Control Your Day

Welcoming Jim McCullen

JimMcCullenThis week, I have been more or less AWOL from my blog and business in general for the best of reasons. My son Matt and his dog Bailey came to stay for almost a full week.

It was lovely! I left the keyboard and concentrated on chatting with Matt – watching him work, part of the time, as he was finishing off his mega-face-lift of my lounge and dining room.

After he left I had a new page to add to my blog, so this week's planned post never materialized.

Luckily, waiting in the wings, I had an article from Jim McCullen, about his book “Control Your Day”.

Jim sent me a review copy. It's a great concept, and one I hope you will take on board and find helpful.

Here's his article. Take it away Jim….

Take Back Control of Your Inbox

What does your email inbox look like today? When I say inbox I am really talking about all of your collection buckets. A collection bucket is any place or device or software that you use to keep track of all of the things you need to get done: like projects, tasks, errands, bills, etc.

You might have a box on your desk at work, or maybe just a section of your desk where you pile papers you need to get back to. What about at home? Do you have a place where you keep bills to be paid, receipts to be filed, things you need to do for your kids, pets or other family members? Do you have multiple email accounts? How do you keep it all organized?

In this article, my goal is to share some proven techniques with you that will help you reduce your stress levels and the time you spend managing your systems.

The concepts I am going to cover are all based on the bestselling book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. David is a productivity guru, if you have not read or heard about his book you should check the link above, after you are finished reading, and pick up a copy.

Collection Buckets

You need to develop a trusted system and reduce the number of collection buckets you have. If you are a paper person, it is fine to have a collection box for work and for home, but make sure everything gets into that box and that you work through each box at least once a week (Weekly Review). The Weekly review is critical to the success of your system, if you don’t perform this step, then your collection box will quickly get out of control and out of date.

ControlYourDayYou can do the same thing with your email. You can use your email software to manage all of the inbound and outbound messages and insure that you stay in control.

A few years back, I developed a system (Control Your Day) that uses Microsoft Outlook and the concepts of Getting Things Done to allow you to take back control of your Email Inbox. You can get more information about how to set up the system at ControlYourDay.net.

Thanks to spam, and to the fact that we are leading multi-faceted lives these days, most people have a number of email addresses they use for different purposes.

In my case I have an email address for each book I publish, a personal address, an email list address and a number of others all on Gmail. Instead of checking each mailbox individually, I set up the auto-forward feature for each account and auto-forward all of my email addresses to my primary personal address.

My personal address is set up in Microsoft Outlook so that I can manage all of my messages in Outlook. I can still see who sent me the original message and I can reply from any of the email addresses I have setup. You can see I have multiple collection points but they all funnel into one system, one final collection box that I can then manage.

Next Actions

This is another “Getting Things Done” concept from David Allen. I have a great story that clearly highlights the value of setting next actions.

Last summer, one of my drain pipes broke on my garage. Every night when I came home from work, I would see that broken drain pipe and think to myself “I need to fix that” which created a bit of stress for me. On the weekend I would be out running errands and I would remember that I needed to fix the drain pipe but then I would realize I didn’t know what parts I needed to complete the job.

This is where Next Actions come into play. What was my first Next Action for this project? I needed to figure out the parts that I needed for the job. I took a few minutes and measured everything out and wrote down a list of parts. That completed my first deliverable for this project, a bit of relief.

My next action was to get that list on to my errands list. During my next visit to the home improvement store, I was able to pick up all of the parts that I needed.

My next action was to block out some time to get the project done. The weekend came and I had all of the parts and an action plan. I was able to fix the drain and get onto another project.

You can apply these same concepts to your email. When you read an email you may not have time to work on it immediately. Can you set a next action and put that information in a comments field or at the top of the message?

This way when you come back to that message you don’t have to read through it again to figure out what the next action is; you already have that written down.

Take that one step further and define a context for your next action.

Context Lists

In my drain pipe example, I talked about my errands list. This is an example of a Context List.

How many times have you gone to a store, walked around with a thought in the back of your head that you needed something but you couldn’t remember what it was? Then you get back home, try to turn on your lamp and realize you needed light bulbs. You can build context lists for errands, phone calls, things to do when you are at the office, at home, etc. Then you can use these lists to work productively within that context.

If your collection boxes (in-boxes) are out of control, they are creating stress for you, causing you to miss deadlines or fail to deliver on commitments you’ve made. If you can take back control, you will put yourself in a position of power and take just a little bit of stress out of your life.

If you think these concepts would help you take back control, pick up a copy of “Getting Things Done“.

If you are a Microsoft Outlook user, then you should add “Control Your Day” to your reading list.

Please add your questions, thoughts and comments below, and you can reach Jim at [email protected]


If you would like a free digital copy of Control Your Day, just post a quick note here commenting on your thoughts on my post and then send me an email referencing your post and I will send you a free PDF copy of the book.

Can You See The Benefits?

