext: Project Designation

The release of v5.1 has made it easier than ever to implement GTD within Outlook.  Over the next week I’ll be posting excerpts from our GTD Setup Guide.  See Parts 1, 2, & 3.

Project Designation

imageClearContext makes it easy to assign Projects to messages, tasks and appointments. When filing email to a Project folder, all messages in that email conversation – past, present and future – are automatically associated with the assigned project. As you create a Task or Appointment, ClearContext asks for a Project assignment. ClearContext suggests project names for those conversations that do not already have a project assigned. Press the File button to accept the suggestion or the arrow next to it to open the Project Selector and see other Project choices.

File Msg, Thread and Project buttons quickly move email messages from the Inbox to automatically created Project folders for later reference. In addition, ClearContext can automatically save sent messages in these project folders to ensure that all project correspondence is properly tagged and stored together in one filing system. Project assignments are automatically carried over to Tasks and Appointments generated from email conversation and Projects can be easily assigned to new items as they are created. ClearContext suggests Project assignment based on your email history with the current contact.

The Project Selector (depicted above) allows quick project assignment to messages, tasks and appointments. Select a suggested Project or start typing the Project name and ClearContext will narrow your Project list to match your search. Arrow down to select a Project and assign to the conversation.

To create multi-level projects, place a “/” between the Main Project heading and the Sub-Project (i.e. “Client/Implementation”). ClearContext will automatically create Project folders that reflect the hierarchy (i.e. main folder “Client” with sub-folder “Implementation”).

Someday/Maybe File

If you would like to follow David Allen’s suggestion to maintain a Someday/Maybe file, create a special ClearContext Project called “Someday.” Assign Project “Someday” to ideas that you want to think about later. Click the file button and the message will automatically be placed in a subfolder of your ClearContext Project folder. When you’re ready to review these items, open up the Project folder for review.

GTD & ClearContext: Action Management

The release of v5.1 has made it easier than ever to implement GTD within Outlook.  Over the next week I’ll be posting excerpts from our GTD Setup Guide.  See Parts 1 & 2.

Action Management

Following Allen’s advice, the bulk of your email messages (those that you can’t answer in two minutes, delete, or file away for reference) will become tasks or appointments in your trusted system. ClearContext Pro’s Task, Delegate and Schedule buttons allow you to quickly create tasks and appointments from email messages. Assign Outlook categories to these items to denote context, ensuring that they are assigned to the appropriate action list.

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Category Assignment in Outlook 2007 and Later

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Category Assignment in Outlook 2003

Setup

The first step in setting this up, customize your Outlook Master Categories list to include the action list categories you use as you process your Outlook information. Putting the ‘@” symbol in front of each description will ensure that these display at the top of the categories list. We realize that this is a very personal list that each user will want to tweak for his/her on working style. Examples of common categories many of our customers have found useful include:

@Car

@Delegate

@Desk

@Home

@Internet

@Phone

To customize the category list in Outlook 2003 and earlier:

  1. Open a new task or appointment
  2. Click the categories button in the lower right hand corner
  3. Click the Master Category list button
  4. Edit the list as desired

To customize the category list in Outlook 2007:

  1. Right click the category color field on an email, task, or appointment
  2. Select the “All Categories…” menu item
  3. Click New and add a category
  4. Optionally add a color code
  5. Repeat for each category

Processing

Once this setup is complete, process the inbox using the ClearContext workflow buttons, answering those emails that you can, deleting those that you don’t need, filing reference material using ClearContext File buttons, and creating tasks or appointments for future work. As tasks and appointments are created, assign a context using Outlook’s native category assignment feature and one the categories created above. This will automatically associate the item with the appropriate action list.

The “Tickler” File

imageMany GTD’ers follow Mr. Allen’s suggestion of creating a “tickler file.” ClearContext’s Defer button is an excellent way to maintain an electronic version of this file. The Defer button moves an email out of the inbox and schedules it as unread at a given time interval or on a given date.

When a message is deferred, a dated folder is created as a subfolder of the “ClearContext Deferred” folder. Consider these your tickler files. Click on any day’s folder to review upcoming items or simply wait for the message to re-appear in your Inbox as scheduled.

For example, say you receive an invite to a corporate networking event on the 25th. It’s still three weeks off and you don’t need to RSVP until the day before. Click Defer and “schedule” the message for the 24th. The message is moved into a subfolder with the month and day you have designated. You can click on this folder at anytime to see all messages pending for that day. Alternatively, the message automatically re-appears in your Inbox, unread, on the 24th, reminding you that you need to make a decision about the event.

GTD & ClearContext: Introduction and Overview

The release of v5.1 has made it easier than ever to implement GTD within Outlook.  Over the next week I’ll be posting excerpts from our GTD Setup Guide.  See Part 1 here.

