Being Organized Starts with an Empty In-Box

in box

Over the break I decided to squeeze in a little bit of planning training. In the past, I’ve taken seminars and short classes about planning and project management, and it’s one of the keys for success taught to students in College 101. I have been able to survive and accomplish goals, so I thought what I was about to experience would be mostly review. Wow–was I wrong!

I’m participating with a large group across the country and a large sub-group of dog lovers and dog agility trainers (about 230 of us dog people) in a program called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever (BYE for short) put out by Michael Hyatt. In the 5 days, through short (15 minute presentations), Michael walks a participant through his technique for planning out a year. Then the participant fills out worksheets that eventually get a plan for 7 to 10 goals that the participant wants to achieve over the next year–with the plan for achieving the goals included.

The stats are given–the number of New Year’s resolutions that don’t survive the first week, let alone the whole year; how most successful people actually do have a plan for their life rather than just going through life with generalized goals or trying to survive. Hmmm. This was sounding awful familiar. I signed up and started to go through the training.

Planning and project management is a bit more involved than simply marking an assignment on a calendar and then back-planning when all the tasks are going to be done to accomplish this goal. There is a whole lifestyle of keeping organized, which includes a number of apps/programs that I’ve never heard about. Goal setting isn’t just about work-related goals. The system that Michael presents works on all aspects of human interaction: relationships, health, spiritual or quiet time, hobbies, and so on are added to work. Now I recognize that what he presents isn’t all his–he acknowledges a number of people during his “lectures”–and I’ve already purchased two books to read by the authors that he mentioned dealing with time management and organization. (One book is Getting Things Done by David Allen.) I also am starting to use Evernote for tracking my goals (writing steps, successes, plans, and journaling) and am looking into a project management software app called Nozbe to help me keep track of what I’m doing on a daily basis.

All of this is sort of a lead up to the main idea I wanted to present here–the concept of multiple types of in-boxes and processing the information in those in-boxes immediately rather than letting items languish. The in-box in Outlook, the in-box in the mail rooms, the in-box on our desks–all of that information needs to be processed immediately rather than letting it sit and collect dust–whether actual or digital. I know from my own experience that while I don’t have unread email in my in-boxes, I have had hundreds of emails just sitting there–emails that I’ve read, but that I didn’t know what to do with or that I thought might some day be important, so I didn’t want to discard it. I have seen friends, relatives, and colleagues with hundreds of unread emails in their in-boxes–quite astounding to me. I’m not an expert on cleaning out the in-box, but I’ve learned that the goal each day should be to empty the in-box(es). The president/owner of Nozbe actually has a video on YouTube where he explains the process of emptying the in-box and explains why it is important to do so. This video is at

For some, the solution might be to declare “email bankruptcy” as Michael Hyatt calls it on his blog (; this semester I will be ending each day with an empty virtual in-box, and will work my hardest to clean out my real in-box containing student grading as soon as possible in order to give me time to work on my other goals and to have my Best Year Ever.

One thought on “Being Organized Starts with an Empty In-Box

  1. I wish you well in your resolution to navigate through the sharked infested waters of information overload and paper chasing; historically, I have found a one sentence mantra that has worked fairly well for me– “Handle each piece of paper only once.”

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