Unfortunately most of us don’t just have e‑mails, phone-calls and good ideas which need to be dealt with in our daily lives, but also a continuous inflow of physical papers and material to process.
We receive mail, notes from colleagues, we have meeting notes we’ve made and kept, and we keep shopping-receipts.
Spreading all these notes and scraps of paper about ourselves is easily done with the consequence that we can’t find what we are looking for, that notes disappear and that we become distracted by the clutter on the desk.
If you haven’t already, get yourself a good and proper inbox for your desk.
”Let’s hear it!”
Why you need an inbox? Well,
- You then have an obvious and assigned place where you put the papers you are going to deal with as soon as you have a few minutes to spare.
- Your colleagues have an equally given spot to drop off phone-notes or other notes with information they want you to be aware of, instead of just piling them on your computer keyboard or pasting them with scotch-tape on the screen so that you won’t miss them.
- You can keep your desk cleared of paper so that you have plenty of workspace for the tasks you are working with at the moment.
- You process the notes and material in a more constructive and focused manner since you are completing and checking off items from one single pile instead of randomly picking your way through the different piles on the desk.
- It’s clear and apparent when you are done; when the inbox is empty, you have finished all the notes waiting to be dealt with, you are done and can relax knowing you’ve got things under control.
- When you arrive at the office, empty your pockets of receipts and notes, and empty your briefcase of the notes you have tucked away there.
- Put the lot in your inbox.
- Also add the miscellaneous notes which have ended up scattered on the desk.
- As soon as you possibly can, browse every note, sheet or pile of papers separately and determine what needs to be done with it. ??Do you need to define a next step, that is, create a to-do-task which has something to do with the document? Are you for instance going to do what you just decided to do during the meeting which you made a note on? ??Is the document more of a good-to-have type of material rather than dictating a specific task or action? Then file it away in the predetermined place in your system for reference material. ??Is the note regarding a new project? Add it to your project-overview.
- When you are done and the inbox is empty, you are ready for whatever shows up next.
The inbox as a trampoline
Just as you are striving for daily emptying your e‑mail inbox, make an effort to make quick decisions on all items in your physical inbox so that it’s empty a few times every day as well.
The inbox shouldn’t be a storage-space, but rather, its contents should just “bounce” through it and regain speed and action propelling it forward.
You will to a greater extent do the right thing at the right time by doing this, since you quickly get all the to-do-tasks onto your to-do-list where they belong, and from this you continuously pick the highest prioritized tasks.
You will save time since you no longer spend it looking for material, due to that you now have fewer places to look for it in. The receipt used to be either in the pocket, in the briefcase, to the right on the desk or to the left, or in the pile where you put what you are going to deal with later, at some point… Now it’s either in the inbox (but not for much longer) or in that other designated place where you gather your receipts in preparation for your monthly summation of expenses.
How do you do it?
What routines do you have to keep your desk cleared of clutter, so that you avoid becoming distracted by all the piled up material which you aren’t working on right now anyway?
Feel free to leave a comment below.