Saturday, November 29, 2008

How To Set Up GTD Inboxes

This is day one of my Getting Things Done GTD Thirty Day Challenge and the first place we are going to start with is setting up your GTD system and more specifically your inboxes.

As we go through the challenge, I'm going to encourage you to take a long range approach to setting up your GTD system. I suggest that you start with the front end of your system and perfect it one step at a time.

Before you start running stuff through your system, your first order of business is to get your GTD system completely setup before you start collecting, processing and so on. What I did was take the GTD workflow diagram in the book on page 32, (and also available on David Allen's website in pdf format) and look at each component.

You'll notice that at the top it shows the first thing in your system is "IN." This is where you start. When I first started setting up my GTD system, it was my feeling that "IN" only referred to my physical inbox and my email inbox. However, when looking at "IN," open your mind to where everything comes into your life. You then want to make sure that you take all of that stuff and funnel into your inboxes.

This is the first skill you want to learn to master. Make sure everything runs through your designated inboxes. The toughest thing to get into your GTD system are your notes. You know the things you write on napkins. The backs of papers, anywhere you can find. Get into the habit of using one capture location like a spiral index cards or notepad to make all of your notes. If you cannot get it into your system, call your voice mail and leave the information there or text yourself a note for later collection. Get it into the system so you will not lose it!

What really matters here is that you create a net wide enough to capture everything into your workflow. I know at first, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff sitting in my inboxes. The thing is, don't focus on the volume, focus on the GTD workflow. You have the same amount to do, whether you hide it or not. Let the system work for you by letting it create a place to park everything so you know where it is and we will worry about doing later.

So, here is the GTD plan.

1. Get each component of your system in place, starting with inboxes.
2. Perfect each component one at a time.
3. Don't start with collection. Start with your setup. Start with your inboxes.

Think of all the places that your stuff enters your life and make a list of each place. Your list might look like this:

Physical inbox
Email inbox
Voice mail
Text messages
Snail mail
A capture tool like index cards, notepads, etc.
Fax machine

Remember too that you might have more than one physical inbox. Maybe one at work, one at home and one in your briefcase. I have more than one snail mailbox, voice mail and emails as well.

Your revised list might look like this then:

Voice mail 9693
Voice mail 8582
Voice mail 6328
Voice mail 3775
Voice mail 6116
Text 9693
Text 8582
Text inbox in Blackberry
Alerts 9693
Alerts 8582
Email glg
Email blackberry
Email bbbones
Email kidsmakemoney
Email ttEmail tt(1)
Paper index cards
Paper note pad
Paper notes on action lists
Paper notes
Paper loose in car
Paper in wallet
Paper on printer
Paper in project folders
Paper on fax machine
Mailbox 12814
Mailbox 1508
Mailbox 11650
Mailbox 8906
Physical inbox folder in briefcase
Physical inbox home

Get the idea? Make a complete list of all of your inboxes in a word file or excel spreadsheet because later on down the road we will be using that list to create a daily review.

Also, make sure that if you don't have an inbox to collect stuff make sure you put one in place. I didn't use to have one at home or in my briefcase and now I do. I'd suggest that you get a large inbox and preferrably one that stands alone, not those stackable trays. Get something sturdy and big.

Since I travel a lot, I used to take on the road with me a large plastic container, like for files at first, then downsized to a smaller plastic container. Now I carry a folder in my briefcase for my inbox. It took a couple of years to get to that point. Be patient. Just get started and you will pick up momentum.

Here is a video I did on inboxes that has some additional tips.

OK. That's it for today. I'm working on Getting Things Done GTD Thirty Day Challenge as I get time and look for the next day soon.