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Overwhelming Inbox

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  • Overwhelming Inbox

    So I've managed to really collect as close to everything that needs processing as I can and my "inbox" (both physical and e-mail, my only 2 input buckets) are so full that when I started processing I went for hours and didn't get even halfway done.

    Today I had to do a flip through everything in the physical inbox as I knew I had put something in there and it suddenly came up as urgent this am and I hadn't gotten to it yet.

    I know once I get it done with all the past stuff handled I can probably keep up but right now I'm losing things that I need. My old piles worked for at least letting me find and keep track of that stuff. I also know that once properly implemented that the GTD way seems more intuitive and better but the transition is hard to handle.

    When you are first getting started, or just getting back on track, how do you handle the huge inbox problem?

    I'm tempted to do a pre-sort of the inboxes and get the need to be handled in the next day or 2 stuff out of the main pile of everything including months old stuff just so I don't drop any critical balls. I'd end up with 2 inboxes, process ASAP and a project to process the rest.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
    I'm tempted to do a pre-sort of the inboxes and get the need to be handled in the next day or 2 stuff out of the main pile of everything including months old stuff just so I don't drop any critical balls. I'd end up with 2 inboxes, process ASAP and a project to process the rest.
    How are you going to know what goes in the "process ASAP" box without processing it?

    If you head down the path that is tempting you, you may wind up with a box full of "really SHOULD deal with it soon, but don't necessarily HAVE to deal with it now". The other box will (potentially) languish. I say, better to process it all as if everything had equal importance. Who knows, one of those "unimportant" items may be a ticking timebomb...

    That said, feel free to do an "emergency scan" to make sure you have easy access to the things that truly must be done right now.

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    • #3
      Oogiem, that looks like a good plan, as long as you (1) scrutinize everything and make a good decision about urgent vs. non-urgent and (2) make dealing with the second "inbox" a real project, so it doesn't languish. You seem to be doing both.

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      • #4
        Email Organization

        I'm no expert in organizing, but I've recently started referencing a website with a lot of information about organizing. The website is run by a company called Smead and they seem to have some good ideas about how to get organized in an easy way.

        They have an article about organizing email that you may find interesting:

        http://smead.com/Director.asp?NodeID=1025/Organizing_Email



        Just in case you're curious, the homepage url is http://smead.com/organomics

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jknecht View Post
          How are you going to know what goes in the "process ASAP" box without processing it?
          What I was thinking of is as I pick up an item to process, if it's not something related to the known 2-3 projects with hard deadlines that will happen in the next 2 days, put it aside and don't even bother looking at it for now.

          part of the problem is that processing takes me a long time per item. If I really follow the workflow of pick up something decide if it's actionable then the next step is figuring out what that next action is. That takes me a long time as the notes were often vague and incomplete. The incubate ones are fairly fast, add them to my ongoing list of future stuff but the reference ones also take a long time as I am trying to implement the filing system as I find stuff to file and that's also very slow.

          Since a lot of the one line items and piles of paper in my inbox are really the triggers for major projects a lot of the processing time is spent thinking about the successful outcomes and getting those thoughts on paper as well as a concrete next action for those new projects.

          Practice will improve the speed but it can take me up to 15 minutes to accurately and completely process any single item in my inbox. Some are shorter some much longer. With a huge pile of stuff in the inbox measuring feet thick I can spend 4 hours and only reduce the pile by an inch or so.

          As a short test I did a quick sort of the top 6 inches of my paper inbox. It took me 10 minutes to put those items into 2 piles. Related to today or tomorrow and other. I am working through the today/tomorrow ones, there were only about 5 and all but one is done.

          It probably wasn't helpful for me to dump to separate pieces of paper absolutely everything I've been thinking of doing, all the unfinished projects and just anything that caught my fancy but I took the admonition to get everything out of your mind and into an inbox literally

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          • #6
            Smead for Europe?

            Originally posted by karinat View Post
            Just in case you're curious, the homepage url is http://smead.com/organomics
            Thanks to advertise Smead even if you are looking for tabbed folders you can meet them on Internet. However could you please try to convince them to sell their products in Europe!

            Claudio

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            • #7
              Smead Europe

              I know, I wish they would sell their things directly online. There are a lot of online stores that stock their stuff though.

              I also think they may have a European Division, but don't quote me on that.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                Since a lot of the one line items and piles of paper in my inbox are really the triggers for major projects a lot of the processing time is spent thinking about the successful outcomes and getting those thoughts on paper as well as a concrete next action for those new projects.
                Something that might help speed things up: When you encounter an item that you know is actionable but are unsure of what the next action is, you don't need to spend a lot of time figuring that out before moving on to the next item in your inbox. Instead, you can simply record something like "Brainstorm plan for project x", then file item in your project support folder.

                You should really try to spend no more than 2 minutes on any single item in your inbox during "processing" time. But, yes, you are right that you will speed up with practice.

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                • #9
                  I am not the most accurate in applying GTD but this is what you might do:

                  In this instance where you have a large amount to process, you might consider making your active project list before you process. You probably know what your projects are anyway, but maybe not defined them. Locate any exisiting folders for the materials that support these projects. Or label the foldersbefore you start processing. If your Active Project list is beyond managable before you start, pare it down to what you will work on this week.


                  If the item is not trash or not something to return to another person and it does not refer to an active project, it just gets filed without a n/a being noted because it is just for reference.

                  No next action needed.

                  If it refers to a Someday Maybe project, make sure you have the project loosely noted on the SDMB list. No need to tighten up the definition at this poin. Also, don't make a list of SDMB next actions but do make reference lists and reference folders. Example, if you find clippings about books and CDs you might want, you can put them in one folder, and make SDMB "Create List of Books and Music to get from Library or Bookstore." I made the mistkae of tyring to make the list as I was processing. I don't need to tell you how much of my processing time this used up.


                  If filing is bogging you done, you can use an A to Z sorter, just write in the file head in the upper right hand corner. I have one of these for general and professional, and one of these for stuff pertaining to remodeling my house.

                  If you find that the 2-minute tasks are great in number or varied or taking more time than you have right now, you can collect these in one folder, and make a project something like "Odds and Ends of desk work are dealt with by Friday, put it on calendar and make the n/a @desk:work on odds and ends for 30 minutes before Friday. Do only the ones immediatly that a consequence that concerns you.

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