A few years ago, I listened to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done®” audio book and since that point of time I try to continuously process my inboxes to keep them empty. The experience of having zero emails in my inbox for the first time was absolutely great and it still keeps me processing my inbox all the time. To do this, I classify my inbox items (digital and paper) into four categories and act accordingly:
1. Delete (Archive): Is this item relevant for my life? If not, I simply delete it right away. – Or in case of the feeling, that I might need it as reference later on, I archive it in a proper way.
2. Delegate: Can I delegate this task to somebody? If so, I forward the item immediately or create a task to hand it over later. If necessary, I schedule a task to follow up the results before the due date. (See 4. Schedule)
3. Do: If it takes only one or two minutes to process the item completely, I process it right on the spot without inserting it into my task management.
4. Schedule: All other tasks are inserted into my task management as actionable tasks as described in section “Setting up task management”. If I have to store reference material until processing, I move these items from my inbox into a “to be processed” basket.
Continuous application of this procedure helps me to stay in control of my inboxes. I found it valuable to process all my inboxes according to this classification when I started with my task management. In addition, I reduced my inboxes to a minimum and I still try to cut the number down further more.
How I use this processing during the day will be described in “Daily operations“.