Processing Your Physical In-Box by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

In General
Dec 2nd, 2013

Last week, you received ideas on places to have some kind of “in-box” or collection “bin.” The key idea was this: designate and use limited locations (bins) for collecting the incoming items and then process daily what is in those bins. Consider the following suggestions for processing your physical “in-boxes.”

  1. Make sure your physical in-box container is large. Place it in a prominent place on your desk.
  2. Start by placing EVERYTHING in the in-box (regardless of whether it is a piece of paper, a notebook, a folder, a bill, a picture, whatever).
  3. Deal with (i.e., process) the items as you take them out of the in-box (vs. digging around in the in-box).
  4. To process, ask: “What is this?” Consider writing the phrase “What is this?” on the box itself as a reminder.
  5. Next, ask: “Do I keep it or throw it away/recycle it?”
  6. If the answer is “throw it away/recycle,” then do so immediately.
  7. If the answer is “keep,” then ask, “What is the very next thing I need to do with this item?”
  8. If you can do the next action quickly, then take care of it right now. If it can’t be handled immediately, then ask, “When will I do it?”
  9. Write the next action on the item, on a sticky note, or on a piece of paper, and then staple or otherwise affix it to the item.
  10. Drop the item (or the piece of paper that tells where the item is) in your tickler file (1-31 file) on the day that you will handle it.

Expect to learn more about the tickler (1-31) file in next week’s Top Ten Productivity Tips.

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