Counting your inboxes

When you think inbox, the first thing that comes mind is probably the one for your email. Try again. How many different inputs do you have that require your attention and effort to review? Here’s a longer (and not even exhaustive) list:

  • Email inbox. Do you have more than one address?
  • Texts/IMs
  • Voicemails
  • Group messaging service (e.g. Slack)
  • Bookmarking services (Pocket/Read It Later)
  • Task managing tool or service (e.g. OmniFocus, Trello)
  • Mailbox (you know the old fashioned kind like in the above picture)
  • Desk in-basket

Quite a few more than just one, huh? In this modern age, there’s almost no avoiding having multiple. However, having too many can make scanning for inputs burdensome. Additionally, the more inboxes you have, the greater the total number of inputs you’ll have to manage. Get past a certain point and it can be downright overwhelming. Getting Things Done author David Allen refers to it as “emergency scan modality.”

Think about all the inputs you have. Are all of them essential? Can you reduce them? Maybe differentiate between ones you check frequently and the others than can get by with once a week (or less). Eliminate emergency scan modality and you’ll be able to spend more time on your priority efforts.

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