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It is more likely that the material at the bottom of the pile is more outdated than the material at the top, so if you begin by going through the older items, you will be able to throw a lot out right away.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.
- Turn it upside-down, so that the oldest item is at the top of the pile.
- 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!).
- Go through the entire pile/e‑mail-list until you reached the bottom (which was originally the top).
- 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.
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.