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Why we need Inbox ?

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  • Why we need Inbox ?

    I noticed that most to do software diminish the concept of inbox.
    You jot down things as they come to you, you check them off when you finish them.

    However, GTD has a process workflow to go through each of them later on. and some may become projects, some may even throw to trash basket, and a great many become your next actions.

    so what's the point? what are the benefits of those extra steps in GTD?

  • #2
    The main point is separating 'collect' from 'process' (decide what the real next action is). Sometimes you may decide next action on the fly, but often need a separate time to decide what it really means.

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    • #3
      ... and, in my experience, it is the Clarify step that determines the overall quality of my GTD system. So it's something I don't want to do on the fly.

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      • #4
        GTD workflow is for separating unprocessed stuff from actionable items.

        Originally posted by AlexanderChow View Post
        I noticed that most to do software diminish the concept of inbox.
        You jot down things as they come to you, you check them off when you finish them.
        What do you do when - during a phone conversation with a teacher - you learn that your child needs help in math?

        Do you put "My child needs help in math" on your to-do list?

        It is not actionable so you populate your to-do list with an unprocessed stuff.

        GTD workflow is for separating unprocessed stuff (in your inbox) and actionable items (on your lists).

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        • #5
          Inboxes are related to the "Collect" phase of GTD. It's the first place where something comes in, undecided/unprocessed/unorganized. The next step is to Process it, or decide what your going to do about it. The 3rd is Organize, which means putting the reminder to do it in a trusted place.

          Many times, those 3 happen very quickly in short order, so your question is a common one. You can put something to do directly on to a list, but in GTD terms, that would only happen when you've collected it, processed it to a clear next action, to be able to organize it on to that list. But slowing it down, they are discrete steps.

          And many times, you are collecting without getting to process or organize yet. Your email inbox is collecting for you right now. Your home mailbox is collecting for you.

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          • #6
            Of the four boundaries between the five steps in the workflow, I think clarify-to-organise is the one most likely to be blurred.

            I wonder how many people deliberately clarify, stop, then organise.

            If you are reading from an electronic inbox and organising into an electronic system, it's tempting to organise before you have finished your thinking.

            I now use a pad of paper for the clarification step. I look at my electronic inbox, scribble on paper until I feel I have run dry of thinking, resolve my scribblings to atomic items for GTD and only then do I turn back to my computer to do the "put away" action.

            It does take longer, but I find that quality is way more important than speed for the types of things I process and therefore it results in a clearer, more meaningful result downstream.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by pxt View Post
              Of the four boundaries between the five steps in the workflow, I think clarify-to-organise is the one most likely to be blurred.

              I wonder how many people deliberately clarify, stop, then organise.


              It's blurred once you have the GTD system set up and your system doesn't need any tweaks.

              But when you are starting with GTD or changing your lifestyle you will have to clearly separate those steps because you will be organizing based on what you have. The system is somewhat different for different people.

              First you have to clarify and see what you have and only then you can really see how to organize it.

              But after that the clarify-to-organise step actually should be combined. Since you aready have places where you can park results of the clarify step it doesn't make sense not to use them right away.

              If you are reading from an electronic inbox and organising into an electronic system, it's tempting to organise before you have finished your thinking.
              I see your point though
              Last edited by May; 06-30-2011, 11:33 AM.

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              • #8
                My point is that there is just no reason to deliberately stop after you have actually finished your thinking and processed stuff. It's a good idea to organize right away and the organize step should be on auto pilot anyway after the system is set up.

                There is a clear line between those steps but they become a single process most of the time

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                • #9
                  I used to view separating collect and organise as a waste of time, however I now recognise them as very separate processes that use different cognitive functions. As a result the quality of my system has improved dramatically.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by steveinbristol View Post
                    I used to view separating collect and organise as a waste of time, however I now recognise them as very separate processes that use different cognitive functions. As a result the quality of my system has improved dramatically.
                    Exactly, and that's something that I missed when I was getting started.

                    Clarification is expansive thinking, like the envisioning and brainstorming part of the natural planning method. Organising is a closing process and once you've told your mind you are tidying up it goes into a different mode.

                    Even if the 'stop' between clarification and organising is just a mental milestone, it's still necessary in order to verify that you have captured enough that your mind has gone quiet on the topic.

                    In my case, switching from my electronic inbox, to paper for clarification, and back to electronic for organising is a ritual that I use to instil the discipline of completing the thinking.
                    Last edited by pxt; 07-01-2011, 06:55 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Electronic in boxes

                      I'm using Omnifocus, which positively encourages you to capture into it's inbox throughout the day and then process in batches. Were I to be using my previous list managers (Outlook and Toodledo) I think I'd create one to enable me to separate capture and organise.

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                      • #12
                        I am still using omnifocus, but day to day things have reduced the system to a mere to do list. So I am look back and start to question the paradigm behind the system again.
                        I agree that I do need to process them, otherwise how can you know what to do with them. But when? Isn't it more convenient that I pick up an item and begin to process it right before I do it?
                        Most things aren't too complicate to finish. And if you proecess them way early than you actually start to do them. Your vision might not be as fresh as it was. And by implementing scattered actions, you might lose the vision, thus the motivation, passion.
                        What do you think?

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                        • #13
                          Mental noise in your head.

                          Originally posted by AlexanderChow View Post
                          I agree that I do need to process them, otherwise how can you know what to do with them. But when? Isn't it more convenient that I pick up an item and begin to process it right before I do it?
                          No, because if you don't do it now each unprocessed item on your list makes a mental noise in your head.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                            No, because if you don't do it now each unprocessed item on your list makes a mental noise in your head.
                            I am glad that I have taken you here, and here's my thoughts that I posted in another thread:
                            "I don't see why I need to process it when I am not doing it. (and for most to-do apps, you just get inbox)
                            so I tried to look answers in his book, David said, it's because if you don't figure it out, it would bug you.
                            I don't have trouble forgetting them. I have trouble remembering them. that's why I note them down, and why Apple call its to-do app reminder.
                            So, what do you think?"

                            Please prove me wrong!

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                            • #15
                              Capture and process are two distinct and separate activities. Otherwise you could end up with unclear/amorphous actions (from not having the time to clarify things) and stuff still in your head (from hesitating to write stuff down because of the thinking required).

                              so what's the point? what are the benefits of those extra steps in GTD?
                              Stress free productivity. If you already have that without these extra steps then you don't need to do them. Only you can determine that.

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