You can tell how productive I am at any given time by examining my piles. Piles are the result of me not dealing with stuff in a timely or productive way, and directly correlate to how much I am getting done.
Piles in Inbox
I really embraced David Allen’s concept of an inbox. It gives me a place to officially put stuff that needs to be dealt with. Here’s the down side, though: I need to actually deal with the stuff in the inbox, rather than letting it pile up indefinitely.
Piles on Desk
When the inbox is full, or at work, the stuff makes itself into piles on my desk. This can even happen as I am working my way through the inbox, as I put things in piles to be put away, entered into the computer, or filed.
Piles in Briefcase
My portable office, a zippered binder case, is another place where I end up with piles. They are either piles that I put in there so I can go through them at lunch (which never happens) or piles that are being transported back to the main piles at home.
The Piling Solution
Looking back at the processing flow provided by David Allen in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, I see that I need to handle the stuff in the inbox on a regular basis. However, I also like to batch activities. For instance, I would prefer to make one trip to the filing cabinet to put away reference materials, rather than 15.
My most recent innovation is to have a set of plastic file folders, placed in a box that keeps them upright, and labeled as follows:
- Put Away Upstairs
- Put Away Downstairs
The first four should be self-explanatory; these are the folders that the items end up in before their final resting places. Here are a brief description of the final four:
These are items that need to be filed in my reference system. This filing cabinet is kept in the closet and contains information about completed projects, reference material and old bills.
These are items that indicate a new project is about to be formed. Each of the items gets entered into my tracking system and a plastic folder made for it. These folders are then placed in my “in progress” filing section next to my desk.
If an item ends up in the computer folder, there is a single action that I need to do on the computer. This may be redeeming a gift certificate, renewing a subscription or bookmarking a website.
This folder will contain all things that need further reading. These can be printouts, magazines or books. From here, the items get put into the two places I use for reading material: my magazine basket, and my to-be-read bookshelf
By processing this information, and committing myself to emptying each folder after processing, I am much more likely to stay on top of the inbox.
Photo by Waltzzz