A few weeks back I wrote a blog about starting work on an organizational system that I am working on from Zen Habits called Zen To Done. The first habit focuses on collecting all your thoughts and ideas in a notebook to be processed later. I have been working on this habit for nearly two weeks now and it is going so well that I have decided to begin working on Habit #2.
Habit #2 focuses on making quick decisions when processing each inbox. You should have a couple of inboxes, these will be your notebook, your email inbox, your voicemail, and your paper filing inbox. At least once a day you need to go through each inbox and process the inbox with the goal of completely emptying it. Start at the top of the inbox and begin processing.
Here is how you process:
- Once you’ve looked at an item it cannot stay in your inbox. That is just putting off what needs to be done and does not help you in any way.
- Spend no more then 1 minute deciding what to do with the item.
- Options for processing an item
- Trash it. If it is not important, throw it away
- File it. If you may need it later put it in the proper file. This should not be another inbox, it needs to go somewhere you can find it later with no more then 30 seconds of effort.
- Do it. If the item requires action and that action can be done in under 2 minutes. Do it now, don’t put it off. Remove it from your inbox once done.
- Delegate it. If the item requires action and someone else can do the task at least 80% as well as you can (keep in mind their workload) delegate the task to them. Remove it from your inbox.
- Defer it. If the item requires more than 2 minutes to do and you can not delegate, create a task or calendar item that details what you need to accomplish. Remove it from your inbox
By adopting habits 1 and 2 you are ensuring that every idea and task you have is being captured. Keeping track of all of your ideas and tasks is a huge stress reliever. You no longer worry about what you have to do and can focus on the things you are currently accomplishing. This is because you have a system that keeps track of everything for you. There is no more need to try and remember everything yourself.
If you are interested in some good software for enabling habits and keeping track of what you need to do, please read this post.