Matt Cornell, productivity consultant, provides us with The World's Simplest Productivity Method, with Bonus Mini-Processing Examples. The short form: clear out your inbox regularly (all of them).
Here is his basic method:
- Capture all incoming items into a small number of inboxes: email, paper, and voice.
- Empty those every day.
- To empty an inbox, apply the 5Ds one by one to each item: DELETE, DEPOSIT (file), DELEGATE, DO, and DEFER.
- The last three Ds take action and need tracking in a system:
- DELEGATE: Hand off to someone else, and track in a Waiting For list.
- DO: If the action can be done in a couple of minutes, do it right then.
- Otherwise, DEFER doing it for later, and track in either the Calendar or an Actions list:
- If the action is date-related, put it on the Calendar.
- Track all other actions on an Actions list.
- During the day work the Actions list as your Calendar permits, and review the Waiting For for needed follow-ups.
I'd always considered 4 D's (do, delete, defer, delegate). Having "deposit" in there helps me with a niggling worry about that stuff I want to keep but doesn't need to be in my inbox.