We Can't Get Back Time: Thoughtful Thursday
The Power of One: Thoughtful Thursday

Processing the "In" Box

Is your "In" box ever empty? I'm venturing a guess that unless a) you don't have much to do or b) David Allen or one of his "Getting Things Done" coaches or superstar "graduates", the bottom of your "In" box never sees the light of day. Managing workflow for even the most organized of folks often gets a little out of control. However, with a little diligence in pursuing a system, we can get the victory over the box.

Today we continue our overview of the Getting Things Done workflow management system, dubbed the "art of stress-free productivity". In the previous post of this series, we discussed step one of the process, "Collect". Now we are ready to do something with the stuff we collected.  To refresh our memories, the "stuff" is the massive "In" box of items representing the incomplete tasks in our lives.
Once we finish the "Collect" step of David Allen's process for getting things done, we are ready to empty our "In" box with Step 2: Process. It is in the processing phase of workflow management that we ask ourselves questions about each e-mail, voice-mail, memo, or self-generated idea that makes its way into our "In" box.  The key to this step is to make a decision about each item so it doesn't become a permanent fixture on our desk.

Making decisions about each item requires that we ask two questions: 

  1. Is it actionable?
  2. What's the next action?

Items that require no action should either be trashed, filed as reference materials, or incubated for future review.  Actionable items should be captured on a task or project list once we determine the next required action. Then, each actionable item needs to be either done, delegated or deferred.  A basic rule of thumb is that if you can finish an item in two minutes or less, do it now.

Does all of this sound unachievable?  If it does, don't despair.  Just as old habits can be broken, new ones can be made.  Just take things one step at a time and you too can see the bottom of your "In" box. And one more thing...this applies to email too. Happy processing!

Have an "In" box story to share? Leave a comment below!

Homework: This week as you process your  "stuff", take note how often you say "I'll just do this later" to yourself.  Think about this both at home and at work.  If the task would take less than two minutes to complete, why not just do it?

NEXT IN THE SERIES ...  Step 3: Organizing. 
NOTE: For more information about this process, check out "Getting Things Done" by David Allen or contact me for a consultation.