David Allen, the creator of the popular Getting Things Done productivity system (GTD), divided the process of managing all the inputs we receive into the five stages of workflow:
- COLLECT all the bits and pieces of input ("stuff") in a small number of trusted containers.
- PROCESS each piece of input to extract meaning and derive action items from it.
- ORGANIZE the outcomes of the previous step for easy, contextual retrieval.
- DO the actions you’ve identified.
- REVIEV the system on a regular basis to keep it relevant and up-to-date.
For the system to provide value, the INBOXes must be regularly (daily) processes to zero (cf. Merlin Mann’s popular “Inbox Zero" concept).
However, real-life applications of GTD principles are often hampered by a firehose volume of input, which makes it virtually impossible to keep up with it via regular in-to-zero processing. A particular case in point is email — to the point of many people declaring “email bankrupcy" ("DMZ").
Enter the promise of technology. Andrew Faulring of Carnegie Mellon University came up with a system to “help tame out-of-control inboxes", March 6 issue of New Scientist reports (http://bit.ly/d4uWBY). The system, called Reflective Agents with Distributed Adaptive Reasoning (RADAR) learns from it’s interaction with the user which emails are more important and orders them by priority, a process that might be likened to reverse spam filtering. This ensures that essential info doesn’t get lost in the background noise inhabiting your inbox, like the ubiquitous relic microwave bacground if the universe.
Yours truly had no way to test the system, so far relying on granting my assistant access to my Google Apps email. I only wish Google implemented this reverse spam idea in their product.
Google-style acquisition seems unlikely, as the project is funded by DARPA.
Until Google develops their own system, DON’T email me at marek dot kowalczyk at mandarine dot pl as your message will probably get ignored anyway in the 500+ unread items in my inbox that have accumulated since my most recent (second) email bancrupcy declaration.