Out of the inbox mess

Now, I know it’s been quite some time since my last post. Part of this is due to the massive amount of work that’s been coming my way during the last months. No, I’m not succumbing to burnout, but I did need to reorganize and even drop a number of things from my agenda.

On the way, I discovered a number of helpful things such as a new focus on my God-given gifts, as well as some work-related theory to make my life easier (with methodologies such as Getting Things Done by David Allen or Simplify by Siewert/Küstenmacher). Also, in trying to implement whatever fit me from these theories, I came about a great piece of software to help me organize my central information store, Microsoft Outlook.

So, although I do not blog about technical things very often any more, I’d like to introduce you to ClearContext: This amazing outlook addon helped me get rid of the sometimes thousands of emails in my inbox in an organized manner. Here’s what I like about it:

  • Topics help me assign specific emails to one of the many projects I am working on. I used to do this with different "project" folders (and ClearContext seamlessly integrated with my existing classifications), but here’s what’s new: Once I assign a topic to an email, ClearContext automatically assigns the same topic to any new messages in the conversation. With a single click,  I can file an individual message, my response to it or even the entire thread. Also, what I like is that ClearContext does not use Outlook’s categories for this, so those remain free for GTD’s idea of contexts (like @work, @home).
  • Which brings me to threaded views. ClearContext does an amazing job of giving me access to all related items (emails, todos, appointments) for every message. I pull up some email related to a project (or get a new one that’s automatically classified) and have all the relevant information accessible right away.
  • Prioritization helps me find out what’s important: ClearContext does a great job of recognizing which contacts are more important to me than others. Color coding helps distinguish important emails from less important ones.
  • In order to get things done, ClearContext allows me to directly create todos and appointments from incoming emails. It also has a lot of useful features to deal with follow-up — way beyond Outlook’s flags.
  • With the dashboard, I can plan my day: It shows me all relevant emails, appointments and tasks at a glance — no need for Outlook Today any more.
  • Since ClearContext does a good job at using native Outlook features to organize the information, everythings syncs very nicely with my Pocket PC.

 Just a number of days with ClearContext and I can’t imagine living without it any more. And, having cleaned up my heavily congested inbox, I somehow feel like the guys in LOTR when they finally emerge from the abysses of Moria — clean air, finally.

Über Christoph

Christoph Fischer (* 1978) ist Pfarrer der Evangelischen Landeskirche in Württemberg auf der Pfarrstelle „Erlöserkirche“ in Albstadt-Tailfingen.

Christoph ist verheiratet mit Rebecca. Gemeinsam haben sie drei Töchter.