Planning & GTD Series Part 1: Inboxes

July 7, 2016
Hi!  Well, I guess 4th of July weekend happened already (that felt fast).  We had a generally nice time, but I’m going to spare you the beach pix and focus a little for this post 🙂  As promised, I’m going to delve into some of my favorite topics related to planning & organizing on a weekly basis.  Today’s topic = INBOXES!  
It doesn’t sound glamorous, but the GTD method has really changed the way I think about processing the inputs that seem to come from all directions these days.  As the very first step in the algorithm is to Capture (“collect everything you have going on, in a consistent and systematic way”), it makes logical sense to really think intentionally about where things land and how you will go about dealing with them.  
Here are my inboxes & my timelines/methods for processing:
I allow mail to accumulate for up to a week in this little box on a shelf near the front of the house.  If I’m feeling extra motivated, I might deal with obvious junk the day it comes in, but I give myself permission to let it sit here until the weekend.  
On Saturday mornings, I empty the whole thing, paying any bills that need to be paid, filing anything that needs to be kept, and recycling/shredding the rest.
Paper documents that need to be dealt with short-term: 
Form to fill out from school that needs to be handled within the week?  Bills from the mail?  These types of documents go in a small file on my desk.  
Every Sunday, this gets emptied when I prep for the next week.  Anything short-term gets done, and if it doesn’t really need to be done, it gets filed into longer-term reference.  If it’s a longer-term project but still time sensitive, I will make a note of it in my planner and then file the associated papers.  This way, I can be confident the project will not get lost but won’t end up with a stuffed file folder on my desktop.
Exceptions/things that get to stay here are documents that I use regularly, like our shopping list pad & checkbooks.

These have a separate collection area in our kitchen.  I subscribe to several and really try not to let them pile up!  I don’t keep anything more than a month old.  If I haven’t read it, I try to at least flip through to see if there is anything interesting before recycling/bring to work to share.
Personal email:
I empty this out every single day.  Yep – zero messages in my gmail inbox.  As I come across it (touch it once!), everything either gets:
– responded to
– archived (no sorting, just in one general archive folder, I figure I can search for whatever and this hasn’t let me down yet)
– deleted
– archived, but noted in planner if there is a to-do item attached
I can’t tell you how nice it feels to have an empty email inbox at the end of every day.  

Papers that get left on my desk/short-term to-do items:  
I allow this to pile up during the week, but always aim to empty the box before leaving on Fridays.  Articles get filed (and often quickly read, if that was the goal!), any patient materials get dealt with, and paperwork gets completed or filed.  If something is longer term, I do not let inbox clutter be my reminder.  I use my planner/collection of GTD-style lists (more on these in a later post).  
Work email:
Also emptied daily, unless I’m on vacation.  If I’m away for several days, I will place an away message but I always empty to zero on the day I return. 
AHHHH, my most challenging inbox!  This is where all of our patient results, questions, staff messages, scanned in data, etc go.  I really try to keep it somewhat under control daily (and I always scan for critical/urgent results), but since I do leave pretty much on the dot at 5pm, I definitely let things pile up throughout the week.  Fridays I have half a day of admin, and I attack that inbox with a vengeance.  I really try to leave it empty by the time I leave for the week (and if absolutely needed I will postpone Friday AM patient notes until the weekend so I can deal with all of the results).  
So that’s it!  All of the inboxes that I face daily, and my methods for processing.  I honestly never really gave this much thought until I came across GTD, but by having a systematic method I feel much more in control of my inputs.  
Everyone is different – you might have just 2 inboxes, or you might have 15!  I would looooove to hear about how others mange these kinds of inputs. 
COMING UP in the GTD series: FILES. 
Yeah get excited!


  • Reply Omdg March 10, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I didn’t feel like your post was promoting one true way, but it is an interesting peek into who you are. Not in a bad way or anything. 😉

  • Reply xykademiqz March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Work email: I am also the several-thousand emails kind of person. I consider this to be a feature, not a bug in using email. Junk gets deleted promptly, but otherwise it is super helpful as a way to store and later retrieve information or attachments easily by searching. (It seems you effectively do the same thing by archiving.) There are many special folders I have (for correspondence regarding each manuscript or grant, for service and admin duties, for travel, for refereeing requests and completed requests, etc) but most just sit forever in my inbox. I do kill things that are over a few years old that have not been filed into one of the special folders.

    But I am fascinated by the habits of super organized people! And I am a big lover of stationery, so I am awaiting posts on folders and filing with breathless anticipation! 🙂

  • Reply Document Destruction March 10, 2019 at 7:01 pm

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