Flipping Heck! Learning To Be Productive One Day At A Time

GTD Simplified: What’s your inbox style?

Illustration of man and woman moving email envelope

GTD Simplified: What’s your inbox style?

Welcome to the first installment of “GTD Simplified” where each Monday I’ll be talking about some of the “ins and outs” of GTD and trying to make them simplier.

I talked about collecting stuff in the first part of the GTD Back To Basics series but what about stuff that crops up on a day-to-day basis?

Email is an obvious one as it has it’s own personal “inbox” but what about letters, files, magazines and the other rubbish that gravitates our way at home and work? There are several places (or inboxes) that this stuff could accumulate. Have a look around your office and your home and see if you can spot the following:

  • An “In-Tray”
  • A big stack of files begging for your attention
  • A pile of magazines that just turned up
  • A stack of envelopes by your front door
  • A pile of magazines on the coffee table
  • A load of files by the filing cabinet
  • A stack of books

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

Whilst your initial capture may have swept up all of these items they will mount up over time (unless they’re sorted during your Weekly Review) and in fact some of the places these items are make perfect sense but David Allen recommends that we minimise the number of collecting areas (inboxes) that we have.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons, firstly if we spread our stuff all over the place it’s quite easy to forget we’re supposed to capture it during the weekly review. Secondly you’ll probably keep on coming across it and then think “Oh, I must do so-and-so with that” which – even if it’s on your next actions list/someday-maybe list or project list – will be rather irritating and upset your “Mind Like Water” state.

So, what do you do about it?

Have the minimum number of “inboxes” possible.

Personally I have 4 – some of you will need more, some less but always have the minimum number you can comfortably get away with.

My inboxes are:

  • In tray on my desk where everything gets dumped (folders, files, magazines etc).
  • Work email inbox
  • In basket at home (everything goes here too: bills, letters, magazines, loose change – you name it! Oh, and it is quite large!)
  • Personal email inbox

From these four places I can pretty much manage all of the stuff that gets thrown at me me during the course of the week and because it’s in a designated spot it doesn’t bother me until I do a review.

How about you? How many inboxes do you have?

About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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    “My “”real-life”” inbox is far more organised than my email one. Over the last 2 years in my present job I’ve acquired almost 14,000 emails and haven’t sorted them in any way at all. I really should, but due to the wide variety of subjects it’s really difficult to get them sorted out. At home, bills have their own little folder, and box files for important documents and paperwork line the office shelves. In theory it’s all great, just needs alittle bit of time dedicated to keeping it all in order. Sadly, I just don’t get time at work to get anything organised.”


    “I’d go mad if I had that many emails! Please tell me they’re not all just sat there looking at you everyday? I shudder just thinking about it!”

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