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
- 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?
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…