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What I am looking for

I am trying to find tools that can help me stay focused on the list priorities and thus improve productivity. I face a problem with my work and nature. I feel this is related to the current question and more so to rephrase it and put it in proper context and make it more useful for many people.

One tool I heavily rely upon is my Outlook on my laptop in Windows XP. As I am a ops team, I get hundreds of mail from developers, managers and quality assurance and others, not entirely directed towards me, but including me (though mailing list) so that I am aware of what is happening around me. And then there are thousands of machine generated alerts that monitoring processes sends to me.

I have placed filters and folders for machine generated alerts to my outlook. And some filters and folders for mailing list communication and a separate folder for communication directed only to me. But with the amount of mails each day, staying focused on whats happening in email itself seems like a full time task.

How do you guys manage to stay on top of emails and yet stay focused on real work?

Side story

And then speaking of emails, I have personal email id, which gets bombarded with mails on my money transaction details like my credit card spending, etc. And also i am a part of local LUG group which sends me at least 4 or 5 emails a day (low volume LUG). And then one more spiritual ML discussion & my cousins family (so that we can stay together even when we are hundred of miles separated and spread across the country) ML (again low volume ML) of about 4 or 5 mails a day.

Then there are these promotions and offers on things I have spend or done. (i am not taking about unsolicited , random offers. Those automatically gets filtered as spam). So email is a big task. Most of time online is spend on emails and now a days I don't like to check my mails as it started getting routine work. And I know what would be there even before I enter the mail URL in browser or open outlook except for some strange unexpected surprises which is why I still stick to it.

And then there is this machine alert that turns critical and i miss to notice it and then one colleague of mine laughs at me saying you missed it. At which point I go mad and curse myself. And start working. How do you stay focused on your priorities and rearrange the priority based on changes in situation. Is there any other tool better than outlook task. To get organized.

I have realized the importance of being organized in my life, learned it the hard way. I was a very clumsy and messy in scheduling and maintaining my desk. I relied on my brain to keep track of things. Now I realize that as things go more and more loaded, replying on brain memory capabilities is not going to scale beyond a point.

So, I am hunting for a tool to help me out.

I see that for a sales thing there are so many software that puts the things in perspective. Like SAP for example. it gives report of what is happening in your production line. And inventory management in IT, etc. So why is there is nothing in personal productivity (not at the same scale as SAP, but at level similar to personal), after all companies productivity comes from productive individuals. Vice versa, individuals who are not able to get them organized cannot be much productive to the company when they have trouble managing themselves.

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Please introduce paragraphs in your questions to improve readability and to introduce sections within your question, thank you. :) – Tom Wijsman Jul 11 '11 at 11:59
@ashwin It's ok not to describe your reasons to seek better productivity. You don't have to explain us, we're all here for the same reason. The last four paragraphs are not really important. – Renan Jul 11 '11 at 12:35
Clarified the question to not be a general query for any productivity tool but rather an inquiry for something that helps solve ashwin's problem, it should be more clear now and not need to be closed.... – Tom Wijsman Jul 11 '11 at 13:29
possible duplicate: Methods for managing e-mails – Tom Wijsman Jul 11 '11 at 13:31
How about the email-related tips in this answer:… – Dmitry Selitskiy Jul 12 '11 at 1:34

Email tends to be a time sink, in order to tame it, aim to keep an empty inbox, and only handle each message once. - deal with it at the time you read it, delete what you can, archive what you must. Anything you defer, put on your task list and get it out of your inbox (obviously, if you follow the GTD system, take a minute to figure out what the next action is.)

Limit the frequency with which you handle email as much as possible - if you find yourself checking email every 60 seconds, you aren't getting anything else done - go through the messages in batches and deal with them.

Use filters to separate out personal messages that are just informational - these can be read whenever, and the world won't end if you don't see them right away.

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The Work Offline button in Outlook is a godsend. Hit this button to prevent new emails from arriving; then hit it again to release them into your inbox.

Keep your mail client in Work Offline mode while you are processing emails.

Finally, be sure to reverse the default order. Put the oldest messages at the top, so that you are processing in the order you receive.

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Pomodoro Technique is one you can try. Its useful for sure.

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You can use keepfocused - a open source Pomodoro Technique software tool. This will help you to keep focused on a task. (disclaimer: I am the developer and user of this tool). – matrix Jul 11 '11 at 16:23
-1 Suggesting a tool with no details as to how or why it is the right approach is not a helpful answer. There are many lists of productivity strategies on the web -- part of why Stack Exchange is different is that we aren't about making lists, we're about sharing our expertise. Please flesh out your answer. – HedgeMage Jul 12 '11 at 4:03

I had the same problem untill I start following David Allen's GTD (Getting Things Done). It helped me to stay on the top of everything in the life (not just emails). Below is the wiki link for GTD.

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-1 Suggesting a tool with no details as to how or why it is the right approach is not a helpful answer. There are many lists of productivity strategies on the web -- part of why Stack Exchange is different is that we aren't about making lists, we're about sharing our expertise. Please flesh out your answer. – HedgeMage Jul 12 '11 at 4:03
@HedgeMage, If you have gone through the wiki link mentioned in my answer, you would know that it provides details. There is no point copying and pasting the same stuff here when you can just give a link. If OP needs some more clarification, he can write a comment for that. I do not see any point in down voting the answer. – matrix Jul 12 '11 at 5:59
I'm aware of the contents of the wikipedia entry. However, it's likely that either the OP or some future searcher is not. We need to offer something of more value than a list of links, or the user does no better coming here than he does using a search engine. – HedgeMage Jul 12 '11 at 6:45
@devcoder, i agree. Only add to the link if you have soemthing to say that is not already covered in the link. And as @HedgeMage said it is good to have a caption to the link describing what it was about. You have done that. – Naai Sekar Jul 12 '11 at 6:50

Have a look at Tagwolf. It's an intelligent email filing assistant that analyses each email, proposes the most likely folder for it and files it with a single click. It works as an add-in for Microsoft Outlook.

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