Things 3 and MS Outlook 2016 Workflow

Things 3 and MS Outlook 2016 Workflow

My Workflow with Things 3 and MS Outlook 2016

Upon Opening Outlook

  • Executive 4 D’s in this order:
    • Delete - I sort by sender and delete any junk or spam as well as anything I know I don’t need to read.
    • Defer - I send any tasks that will take me longer than a few minutes directly to Things 3. I update the subject line with the name of the requestor, a descriptive title, and a due date.
    • Delegate - Pretty straightforward. Although I do always edit the subject line with: Attention Needed: Name of Requestor | Description of Ask | Due Date if any.
    • DO - I re-sort by received date and look for anything coming from VIP’s (a short list) that I can respond to or complete within a few minutes.
  • I created a couple of shortcuts in Outlook to help speed this process up:
    • CTRL + SHIFT + 1 - Forwards to Things 3
    • CTRL + SHIFT + 2 - Moves the email to an “In Process” folder in my Outlook Inbox. I only have to folders under my inbox: 1) In Process; and 2) Archive.
    • CTRL + SHIFT + 3 - Moves the email from In Process to Archive once I’ve completed the task.

Following this workflow for the past week has allowed me to maintain inbox zero, have a more accurate account of what’s on my plate (how many actions I have in my Things 3 inbox) and help me better prioritize my Most Important Tasks by controlling what I put into my Things 3 Today queue.


That’s a great model to follow. Remembering to assign the 4 D’s so that we don’t lose track of what we should be doing.

Are you using Keyboard Maestro or System Preferences > Keyboard settings to create shortcut keys?

I’m still struggling with inbox zero myself but having a well thought-out process sure helps!

This workflow is done on two laptops - My work laptop, an IBM T50 running Windows 10; and my personal 2015/16 Macbook Air. The shortcuts I created in MS Outlook are on my work computer and they are just the Quick Steps (e.g., CTRL + Shift _ 1, 2, or 3). I haven’t tried Keyboard Maestro. Most of my productivity work is in Windows 10. I use my Macbook Air mainly for task management (Things 3), research (DevonThink), writing (whatever I feel like using for that day), and entertainment. One productivity software I’m dying to try is Text Expander. However, it would only make sense to install/use on my work laptop and my IT department won’t let us use it. So I’m stuck creating .oft email templates or hacking the signatures to create auto-responder emails.

Thanks for sharing your workflow @davidcmorris. I know there are lots of us who are or have committed to macOS/iOS based systems, but need to use Windows for some purpose in our lives. This is helpful!

I think this is an excellent reminder for MITs – make decisions up front about what’s in your system and choosing the important work gets a lot easier.