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  • Processing Inbox

    Does anybody else struggle with 'leftovers' in the inbox at day's end? I've got my tickler set up and have entered a reminder in Outlook to check it every day and that part of GTD is working for me.

    After I implemented my system and got my Outlook GTD friendly, I was really pumped! But after using it fully for a week, my enthusiasm is still there but discouragement is trying to settle in because:

    1. I have yet to have a clean inbox at the end of the day. I seem to always bite off more than I can chew.

    2. I've been getting next actions done and the feeling of accomplishment is wonderful, but one of these from Friday that took up a major chunk of time (scanning over my receivables and deciding who gets what action - statement, phone call or reminder letter), did not get completed Friday (nor did my weekly review!) and now here it is Monday a.m. and my inbox has leftovers from Friday and the receivables project I was working on is sitting on my desk.

    I figure I must have missed a relatively crucial step but I'm a GTD newbie and really can't afford to pause and go back and read through the book again.

    Does anyone have any advice or insights as to where I'm falling off the wagon?

    Mavis

  • #2
    There’s nothing to stop you getting something out of your in-tray the instant it arrives. Look at the workflow diagram in the book – chances are you can make the initial judgement on virtually anything that arrives in your tray in a normal day.

    Make a decision, open a folder put it on your tasks/projects list, write down the NA, and there you are!

    Don’t forget, you’re not trying to do the task; you’re just getting it out of the in-tray and into the right channel. It doesn’t take long.

    I find that 50% of what I get turns out to be filing, or else stuff that needs to be batched (e.g. invoices) for a single execution session.

    Try to do this with everything that comes in. It is one of the “knacks” you develop with GTD. It will actually become a kind of game, a challenge: David says on the GTD Fast CDs that the modern knowledge worker craves any sense of satisfaction or completion he or she can get. Well, “beat the in-tray” will give you a kick any time!

    Dave

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    • #3
      Thanks BusyDave.

      So what you're saying is before I attack my Friday receivables project or any other next action step that I should process my inbox first?? Then empty blocks of time in my day (ie not hard landscape appointment) can be used for those next actions or project work, but AFTER my tickler is emptied and AFTER my inbox is sorted??

      That sounds too simple! I love playing 'beat the clock' -- 'beat the inbox' sounds good too.

      Thanks again.
      Mavis

      Comment


      • #4
        Me again after some pondering today.

        It occurred to me that if stuff keeps arriving in my inbox and I keep applying the 2 minute rule and following the workflow diagram that I could spend my entire day majoring on minors. Is this not correct? What if I had a big stack of 2 minute tasks but I also had a pressing project that needed attention for a bigger block of time? It seems to me that if I clear out my inbox as a first priority in the day that some of the more important things could get not as much attention as they should get.

        Unless of course I'm missing something here. For example, it's 5 pm and I have indeed attacked my inbox (although not completely today) and I've done a lot of 2 minute tasks, one of which actually turned into a 1/2 hour task. I have accomplished some good things today but I'm wondering if I'm doing GTD in the best way.

        Mavis

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi -

          I'm new to GTD (which is great) and to this forum and I'm having a similar problem.

          Basically, while I'm spending 2 hours on a project (and have gotten momentum and am "in the zone"), a few dozen new items will roll into my inbox / be dropped in my lap / jump into my consciousness and be jotted down. If I break to process each one, I'll never accomplish anything, especially since my work is of the sort where interruptions are very costly in terms of lost concentration and strings of thought.

          But if I don't process immediately, then by the time I get a chance to stop and look up, if I even have the opportunity to process the inbox (i.e. I'm not stopping b/c I've been interrupted with a must-do-now task), I've got almost a half-hour worth of processing to do and almost have to do a whole new daily review to make sure that none of what came in needs to be taken care of before the day is over.

          Alternatively, I could process only once a day... but then I'd spend 2 hours a day processing.

          Help, Please!

          Comment


          • #6
            An overlooked corrolary to the 2 minute rule is that you need to determine what's likely to take over two minutes, so that it can be dropped, delegated or deferred accordingly. You should only do something immediately under the rule when you're reasonably certain that it will take under 2 minutes, not when it could take under 2 minutes. When in doubt, spend 2 minutes, and if the action looks like it's going to trail on, stop and defer it.

            Personally, I think the importance of uninterrupted momentum is overrated, and stems from not writing next actions. If you keep everything in your head, you will constantly be in a rush because you're racing to complete what's in your head before you forget it. Once I developed the habit of writing everything down, getting everything out of my head, returning to a task after an interruption ceased to require the mental regrouping and anxiety I experienced before GTD. I just look at my action list.

            Comment


            • #7
              Inbox

              Wll you could always take whole Inbox & put it in Someday/Maybe!

              For survival I will take the whole Inbox sometimes & dump it into tomorrow's or the next day's Tickler.

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              • #8
                Better dump it directly to the trash. There is a big chance that nobody will notice and you will not have to do anything .
                TesTeq

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                • #9
                  Another stumbling block with my inbox is that if it should come time to 'defer it', I find myself asking where to put it in the meantime. Sometimes, things don't require their own file. I end up putting them in the tickler usually but if I should have to retrieve them (for a query by someone, etc.) then I have a hard time remembering where I put them. If they do have a file, or if they are tickled, I do make mention in my 'notes' in Outlook to know where I've put it. So far, it isn't fail safe.

