Are you frustrated by your messy desk? Do you spend hours each week searching for papers, notes, and other important information?
It IS possible to have a neat, functional work area AND a good system for handling papers, information, appointments and to-do lists.
But, it will take some dedicated work for you to get to the point where you really start to feel organized.
One of the first steps you should take when starting to organize all of your papers is to create an inbox.
What Can an Inbox Do For Me?
Most organizing and productivity experts advocate for some type of an inbox in your life (although they give them different names, it's basically the same idea). An inbox can increase your productivity because…
- It gives you a set place to put all incoming items. You can put anything that you want to process later into your inbox.
- You can even use your inbox to capture ideas – just write them on a sheet of paper and stick them in your inbox to be processed later.
- It makes it easier to find things. Instead of having a million little piles around your house, you have one place where you put items to process.
- It helps streamline how you deal with incoming paperwork.
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How Do I Set Up an Inbox?
An inbox doesn't need to be fancy. Any container that will hold papers is fine.
When I started setting up my own office area (or my command central), I used a big cardboard box because I had SO MUCH stuff to process.
Once I processed the papers (this took me a couple of weeks of working in 10-minute sessions), I treated myself to a pretty inbox.
I have a TON of boxes filled with old papers. Do those go in my inbox?
Unless there's something urgent inside those boxes, NO. You can save those boxes to work on once you have the other papers floating around under control.
Once I Have an Inbox, What Do I Do With It?
If you're just starting out with your new inbox system, you're probably going to feel overwhelmed at first. There's a LOT of stuff to process!
When I first started processing through my inbox, I looked at each item and asked myself…is this something I need to take care of in the next week?
If the answer was yes, I took care of it (or scheduled a time to take care of it on my calendar).
If the answer was no, I put it back into my inbox.
This meant that a lot of the items in my inbox didn't get processed right away, so I kept looking at them every time I went to work on my inbox. That was kind of annoying, but I didn't want to miss anything urgent.
After a few times, I started processing the non-urgent items, and the pile inside my inbox got smaller and smaller.
How do I know what to do with all of the stuff in my inbox?
As you're processing through your inbox, you'll want to set up your own system for where you'll put certain items.
I took a class called Steps to Everyday Productivity to help me set up a system for organizing paperwork, to-dos, and other types of information. Part of that course focused on how to process your inbox.
Another reference that's helped thousands and thousands of people is Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Steps to Everyday Productivity was significant for me because it had video lessons that showed exactly how to process an inbox and set up a command central system. If you're a visual person, the course could be a big help.
Check out my article on how I set up my office to get more paper processing and organizing ideas.