How Many Inboxes Do You Have?

This is NOT my inbox!The feeling of information overload is proportional to the amount of unprocessed information we have. I have a name for places where this unprocessed stuff piles up: “inboxes”. The email inbox is the obvious one, but there are others too.

Here are my inboxes:

  • Email inbox
  • Voicemail
  • Freehand notes taken via my Palm
  • In-tray on desk
  • Notebook (old fashioned pen and paper)
  • RSS and newsgroup reader

All of these have a plentiful supply of information to assimilate and decide how to handle. I resist anything that threatens to increase the number of inboxes I have. For example, I tried out OneNote and EverNote. These are cool products, but not having a tablet computer, the most useful feature to me was the ability to capture snippets from web pages for later reference. After using these tools for a while, and accumulating loads of snippets, I realized that I had unconsciously added yet another inbox. This was one too many, as I had to make a conscious effort to remember it when cranking through my other more visible inboxes. So how did I replace it?

OneNote Replacement
I’ve found a way that works better for me: when I want to capture text or a URL I copy it to the clipboard, switch to Outlook and create an Outlook Post item (Ctrl+Shift+S) into which I paste the information. When I click the Post button, my snippet is put into my regular email inbox, so it will get handled during my next triage session. It’s a few more clicks, but one less inbox.

Keep RSS Temptation at Bay
Although this would allow me to reduce my inbox count by one, I am resisting the temptation of getting an RSS Reader that integrates into Outlook. I don’t want my feeds to be just a click away, as it will be too tempting to check them all day long. I prefer to keep them on the side in a standalone RSS reader that I fire up once a day, as I’m winding the day down.

Post-it Notes are a No-No
Another item I’ve eliminated altogether is post-it notes. These break all the rules of my system and compete for my attention when they are least relevant. If I have something I have to do today, it will be on the relevant list which I scan frequently. If it’s not so urgent, I can write it down in my notebook or create an item that appears in my email inbox.

I’m haven’t managed to find a tool that will clip web content to my Outlook inbox via a keyboard shortcut. If you’ve heard of one, let me know. Otherwise I’ll just have to write one…

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8 responses to “How Many Inboxes Do You Have?

  1. I agree with the coment about RSS feeds – keep them separate. In fact, I believe that searching for total integration of everything is not necessarily a good idea and that it makes a lot of sense to be able to orient oneself graphically and geographically no matter where you are on a network.

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  3. Pingback: How Many Inboxes Do You Have? - lifehack.org

  4. I’ve gone back to reading blogs, etc. (RSS) in Firefox, with Bookmarks open in the left panel listing everything I read. It’s faster than an RSS reader, plus you get full feeds.

    There’s probably 50 sites there I cycle through at least once a day.

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  6. Hi Isabo, Enjoyed your blog and related to it so much. Too many inboxes and I am in the process of converting all my files into one system on ACT to tame the email beast. It would be counter productive right now to start factoring in the speed of RSS coming at me too. :D

    Dawn

  7. I love the idea of clipping web page content to Outlook. Copy and paste is slow but does not retain formating. Let me know if you have something worked out. Outlook is good because you can index and easily search. OneNote is not searchable from windows desktop or many other applications. I don’t want to remember where I put something, I just want to search fast. Also with Outlook and Exchange server you can access information anywhere when it is synced.

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