This week we’ve been chatting about office organization and the effect that it can have on getting things done. So far, we’ve covered feng shui for the office and setting boundaries in your work. Today, I’m gonna talk about the BEAUTY of the INBOX.
Until recently, I kinda poo-poo’d the notion of the inbox. You see, I worked in big stuffy offices in my previous life and I remember having an inbox for interoffice mail, memos, TPS reports, and the such. These inboxes sat in the corners of our desks, closest to foot traffic. They were like mailboxes, but on our desks. And, if you know anything about the mail, memos, and reports that go around such offices, you’ll also know that inboxes = trash receptacles.
Fast forward to 2004… my own business! Wooohooo! I set up my office my way, for me. And, the only memos being sent are jokes between my husband and I. I didn’t find any need for an inbox. Anything that came into my office, came directly into my hands, onto my desk, or into a file.
And, then I read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. I realized that all of that stuff going directly into my hands or my desk was really distracting and the opposite of efficient. Much of that stuff was ending on pile on my desk. And that pile grew. It grew pretty big. And, it subconsciously ate up my attention span.
The inbox is where EVERYTHING goes first. It doesn’t go into your hands, or your desk, or your files. There is no need to make a decision on anything that comes through your door until it’s the right time to deal with it. The problem with not using an inbox is that we get distracted with what’s coming in and feel the need to deal with it immediately. The inbox is a holding place for the clutter, the distraction… it’s a receptacle for what is preventing you from getting things done.
Now, the important thing is to go through that inbox at least weekly. I sometimes go through it at the end of each day. You do want to make sure you aren’t missing anything important in there. It CANNOT become a “pile of denial”. You MUST deal with the inbox.
You can temporarily allow the inbox to be that holding place for everything that has the possibility of taking away attention from the task at hand: the bills that arrive by mail, the contract you have to sign, the receipt from last night’s event. The goal is to get the clutter off your desk (and out of your mind) and into a safe zone.
I like these plain and simple ikea “FIRA” drawers because they block my view from seeing what’s in there. (Yes, I can be easily distracted by paper.)
OH – and are you seeing any parallels here? I’m not just talking the physical office and inbox. I’m also talking the electronic kind: the email inbox! Yes, it’s amazing that it captures everything in one place. But you don’t need to be distracted by it every 5 minutes. It’s a receptacle for things that do not need immediate attention. (The phone is what people use when they need your attention immediately, mind you.) Review your inbox at key intervals and empty it completely if you can. But, don’t check your inbox every 5 minutes. That’s akin to staring at the pile on your desk every 5 minutes.
Do you use an inbox? What have you found to be its benefits? Do tell!