Introduction

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Many individuals overwhelmed with information take control of Microsoft Outlook by combining ClearContext’s flexible and customizable email management features such as inbox prioritization and automated categorization with their favorite parts of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology to create a powerful information management strategy. Below, we outline basic steps many of our customers have taken to set up ClearContext and Microsoft Outlook to support GTD email processing including creation of context-specific action lists, project categorization, creation and maintenance of a “tickler” file, and steps to quickly implement a weekly review. ClearContext also provides email metrics and measurement to help track how well you are handling email. Use this guide to get started – we expect everyone will tweak the system to match their particular information processing requirements.

For the purposes of this guide we assume that you have a working knowledge of GTD prior to implementation of ClearContext software. If not, we recommend you visit the Getting Things Done website and find some reference materials to get you started. For an introduction to Getting Things Done, see “What is GTD?

The process in this whitepaper was developed by ClearContext customers and is the result of real-world use of the product. For detailed discussion on Getting Things Done and ClearContext, see the ClearContext discussion forums. In particular the forum post GTD Users: Start Here contains a collection of GTD-related links.

Overview

In his methodology, David Allen suggests categorizing your email by project and context. Most technology solutions address one or the other well, but do not give a comprehensive way of tracking both. Using ClearContext, Projects are assigned to messages, tasks and appointments via the ClearContext toolbar and native Outlook categories are used to denote context. Tasks and Appointments can then be viewed by project or context using the Dashboard and the ClearContext Organizer.

Workflow

ClearContext gives several features to process the Inbox quickly and get it to empty. Each button below can automatically file the original message to an associated project folder and link the item to the current message conversation:

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Task creates an Outlook task from the currently selected message. Assign an Outlook category to this item to maintain action lists.

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Delegate automatically creates either an assigned task or a forwarded message with an associated task for quick delegation to another person.

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Schedule creates an appointment from the current message contents.

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Defer places the current message in a deferred folder for a given period of time or until a given date. This is an excellent way to create and maintain a “tickler” file.

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Filing buttons (File Msg, Thread or Project) automatically moves messages, conversations, or entire projects of email into associated Project Folders. Use these buttons to archive reference material that does not require one of the actions above.

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Followup Message allows the creation of a special task tied to a message conversation. When sending an email, create a follow-up to remind you if you do not receive a response within a specified amount of time. If you do receive a response, the follow-up task is automatically cancelled.

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Unsubscribe automatically files current and future messages of a given conversation to either their Project folder or an unsubscribed folder. This helps remove those long email threads that you have no interest in that are cluttering your Inbox.

Review

In addition, several ClearContext features provide a view across all messages, tasks, and appointments; regardless of location:

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MessageContext displays all activity for a given message, task, or appointment. This includes all messages in the current email conversation (the original message and all replies to it) and all appointments and tasks created from the conversation using one of the workflow buttons above.

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The Dashboard displays a project view of your data. Pin the projects that are most important to you. Double click a project name to take notes and display all related tasks, appointments, contacts and files. The Dashboard is the control panel for implementation of GTD in ClearContext, providing project centered information within Outlook.

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Much like the Dashboard, the ClearContext Organizer displays a list of global tasks that can be filtered by date, project, category, and/or priority. The Organizer is perfect for those who want a more robust way to filter and review their task list, providing an efficient vehicle for performing the weekly review.

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ClearContext measures your email productivity and presents the results in the Scorecard. The Scorecard helps identify problem areas to work on and shows how you have managed your Inbox size over time. Click the More button at the bottom of the Dashboard to access your Scorecard.

GTD & ClearContext: Quick Reference

The release of v5.1 has made it easier than ever to implement GTD within Outlook.  Over the next week I’ll be posting excerpts from our GTD Setup Guide.

Quick Reference

For those who want to dive right into setting up a trusted system, here are the basics for setting up GTD with ClearContext Pro:

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Projects: ClearContext allows the assignment of Projects to email conversations. A project is automatically created for each Outlook folder. Use the ClearContext filing buttons to file email to Projects. Use a “/” when creating a Project to designate sub-projects (i.e. “Project/Sub-Project”).

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Categories = Context: Use ClearContext workflow buttons (Task, Schedule, Delegate, Defer, etc.) to quickly process messages in the Inbox. When creating a Task or Appointment, use Outlook native categories to denote context (@Work, @Phone, etc.) for easy viewing of context-specific action lists. Use File Original Message when replying or creating a Task/Appointment and ClearContext will automatically file the original email to a Project folder.

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Review: Use the ClearContext Organizer to review your Messages and To-Do’s by context, project and/or date. Open the organizer from the ClearContext Dashboard or via the ClearContext menu.



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