Planner tip #1: Overcome inbox insanity the Planner way

(641 words)

Overloaded with e-mail? Overcome inbox insanity by using Planner to
keep track of what you need to do. If you use Emacs as your mail
client, then Planner’s automatic hyperlinking can help you capture and
organize your tasks.

Capture

Create planner tasks whenever e-mail requires you to act. That way,
you don’t have to hunt through your inbox every time you need to
figure out what to work on. If your response to an e-mail will take
less than two minutes and you know you won’t get distracted, go ahead
and act on it immediately; you don’t need to capture it. If you want
to track your action for completeness, create a task for it. Planner
makes it so easy to capture and organize tasks that even two-minute
tasks are still worth recording.

Tasks are automatically linked to the e-mail message being viewed,
making it easy to return to the original message for more details. You
can schedule tasks immediately or leave them on today’s page. If you
want tasks to be undated by default, set planner-expand-name-default
to nil.

Create planner tasks whenever you need to follow up a task you’ve
delegated to someone else. Assign it to a different plan page. If you
prefer to use a single plan page, make task sorting easier by adding a
keyword to the description (ex: #A _ +waiting for year-end sales
report : E-Mail from Jim). This makes it easy to review all the things
you’re waiting for.

Write clear and concise task descriptions. “Prepare year-end sales
report” is a better task description than “Work on this”. Planner will
automatically add the e-mail author’s name as a hyperlink, like “:
E-Mail from Kathy”.

Organize

Using Planner to keep track of your e-mail related tasks also makes it
easier for you to organize and plan your day. E-mail doesn’t let you
specify when you want to work on something, but Planner lets you
schedule your tasks onto specific days. It can also carry over
unfinished tasks, so you know that nothing will slip through the
cracks.

After you’ve read all your e-mail and responded to everything you
could quickly process, you can choose when to work on other tasks that
take more time. Review your list of e-mail-related tasks and start
organizing them.

You can schedule a task onto a particular day by using
planner-copy-or-move-task (C-c C-c) while point is on the task. You
can specify actual dates (yyyy.mm.dd, mm.dd, or just dd), or you can
use Planner’s relative dates features to schedule things for next
Friday (+fri), two days from now (+2), or even the 3rd Tuesday after
March 1 (+3tue3.1). Use planner-copy-or-move-region to schedule
multiple tasks.

You can schedule tasks for particular times as well. Simply add time
(ex: @1000-1300) to your task description using
planner-edit-task-description (bind this to a shortcut key if you use
it often). Modules like planner-appt.el can extract the time
information and display your schedule, and you can change your
planner-sort-tasks-key-function to sort tasks by time first and then
by priority.

And there you have it—an organized way to make sense of your inbox by
making it easy to see just what you need to do.

Set up

1. Set up mail for Emacs, if you haven’t done that already. If you’re

new to Emacs, I recommend checking out http://www.emacswiki.org and
http://my.gnus.org .

2. Bind planner-create-task-from-buffer to a keyboard shortcut you can

use from anywhere. For example, add the following line to your ~/emacs
in order to use C-c t as your create-task shortcut:

(global-set-key "\C-ct" 'planner-create-task-from-buffer)

3. Load the Planner module corresponding to your preferred mail client:

Gnus planner-gnus.el
MH-E planner-mhe.el
Rmail planner-rmail.el
Unix mail planner-unix-mail.el
VM planner-vm.el
Wanderlust planner-wl.el

For example, add

(require 'planner-gnus)

to your ~/.emacs

Now you can deal with inbox insanity the Planner way!