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Inbox Processing

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  • Inbox Processing

    It probably depends on each person's circumstances, but I'm wondering if I'm doing too much in my initial pass with my inbox. As a possible corollary to the 2 minute rule, should we have an over 2 minute rule where if we have other things to do, we should
    1) do in 2 minutes if possible
    2) identify next action and move to next action list
    3) delete if not needed
    4) file if no action needed

    but not work on things if more than 2 minutes are required until all the inbox streams (email, postal mail, voice mail, etc) are processed (sorted)? Otherwise in busy times all items in the inbox may not be looked at and lesser items worked on when our time may have been better spent on other items?

    It is 5:15 shall I work on what really should get done or sort my inbox? Who knows, maybe my "hot project" has been canceled or modified.

  • #2
    "Two minutes" is relative

    The two-minute rule is flexible. If you have all afternoon to get through your inbox, you may want to use a ten-minute rule instead. If you have obly a short time to get through your inbox, you might restrict yourself to 30 seconds.

    It's more important to get through your inbox and process it on a regular schedule than it is to go through and do all the two-minute items. I know I've written some pretty small items on my next-action lists because I didn't have a lot of time to go through my processing before the next big thing had to be done.

    Also, you can do an "emergency scan" of your inbox to see if anything is about to blow up -- or if your project has just been canceled.


    • #3
      David's discussion of the 2-Minute Rule in GTD Fast is more thorough than the book. He specifically mentions the "The Converse of the 2-Minute Rule," which, of course, states that if something takes longer than 2 minutes, defer it. This prevents us from getting seduced into doing tasks that would turn out to be lower-priority tasks when seen against action lists completed from a fully processed inbox. Personally, this was one of the hardest disciplines for me to develop in GTD, since I would regularly allow myself to get sucked in to doing reactive work rather than predefined or defining work.

      At one point in the audio, David discusses the familiar threefold nature of work, enumerated as bullet points:
      1. Doing predefined work
      2. Doing work as it shows up
      3. Defining your work
      Then he leads up to one of the really great insights of the seminar: "A lot of this seminar is about bullets 1 and 3, not 2. A lot of people say they can't do 1 and 3 because they have too much 2 going on. But what I see a lot of is people letting themselves getting sucked into 2, because they don't feel comfortable about handling 1 and 3."

      Another way of thinking of the rule is: If it takes longer to list and review an action than to do the action, just do it. If it takes longer to do the action than to list it and review it, just list it.