                  But again, I'm just a newbie still cutting my GTD teeth

                  Mavis
                  PS - Thanks for all the responses by the way!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The difficulty of where to put little things after you have processed them is one that can be handled in a couple of ways.

                    One way is to have "Action Support" files. I have a stack of plastic folders in a rack on my desk. They are labeled to match the context of each of my lists. Therefore, a document that I might want to reference while on the phone is in a folder marked "@Calls" while a coupon that I want to take to the store is in a folder marked "@Errands." I use a convention of putting an "*" after the name of the item on my list to indicate that there is a document related to this task in the appropriate Action Support file.

                    Another way is simply to make a lot of individual Project files, with perhaps one Action Support file for the few misc. things that just don't justify a file of their own.

                    Others here (I think David does this) have a Pending basket in the stack of baskets on top of the desk.

                    Experiment, and see what works best for you. As you experiment watch out for those things that might clog the system. If that happens, you need to use another strategy to avoid it.

                    Best
                    Scot Giles

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                    • #11
                      I've mentioned this before but I'll reiterate it here in case it's of any help. When I am placing (or returning) something to my tickler file which is not date-specific (such as "call back in 2 weeks") I default to a date which falls on a Tuesday. When each Tuesday rolls around I may defer that item again or I may act on it, depending upon how that day is shaping up at that time. (Nothing magic about Tuesday, it could be any day, but for me Tuesday works the best)

                      The nice thing about this protocol is that when I am looking for something ahead of the time it's supposed to show up again, I simply scan the next four Tuesdays. If it's been deferred more than a month away, then I may also have to search through some monthly files as well. In any event, unless it's been deferred out more than 3 months, I should never have to search more than 4 - 6 folders to locate it. This isn't perfect, but it works pretty well for me.

                      This process relates to the current subject because I run across things in my in-box which I originally planned for today but which in the light of today's events I find I need to defer. Generally, they go into a future Tuesday tickler file for the reasons stated above (unless there's an obvious reason to put them in a different date).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just a thought as I was reading this thread...

                        I think that processing is one of those things that definitely gets easier (and faster) as you do it. You're training yourself to ask the important questions ("What is this?" "What's the next action?") up front, and over time it definitely becomes more automatic. And you become more adept at determing what you can really accomplish in 2 minutes.

                        I also find benefit in being "in the zone" and allow new inputs to stay in my inbox until I can process them. After all, that's what the inbox is for - a collection tool.

                        I've also found that if I commit to fully processing all my inboxes down to empty (email, physical) at least once a day (first thing in the morning works for me), then I can keep a pretty good handle on it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Majoring on Minors

                          Originally posted by mreynolds
                          It occurred to me that if stuff keeps arriving in my inbox and I keep applying the 2 minute rule and following the workflow diagram that I could spend my entire day majoring on minors. Is this not correct? What if I had a big stack of 2 minute tasks but I also had a pressing project that needed attention for a bigger block of time? It seems to me that if I clear out my inbox as a first priority in the day that some of the more important things could get not as much attention as they should get.

                          ....

                          Mavis
                          Mavis,

                          You could spend an entire day on two-minutes tasks, but only if you get 240 of them per day. Whether or not you would be "majoring in minors" by doing so depends on the tasks. Just because a task is short does not mean that it is unimportant.

                          Generally speaking, you do two-minute tasks immediately because it is less bother to just do them than to defer them, enter them into your system, and do them later. Over the long run you should end up saving time.

                          One thing to get clear on is that keeping your inbox empty is very important, but often it is not the most important thing you have to do at any given moment. To use an extreme example, if you are on fire will you stop to check your inbox before putting yourself out? Of course not. Similarly, processing your inbox may not be as important as spending the next few hours working on a very important, very urgent project.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Being Too Interruptible

                            Originally posted by nufferkay
                            ...a few dozen new items will roll into my inbox / be dropped in my lap / jump into my consciousness and be jotted down. If I break to process each one, I'll never accomplish anything....But if I don't process immediately, then by the time I get a chance to stop and look up...I've got almost a half-hour worth of processing to do.... Alternatively, I could process only once a day... but then I'd spend 2 hours a day processing.
                            nufferkay.

                            If you have two hours per day of processing to do, then you can do it in one two-hour slug, or do it in two or more shorter sessions. There is no alternative to doing this other than to let things pile up unprocessed in your collection buckets (bad idea). Since you are new to GTD, it is highly probable that your processing time will drop as you get more practice.

                            Remember that the purpose of a collection bucket is to allow things to collect while you are busy elsewhere. If being "in the zone" for large blocks of time is important, then use your collection buckets to shield yourself from interruptions. Shut down your email. Forward your phone to voice mail. When someone interrupts you or something you need to do pops into your head, just jot down what needs to be done in a capturing tool and get back on task. When you are done working on your project, then you can process your collection buckets.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Majoring on Minors

                              Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
                              You could spend an entire day on two-minutes tasks, but only if you get 240 of them per day.
                              The lesson there is, make sure you get less than 240 two minute inbox tasks per day! If you get more, you need a new job, or more delegation, or something!

                              Comment

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