Joy here again…. Thanks to Jim for explaining this system so well, and for his kind offer.

A few years ago I read the David Allen book “Getting Things Done” that Jim recommends, and to this day I still use some of the concepts I took from the book. Perhaps not enough, and it's time to dust it down again 🙂

As one who is always struggling to catch up with life, Jim's “Control Your Day” system makes complete sense to me and I recommend it to you.

Please share

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Augustus - February 16, 2015

Hi Joy,
Some times it all gets overwhelming for me! I get frustrated and shutdown everything that has to do with life and just stay indoor. But this moments don’t last more than a day because am a student and I have assignments to work on, lectures to attend, I also run a freelance writing business, coupled with numerous offline commitment.

Sometimes I wish am more organized, more in control, but the truth is am not. I just end up messing everything up and getting tired with all the task that needs to be done.

Thanks for sharing this though. I really appreciate it.

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Hi Augustus,

    Know just what you mean about getting “overwhelmed”. I have this state I go into called “complete overwhelm” and I know then I just have to stop and clear the decks! You sound like me – too many things on the go at once.

    Don’t miss Jim’s kind offer above 🙂


Harleena Singh - February 16, 2015

Hi Jim, and welcome to Joy’s blog 🙂

Good to meet you here and it was wonderful to go through the systems you mentioned here 🙂

Well, honestly speaking, I think I am personally a very systematic person and make time to get organized before starting any work, but there are still times when it can all get so very overwhelming!

Yes, the inbox or your mailbox can become overloaded with mail that you don’t have time to attend to immediately. Again, I usually don’t get too much of mail as I subscribe to a limited blogs, and because I use G+ and have my accounts there, so I am logged in to my account, which takes of periodic checking and shifting my mail to the respective folders. I just cannot see a stuff mailbox myself, though there are days when I am away or not online, when it does fill up.

I’d surely be checking on both the books, and I am sure it would help many as well.

Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice week ahead, both of you 🙂

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Hi Harleena

    I’m finding I spend less time on email (other than family and personal contacts) and more interacting with people I’ve “met” blogging.

    I think I’m pretty organized – I just bite off more than I can chew is the real problem. However the systems in the David Allen book were really helpful.

    Please see Jim’s kind offer above too!

Sandy - February 16, 2015

Great tips and article. Definitely something I need to work on. Thanks for the book recommendation. Now before I rush to get the book, I need the system to get me through my ever increasing pile of books waiting to be read! ;p

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Hi Sandy,

    That’s the problem I have!! Especially since I got my Kindle.

    Please see Jim’s kind offer above too!

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy

      Sandy - February 17, 2015

      Thanks Joy. Just sent an email to Jim. Look forward to get more organized with the help of his book. Lol Thanks once again 🙂

        Joy - February 17, 2015

        Great! Jim has a lot to teach us all and I’m so happy to be sharing his knowledge with my readers.


        JIm McCullen - February 20, 2015

        Hi Sandy, I just sent you off a PDF version of the book. Thank you for the interest.

JIm McCullen - February 16, 2015

If you would like a free digital copy of Control Your Day, just post a quick note here commenting on your thoughts on my post and then send me an email referencing your post and I will send you a free PDF copy of the book.

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Thanks Jim,

    That’s a very generous offer.


Bill Garland - February 16, 2015

A great post on a subject everyone can do a better job of managing. Thank you!

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Hi Bill,

    I think that following Jim’s systems – and David Allen’s – will be beneficial for everyone.

    You have your chance with Jim’s offer above.


Edward Thorpe - February 17, 2015

Hi Joy & Jim,

Joy, lucky you, quality time with your son and Bailey. Happy you’re OK, as I noticed your absence.

Jim, I enjoyed how you tied your control points with anecdotes from your daily life.

Shamefully, I’ve more email accounts than Twitter followers. And, keeping up can become a chore. I hadn’t thought of channeling them to one account. Have to look into that. Thanks,

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Hi Edward,

    Awww, nice to be missed! I really enjoyed being with Matt and Bailey. Did me a power of good – just catching up with it all now.

    I have too many email addresses too. I hope you spotted Jim’s offer in my post update above.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy

      Edward Thorpe - February 17, 2015

      Yes, Joy, I did see his kind offer. Thanks Jim…

        Joy - February 20, 2015

        Great. I’m pleased.


Jassica Bella - February 17, 2015

Hi Jim, and welcome to Joy’s blog ,

First of all, this is a very interesting and great article, I agree with your tips, such a great job,
I am really inspired. Superb control ideas. Thank you very much For sharing with me.

Have a great week ahead,

    Joy - February 17, 2015

    Hi Jassica

    I’m pleased you found Jim’s article helpful. You will also enjoy David Allen’s book.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy

Swadhin Agrawal - February 18, 2015

Hi Joy,
Wonderful blog it is!
good to meet Jim here.
I loved the way Jim wrote the systematic approach of getting things done. Personally my inbox is my living room. I have a LOTS of stuff over there. I am now worried if I could atleast get things done in the right time lol.

