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difficulty in processing inbox

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  • difficulty in processing inbox

    I use a huge plastic container box (those stackable ones) as inbox. Over the course a day my inbox gets filled with various items Ė expense receipts, bills, notes and memos from employees, letters from various agencies, checks collected from customers, deposit slips, delivery reports, t-shirt samples, cloth samples, color swatches, garter samples, thread samples, return to supplier forms, consignment liquidations, etc., just to name a few. Often a single item takes less than two minutes to process, but after a long day from being out of the office visiting clients, I just donít have enough two minutes left to process all of them. And Iím not very organized too. So what I do is I try to sort them out by tasks, toss them into different plastic envelops, and then just process them when I have a little bit more time. But sometimes when I need to retrieve a particular item I havenít processed yet, itíll be grueling search since those items come in different shapes and sizes, usually the smaller ones getting lost under a huge pile of bigger sized ones. And when I do get the time to actually process them, itíll be such a huge pile Iíll often feel overwhelmed and procrastinate. Does anyone know a better way to do this?

  • #2
    Can you do some processing as they go into the inbox in the first place? For example, putting paper in a separate bin from bulky sample items seems like an obvious division. Another one might be to put financial items -- bills, receipts, checks, etc. -- in a separate file from everything else. Since I know how I'm going to handle financial items, they can bypass my main inbox and go straight to my Quicken tray.

    Among other things, you may find that grouping similar items together makes them easier to process. You may also find that items related to the same project naturally "cluster" together, so that they self-process to some extent.

    Hope this helps,

    Last edited by kewms; 10-29-2006, 05:31 PM.


    • #3
      I also "pre-sort" my in-box. I have a basket solely for incoming catalogs, another for bills to go directly into Quicken on my "desk day", and yet one more for bulky non-paper items (smoke detector needs new batteries, items to be repaired or replaced, etc.)

      Then when I am processing, the flow goes much quicker and smoother.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        Hi samilator. I have a few thoughts. First, getting the inbox empty every day or two is crucial, so you may have to adjust some things. First, if the two minute rule makes processing and organizing take too long, how about a one minute rule?

        Second, I'd be cautious about specially processing certain items - in this practice there is no second class stuff - it's all to be treated relatively equally, and processed using the same decision-making. That's why "emergency processing" is mostly frowned upon.

        Third, given the quantity of stuff that collects in your life, you may be more on the two hours/day spectrum of daily processing and organizing compared to others with less (who might spend more like one hour/day). Thus, you may need to allocate more time for it these phases.

        sometimes when I need to retrieve a particular item I havenít processed yet, itíll be grueling search
        I'd say this is a bit of a red flag - If you stay on top of it you shouldn't be needing to search your inbox in the first place. Put another way, unless you put eyes on everything in it, there may be something else that should require *more* attention than the thing you're looking for, but you wouldn't know it unless you've processed everything.

        ...itíll be such a huge pile Iíll often feel overwhelmed and procrastinate.
        I think this is a natural step on the way to making it a habit, although it can be painful. Getting efficient at processing, and making it a regular routine in your day, might be a good start.

        Overall, you should pat yourself on the back for getting to this point (centralized collection points) and for knowing you need a a little help to get it to be second nature. Well done.

        This is just my take on it, of course. Others have different perspectives on it, so use what works. Hope that helps, though!



        • #5
          I'd second the pre sort or if that's not possible do a post inbox sort to other containers before moving onto the processing. Once you have like items together you should find it simpler to move forward.

          Additionally, you should also look into a smaller inbox ... that will force you or others to do a pre sort into approbate containers.

          If space allows it look in to "Akrobin" range of storage bins. They can either be stacked or mounted on a slotted panel plus come in many sizes and colors. Container Store plus other sells them. Very popular with trades people in the back of their trucks.


          • #6
            Excellent tips from everyone. Thanks!