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A very simple way to customize outlook to make it GTD friendly !

Since 1 year now I use GTD principles to manage my emails and achieve the ultimate goal : inbox 0.

I’ve described this in a previous post .
The idea is quite simple, based on 5 folders :

0 – Inbox: where all emails come when I receive them
1 – Action: email for which an action from me is needed
1 – Read / Review: emails that with stuff I need to read / review<
2 – Waiting for : emails for which I’m waiting an action from someone else
3 – Done: emails processed, keeped for archive.

For more detail on how I use these folders, you can refer to the initial post.

The most important thing is to be able to empty the inbox and file emails in the proper folder in a very efficient way, as fast as possible.
To make it really very easy for me I’ve done some customisations of my outlook client to implement 4 customs buttons.

When I open an email, the 4 buttons are accessible.

Their function is very simple :

  • “Done” files the mail in the “3- Done” folder
  • “Action” files the email in the “1-Action folder”
  • “Read” files the email in the “1- Read / Review folder”
  • “Waiting for” files the email in the “2- Waiting for email”

Here’s a quick guide to implement these buttons in your outlook.

First, you need to create 4 macros : MoveDone(), MoveAction(), MoveRead(), MoveWaitingFor().
Here’s the source code template. Just use it 4 times, replacing the name and the macro and the name of the folder.

To finish, you need to add the button, this is very easy :
  • Just open an existing email
  • Right click in the toolbar then “Customize”
  • In the popup, chosse “Macro”. You should see the 4 macros you have created.
  • Then drag and drop macro 1 by 1 from the pop up to the email tool bar.
  • Here’re the 4 buttons !

Now, just go to your full inbox, open the first email, and start to clean !

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  • gtd |

    For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:


    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

  • Thierry Meritan |

    Calling GTD a mail management method is not the good way I think.
    GTD is a helpful method to accomplish projets/tasks, mail are everything else than tasks or projects.
    I loose something ?

  • lmau |

    The idea is to apply GTD concepts to keep emails under control with efficiency :  my email inbox which is today the biggest “inbox” I have is integrated to my whole GTD system.
    David Alen describes it in a paper : https://secure.davidco.com/store/catalog/GETTING-EMAIL-UNDER-CONTROL–p-16377.php What I can tell is that it works perfectly for me since 3 years now, in outlook and Gmail.