One of the great ideas behind GTD is the “two minute rule”. In a nutshell, it says that if you come across a task that will take less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. Otherwise, the meta options around it (adding it to a task list, etc) will make it take much longer than it should have.
Because Gmail groups all of your emails into “conversations”, you can use this to your advantage. If you get an email from someone with a task that you need to complete, but you need more information, you can reply back to them and archive the email with no worries. When they reply back to you with the requested information, everything is still right in front of you to get it done.
Here’s a quick video that shows what I mean:
Like I say in the video, this only works if you trust the sender. If you know that the other person is someone that often lets things slide, you’ll probably want to make a note to follow up if they don’t respond in a timely fashion.
This works well even if you need to go back and forth a few times. With each response, I can keep my inbox cleaned out — great for maintaining “inbox zero“. When the conversation is finished and I have all of the information I need, all of the emails are automatically pulled back into my inbox and I can take care of the task.
Any other tips for using Gmail more efficiently?