Ahhh, the dreaded inbox…..

My biggest problem in staying and being organized is the multitude of information that is thrown at me throughout the day. Emails (work & home), voice mails (work & home), meetings, chats with the boss, employees with favors, notes to remember the milk on the way home, etc, etc, etc.

How am I supposed to handle all of this information coming at me? What is the simple solution so that I am always prepared to “file” the note wherever the note needs to go or process the action at the correct day and time?

Well, I guess I'd say that this is what is in my INBOX. Not just the inbox in your email application, but LIFE’S INBOX. Some people have an actual tray on their desk where they write a note on an index card and throw it in the box to be processed at some designated time. Others have a section in their planner called the inbox where all notes are taken and then sorted later (see a great article on inboxes by our very own Doug Johnston). Another inbox idea I've used is that neat little accordion folder at the back of Moleskines.

For me, my inbox is all over the place – which is problem #1. The refrigerator, the kitchen counter by the back door, my wallet, my purse, the tray on my desk and a notepad I scribble on at work.

A simple solution to all of this influx of “things to do”? Well, I refer you back to our fearless leader: “The trick is in dancing the capture and empty two-step.” – Doug Johnston

Once you capture the information, however you decide to do that, you need to then empty that information into your planning system. Maybe you decide the last 15 minutes of the workday you will spend going through your inbox and calendar and plan out the evening and the next work day. This is Problem #2 for me. I might capture the info, but I forget where I put it, so how am I supposed to empty it?

So, the reason for this post? I need input. How do you all handle all the information in your life? Do you use an inbox? What is it like? Do you have one at home and one at work? Do you carry a hipster to gather info? What do you carry while walking around the office or running errands? When do you empty your inbox?

Share your inbox set up with us. Let’s keep trying to make it SIMPLE!

nay nay

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my inbox

Nay Nay,
My inbox is basically a drawer at work. I have one drawer thats just my stuff, no work stuff allowed.I have my snacks in there :) , my splenda, my planner and I put things on sticky notes and toss them in the drawer. at the end of the day I gather them up and stick them in the planner.

Its not the best system but it works for now. I really love sticky notes :) and they are a great way to capture an idea quickly that you can add to the planner later.


"Meddle not in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and good with ketchup"

The inbox is the weak link in my system

At work, I don't have an inbox, I have an in*desk*. Folders and forms, scratchpad notes, phone memos, email, voice mail, it all gets dumped on my desk. Granted, my desk is organized enough that I don't lose anything, but I've been looking hard at my workflow and am trying to figure out how I can improve the "inbox".

I guess I use the Nay Nay system too

This got me thinking, and it sounds like I do about like Nay Nay does.

This post seems to address several issues -- a ubiquitous capture device (per David Allen) for information and notes, and an inbox for the desk. And the landing spot could also come into it.

For capture, a stack of 4x6 cards (preferably the brightly colored ones) stays on my desk for notes and can be grabbed and taken with me when I go out. Sticky notes are helpful for posting info to the planner if it doesn't need to be kept permanently. And I get small notebooks for my purse for those times when my planner or note cards aren't at hand. They're also handy for keeping info for semi-permanent reference, like the hours of a restaurant or gym. I wish there were just one solution I could have with me all the time, but actually this works pretty well. Although my head keeps telling me I should be doing a better job of it. But I just don't know how.

The closest thing to an inbox would be a rolling file cart where work gets stacked or filed. Other paperwork, like mail that needs to be taken care of, gets carried around in a computer bag, the purse, or the planner.

I don't feel organized like this but I don't lose things. And I can find them when it's time to work on them.

I have lots of inboxes -- twenty or so -- for sorting forms, office supplies, and computer miscellanea. But they don't get used as an inbox.

Thanks for starting this subject -- I'm sure there will be some great ideas that will help me get more organized. One thing I wish I did is to take the time every day to consolidate, sort, and process things, like you mentioned. But I've never done that and probably never will, though I'm hoping someone here will say something inspiring that will change my ways.

One thing that helps when I use it is a plastic zippered envelope -- like a ziploc bag but heavier and about 8x5 inches. It's small enough to fit in a bag and it can hold quite a bit, as it has expanding sides. Sometimes I manage to consolidate everything I've picked up in the day into that, and it helps things stay together and keeps them secure. But discipline is needed to process the contents regularly.

Prioritizing the information influx

I've learned the most important way to handle work and personal inboxes is to honestly assess how much in life I can handle. I've learned not to take on too much. Also, I keep work and personal info separate. I realize not everyone can or wants to do that but prioritizing helps me from being overwhelmed. Some things I do:

-The second I get new info I can't get to right away, I immediately write down the action I'll take and when in my planner. This way I don't stress myself trying to remember it.

-E-mails, seem to have urgency. I check them once every two hours and reply right away, unless something in that e-mail requires me to pencil it in my planner.

-If a low-priority to-do item doesn't get touched, I kill it. I figure it's not that important if I keep pushing it back.

-I designate a day of the week for returning personal phone calls. I even go down the list and leave messages. This way no one tells me I never call, and I get back to everyone.

Well, I never saw a problem

Well, I never saw a problem with multiple inboxes. Yes, you want to keep things as simple as possible.

I have one of each of these for home and for work.

1. Email inbox
2. Paper inbox (at work, a plastic shallow box. At home, a pretty basket)
3. Portable inbox (a folder I carry with me. Any papers, brochures, business cards, etc. go into the folder - but once I hit work or home, I empty it into the Paper inbox or process it right away)
4. An "items" inbox. At work, it's an office drawer. At home, it's a big bin. This is for items that are not paper but will need to be dealt with shortly - for example, the baseball uniform my babysitting client left at my house, or the labelmaker I just got in the mail but haven't had time to read the directions and put away. Admittedly I often keep it near my door and dump all my shopping bags, briefcase, coat, and other random items when I get home - but I try to make it a habit to "process" these items just as soon as I can.

That's it! That is all you need.

I have a telephone voicemail inbox that, in both my work and home systems, forwards the message electronically to my email inbox. Therefore I don't really consider this an "inbox". I never check it.

The key is to process, process, process. Just like in GTD. Don't ever put anything back into your inbox. Don't look at anything twice. Just process it in a batch and forget about it.

It is especially tempting to let the "items" inbox sit there, but don't do it! Put things away.

Dual system

I guess that's what I use. Because I have to deal with my hubby's habbit of considering the entire house as an inbox. Every flat surface on the first floor is game for him. So if I want him to see something, I will leave it on a flat surface on the first floor. Preferably the small flat railing beside the stairs. Because of its small surface, it gets filled very quickly, and it forces him to deal with it more often. I also will gather his inbox in one place, generally the dining room table, for him to sort when he gets around to it, which is about once a week. Can take longer, but if I sort his stuff, it'll be worse. It almost always works. For me, I use my desk as a dumping ground that is "sorted" and "distributed" daily. That's the inbox for me, because too many things that come in would not fit in an actual box. I wish I had a tighter system, but I don't live alone and have to work around his tendencies. Before someone tells me to make him be better at it, I have and he is. It used to be so much worse. SOOOOOOOOO MUUUUUUUCH WOOOOORSE! Back when I met him, he did not know the colour of his floor.

love it!

LOL...sounds like you have worked wonders already! bravo! :)

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You know what happened

You know what happened yeaterday? He cleaned the dinner table. it is completely bare! Isn't it great? We might eat there tonight!