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I have long (and rather immodestly) considered myself to be an accomplished practitioner of Inbox Zero and an advanced user of Microsoft Office. I have haughtily regarded people who use their e-mail inbox as some sort of to-do list as noobs who were bound to trip over their own lack of organization at some point. I’ve had elaborate systems for turning e-mails into tasks, systems involving flags and dragging stuff into the Tasks folder and even going so far as to attach follow-up flags to e-mails going to other people so I can be just as annoying long distance as I am in person.
My elaborate systems may have crumbled to dust, now that I’ve found a plug-in (yes, another) called eeminders for Microsoft Outlook, which somehow combines Inbox Zero with GTD and makes Outlook fit those philosophies (as opposed to me having to force Outlook into those molds).
The Inbox as To-Do List
Rant as I might about the dangers of using Outlook’s Inbox as a list of stuff to do, that’s just how people view their inboxes. And I honestly can’t blame them. After all, it’s how people dealt with paper correspondence back in the day (which I am, for the record, old enough to remember). We ripped open the envelopes, examined the contents, and started deciding what to do with them and when to do it. We stacked papers that we could afford to ignore temporarily, delegated stuff that someone else needed to do, and then worked on the leftovers that seemed the most urgent.
However, a crowded email inbox is as dangerous as a messy desk—something’s bound to get lost. And as Merlin Mann reminded us all, the more of that stuff that builds up in there, the more of a drag on your time, productivity, and sanity your inbox becomes.
Some people may be in the lucky position of being able to “delete, delete, delete,” but if your law practice is like most, you need to keep the vast majority of that stuff somewhere, even if you’re ignoring it momentarily.
But there’s the stuff you can do in 3 min. or less (a la GTD), and then there’s the stuff that’s going to take you a lot longer and/or that doesn’t need to be done anytime soon. With eeminders, you can move those latter things out of your inbox without losing track of them and without setting up an elaborate system of folders, Rules and/or Flags that takes up time you could otherwise spend working.
What makes eeminders unique is that it moves the e-mails out of your inbox to a special folder (set up by the plug-in upon installation) and then moves them back into your inbox at the date and time you set (and with any notes that you embedded). There’s no need to right-click and flag anything, nor do you have to move the e-mail out of your inbox manually and risk losing it altogether. The eeminder plug-in, like a good assistant, puts the e-mail back in front of you when you’re ready to deal with it.
Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.
Installation of the eeminders plugin is pretty straightforward. Close Outlook, then download a trial version and follow the instructions on that page. (Note that the plugin does require Microsoft’s .NET framework installed on your PC; if you don’t have it, eeminders’ installation program will install it for you.) Once you reopen Outlook, you’ll be taken through a wizard that briefly explains how to use eeminders:
You’ll also get an e-mail in your default inbox that contains the same set of instructions. The eeminders buttons will install themselves at the end of your Home tab in Outlook 2010:
The plug-in works with all versions of Outlook from 2007 on up and on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
How It Works
Once installed, the plugin is easy to use. Simply select an e-mail in your inbox that you want to defer to a specific date and click “eemind me.”
If the e-mail is one of those “someday” items that doesn’t have a specific due date, click on the Someday button to the right.
As you can see above right, the drop-down is a list of categories you can customize.
By default, the email will be placed in another eeminders folder called “eeminders (Someday)”. Unlike the dated eeminders, these won’t pop back into your Inbox or pop up a reminder.
You can also have eeminders remind you to follow up on an email you’ve sent. Go to your Sent Items folder and go through the same steps above. eeminders will recognize that this is an email you sent rather than received, and instead of moving the email to the eeminders folder, it copies it into the eeminders folder and alerts you accordingly:
Out of Sight Does Not Mean Out of Mind
You may be a little alarmed to see emails being moved out of your inbox. Don’t worry. They’re still within reach. You can either look for the eeminders and eeminders (Someday) folders in your default Outlook Data File (should be sitting just above your Junk E-Mail folder), or you can use the View button to the right of the Someday button to bring up a list of everything you’ve deferred, in order of the date/time of the reminder you’ve set:
Reminders for things other than emails
Know you’ve got something you need to be reminded of, but there’s no email about it? You can also add a New Post Item by clicking on the eemind me button. This uses Outlook’s Notes function to create a new note:
If you constantly scan your Microsoft Outlook inbox trying to figure out what to work on next, eeminders can make that task easier by allowing you to temporarily move “do it later” items out of your way and automatically pop them back into view when you want to see them. This plugin is ideal for Outlook users who don’t want to fuss with the Tasks feature. However, because the plugin is changing items in your Outlook.pst file, be sure you test the plugin thoroughly before purchasing, particularly if you use practice management software or other Outlook plugins that lock the Outlook.pst file to perform their tasks, since software conflicts can develop.
The Offer: $10 discount for first 100 Lawyerist readers to purchase
The publisher of eeminders, Standss, is offering Lawyerist readers a $10 discount on the retail price of $39.95 for the first 100 buyers. To take advantage of this offer, click this link and use the code “LAW” (without the quotes) when completing your purchase to get your copy of eeminders for only $29.95.
Reviewed by Deborah Savadra on .
Summary: If you use your Microsoft Outlook inbox as a to-do list, eeminders helps you de-clutter without losing track of important emails.
- Price and features: 4
- Hardware and design: 4
- Included software: 4
- Performance: 5
Overall score: 4.25 (out of 5)