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Processing Inbox

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  • Processing Inbox

    Please forgive me for these newbie questions but thanks in advance for any thoughts.

    Say you set aside 11:00 AM each day to process your inboxes.

    Suppose you miss an entire week of work, due to family or personal illness. Your desk inbox has piled up, your e-mail inbox has piled up. Is the next best strategy, when you come back, to immediately process all of your inboxes, no matter how long it takes?

    And a sort of related question - David Allen says that Friday afternoon is a good time to do a weekly review, and so far that's worked good for me. What time of day do most people set aside for clearing their in boxes? (Like how I phrased that? If I'd said "What time should I clear my in boxes," the answer would be "Whatever time is best for you." I'm learning.)

  • #2
    I try to clear my inbox at least twice a day: first thing in the morning, and last thing at the end of the work day.

    I usually try to process my inbox all the way to empty as soon as possible after coming back from an absence. How else will I know what's hiding there?

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Yes, I think you ideally need to process the inboxes when you return. How else will you know what you have on your plate and what to address first? If you just blindly dive into some task that you think is the most important thing for you to be working on, you will be distracted by the nagging feeling that there is something more important lingering in the inbox. Or worse: that more important thing will blow up on you while you are distracted with something else.

      Of course this is a bit of a trade-off because it requires a chunk of time before you can actually start working on a real next action, and you will likely have some things needing quick attention. So you probably can't make this an absolute rule. You will have to use your judgement before setting aside a real code-red emergency to process stuff that you know is unlikely to have something more important and urgent in it.

      In actual practice, I find myself quickly scanning everything to spot any big emergencies, then decide if I can really process at that time or if I need to attend to something first. This may or may not be a GTD best practice, but it feels like an effective survival strategy to me.

      I think it was DA who suggested the following tip: when planning an extended leave from the office, for a business trip or vacation, he likes to indicate in his voicemail message and email auto-reply that he is returning one day later than he actually is. That way he gets a day to process and start catching-up before people start expecting responses.

      As for time of review: first thing Friday morning is the time that I decided on. Friday because DA recommends that as a good day for wrapping up the week's activities before the weekend. First thing in the morning because that is the time I am least likely to become distracted by co-workers or incoming requests and I have my best mental energy and focus then. Plus, it just seems like my "plan for the day" tends to fall apart as the day progresses and new problems crop up or priorities change. If I want to be sure to accomplish something on a given day, doing it first makes it more likely that it will get done.
      Last edited by Barry; 10-31-2005, 12:19 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by rmaclema
        1) Suppose you miss an entire week of work, due to family or personal illness. Your desk inbox has piled up, your e-mail inbox has piled up. Is the next best strategy, when you come back, to immediately process all of your inboxes, no matter how long it takes?

        2) And a sort of related question - David Allen says that Friday afternoon is a good time to do a weekly review, and so far that's worked good for me. What time of day do most people set aside for clearing their in boxes? (Like how I phrased that? If I'd said "What time should I clear my in boxes," the answer would be "Whatever time is best for you." I'm learning.)
        In answer to 1), maybe/maybe not- it depends on your job. Is your inbox where your most important work comes from? Are there missed deadlines or rapidly approaching ones? Has someone else been handling your work? Et cetera. In a pinch, it is ok to do an emergency scan, pull the most important stuff, and walk away from the rest for later.

        2) I do my weekly review on the weekend, in a quiet house. I don't set time aside for clearing my inbox. I work both the physical inbox and the more important email inbox down when I have spare time or the scuzz factor gets too high.

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        • #5
          I've heard of people leaving their out-of-office notice up on their email until the day AFTER they returned to work so they have a chance to catch up on their inbox and email before they get a barage of new stuff. Makes sense to me...

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          • #6
            I clear my inbox first thing in the morning, after I check my tickler for the day. In practice, sometimes I don't empty it every day, especially if I have an early meeting. But I strive for it.

            I do my weekly review (bi-weekly, actually) on Monday morning. Sometimes I can do it Sunday afternoon, but often I'm too lazy to spend time on the weekend. I tried Friday afternoon, but my energy is generally too low. I've also developed a "mini-review" that I can do with only a few minutes time, for when I'm feeling overwhelmed or out of control.

            Eric in Denver

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            • #7
              What's in your mini-review?

              That mini-review sounds really helpful...I could use some ideas for something like that. Care to share what you run through during your mini-review?

              Thx,
              TC

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              • #8
                My full review takes about 2 hours, since it involves making sure every project has a next action, double checking that next actions have a project (if appropriate), entering project notes, going through my read/review stack, looking over my someday/maybe's, etc.

                My "mini-review" basically consists of the following:
                1. read over every next action, check off those that are done.
                2. read over my project list, checking each mentally for next actions (as opposed to actually checking my next actions lists).

                I will quickly add a NA if I think of something, and usually I find at least one project that I can remove because its either done or I don't want to move it forward yet.

                This mini-review only takes me about 15 minutes, sometimes less, and helps calm me down when I feel out of control, or when I haven't had the discipline to do a full review in the last couple weeks.

                E

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