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06 Apr

Turn things upside-down!

Datum: 2011-04-06 15:10

Despite of your per­sis­tent struc­tur­al efforts, you may still some­times dis­cov­er that you have too much of some­thing and have to clean up. 

Per­haps a pile of paper (or sev­er­al piles) has accu­mu­lat­ed and sure­ly you have at some point also expe­ri­enced that the num­ber of e‑mails in your inbox is larg­er than you would like it to be. 

You know you have too many e‑mails when you catch your­self scrolling up and down the list to make sure you did not miss any­thing more than once per day.

If you have tried oth­er meth­ods and the piles still remain, then try this:

Turn things upside-down. 

Turn the stack of paper upside-down so that what was at the bot­tom of the pile now is at the top. Arrange the list of incom­ing e‑mail accord­ing to the date the e‑mail was sent in ascend­ing order, so that the old­est e‑mails end up at the top of the list.

Let it have an effect quick­ly, rather than get­ting stuck

It is more like­ly that the mate­r­i­al at the bot­tom of the pile is more out­dat­ed than the mate­r­i­al at the top, so if you begin by going through the old­er items, you will be able to throw a lot out right away. This will make you feel as if you are get­ting a great deal of clean­ing out done, which is also the case.

How­ev­er, if you start with the lat­est addi­tion to the pile, it is like­ly that you find some­thing you sim­ply have to do imme­di­ate­ly (you just have to respond to that email, have to make that phone call et c). You have hard­ly begun clean­ing up before you are engaged in some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent; one thing leads to anoth­er and before you know it the day has passed and noth­ing has been cleaned out.

Do this

  1. Turn it upside-down, so that the old­est item is at the top of the pile.
  2. For each item (e‑mail, paper et c), decide if it requires a to-do-task, if it qual­i­fies as some kind of good-to-have mate­r­i­al, if it takes less than two min­utes to com­plete (which means you will you do it right away), if it is a small­er project (mean­ing you will add it to your project-overview), if it implies that you have to wait for some­thing from some­one (then it should be writ­ten on your wait­ing-for-list) or it might just be trash (Con­grat­u­la­tions, now you have got­ten rid of it!).
  3. Go through the entire pile/​e‑mail-list until you reached the bot­tom (which was orig­i­nal­ly the top).
  4. Now per­haps you thought I would tell you to turn the pile right side up again once you fin­ished. No, of course I wouldn’t since no pile remains! What was good-to-have you have now filed into your smart sys­tem for ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al, what was junk and what you did not have to keep, you have thrown away, and what you need at a cer­tain point in the future, you have put in your tick­ler file.
  5. Done!

How do you do it?

How do you get rid of the piles of paper and e‑mail if in spite of your struc­tur­al efforts, these would accu­mu­late when you were not ful­ly con­scious of your sur­round­ings? Let me and oth­ers know by com­ment­ing on today’s topic.