My inbox has a pile of over 15000 messages, I have forgotten when I had last cleaned it. Anyways I hope your approach helps me in cleaning mine. 🙂
Thanks and stay blessed,


    Joy - February 20, 2015

    Hi Swadhin

    I’m lucky enough to have a large enough home office to more or less contain my mess nut – wow – 15,000 messages in your inbox….

    Scary – hope Jim’s approach will help.

    Have a great weekend. Joy

Jan Kearney - February 18, 2015

Hi Joy and Jim!

Oh my, you really don’t want to stick your hand in my collection buckets you’d lose it!

My “clutter” is actually quite comforting rather than stressful – I’m sure some people can relate to that.

I do recognise that I need to be more systematic to get more things done. While in many cases I know which pile (and email box, saved folder or list) things are in, the digital buckets particularly are way out of hand.

The “next action” steps rather than putting things down/closing them would move things forward – and of course a mass delete and removal from lists in my gmails!

Thanks for sharing your insights Jim 🙂

    Joy - February 20, 2015

    Hi Jan

    Yes, I know what you mean about comforting clutter – if everything was clinically clear in my office I’d feel I was missing something and be stressed because I didn’t know where it was. At least with the current system I can see most of it (at various strategic points on the floor, depending on the urgency).

    My gmail accounts (and profiles) are NOT in good shape – mass delete would be good. I’m getting pretty good at removing myself from email lists though – I’m almost keeping up with the people adding me without my permission.

    Joking apart, Jim and David Allen’s techniques are very helpful.


Atish Ranjan - February 19, 2015

Great suggestions Jim! I do give a lot of time to email and all because my business revolves around it. Great book recommendation.

Thanks for the post. Nice write up as well.

    Joy - February 22, 2015

    Hi Atish

    I know what you mean – even my offline work all comes in by email, so I really do need to be checking it regularly as clients expect a fast response.

    Hope some of Jim’s ideas will help.

    Have a great week, Joy

Sneha - February 19, 2015

I enjoyed how you tied your control points with anecdotes from your daily life..Sometimes I wish am more organized, more in control, but the truth is am not. I just end up messing everything up and getting tired with all the task that needs to be done.

    Joy - February 20, 2015

    Hi Sneha

    Don’t beat yourself up 🙂 We’re all like that to some extent, but a systematic approach such as Jim advocates will help.

    Have a great weekend. Joy

JIm McCullen - February 20, 2015

Wow what an amazing group Joy has here. Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. Please feel free to contact me if I can answer any questions on GTD or Control Your Day. [email protected]

    Joy - February 20, 2015

    Thanks for keeping an eye on the comments Jim – and for your kind offer.


Mark - February 24, 2015

Thanks Joy!

What an extremely timely message from Jim!

Just getting more organized in general, would definitely be a plus for me!

And the book you suggested by David Allen definitely seems like it would be a step
in the right direction as well!

Thanks for sharing two excellent resources!

    Joy - February 25, 2015

    Hi Mark

    Glad this fills a need for you – as it does for me too!

    The David Allen book is excellent and I really recommend it.


Fru Godwill Fru - February 27, 2015

Hello Joy, nice one you have lined up here. First time being around and i can see you’ve got a great “palace” here 🙂

Thanks for sharing and looking forward to connecting more with you,

    Joy - March 2, 2015

    Hi Fru

    Welcome to my blog, I am so pleased you found me and I hope you will find plenty of helpful information here:-)

    Likewise, looking forward to getting to know you better.

    Have a great weekend. Joy

donna merrill - February 28, 2015

Hi Joy,

So glad for you having time to spend with your son. As the old saying goes “Family first”

Good to meet Jim here. I like the analogy you have given us with the broken pipe… Analogies always stick in my head.

As for Email. I have several accounts. I have to keep them segmented because they are product related and there are a few of them that need special attention and different email responses.

I split the work with my husband so it is quite easy, as long as we remind each other to check the emails 3 times per day. We have gotten into some kind of groove with this lol.

When it comes to getting things done, we do have a master plan and stick to it. Yes there are times we need to break away, but so far so good.


    Joy - March 1, 2015

    Hi Donna

    It’s so great that you and David work together and share the load. I too have several different email addresses and try to keep them separate – it usually works out 🙂

    I confess I’m not good at sticking to master plans, because I have many different clients and family tugging me in different directions from following my online business ambitions. I juggle as best I can!

    More family time ahead this week when my granddaughters are coming to stay. Couldn’t drop everything at will if I was working for someone else 🙂

    Thinking of you and your family. Joy

L. Donaldson - April 26, 2015

Thanks Joy,
My current bucket system is a disaster waiting to happen. Your advice is spot-on.

Lisa D.

    Joy - April 30, 2015

    Hi Lisa

    Mine too! Glad you found it a useful post.


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