Here’s what I do:
Get a box.
Take all my shit and put it in the box. Whenever I get new shit, put that in the one box.
Review it periodically.
That’s it. ONE BOX. Not several piles on my desk, a few on the floor, some mail on my kitchen counter, some more crap over in my bedroom. I just put it in one box. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to do laundry one sock at a hand. I (begrudgingly) take all the dirty clothes off the floor, put it into one hamper, then do laundry. Same thing goes for being productive. You put all of the tiny things that hold some sort of future importance in your life in one single place.
This mindblowing concept completely changed my life.
It’s not a new idea, but David Allen does a good job explaining why it’s such a good idea is Getting Things Done. It can be cardboard box. Or a paper bag. Or a drawer. Or something fancy from the Container Store. I recommend that it is wider & longer than an 8.5x11” piece of paper, because many items that come into our life are bigger than just a piece of paper. As far as depth, you want something deep enough to hold all your shit for a few days (or weeks), but not so deep that you never need to clean it out. Bigger than a shoe box, smaller than a sand box.
What goes in the box? Everything. Everything physical, that is (You’ll need a digital inbox as well— to be covered in a future post!). Just because I have a lack of imagination, here are a few of the things currently in my Inbox:
- A bill from the vet that needs to be scanned & sent in to insurance
- An invoice from the plumber- need to save his contact info and scan in the bill
- A report from my son’s school. Needs to be scanned
- My voter card that I’ll need on election day*
- A check that needs to be deposited
- A cute brochure about composting that I want to scan in & save in Evernote
- A CD of lullaby versions of Johnny Cash songs that I found somewhere and *must* download to iTunes. Just realizing that this one is pretty urgent: how has my son survived so long without Johnny Cash lullabies?!
- A pair of broken sunglasses that need to get fixed. Just in time for summer … oops
- A wireless mouse that is in need of batteries
- A gift card that needs to be photographed and put into Evernote
- About 50 more things that need to be scanned with my kick-ass, reliable Canon Scanner
The vast majority of my bills are received digitally and paid automatically. If you have bills to be paid though, they go in this box too.
Then once a week (or every two weeks, whatever works for your workload), you sit down and go through the box. I start from the top and process each item one-by-one.
The majority of paper items get scanned and then tossed. For those things that I still need the physical copy of (like my *voter card) at a later date, I keep in a box called Processed. This is like a holding bin for things that have yet to be completed, but I have a reminder to take action on them in my to-do list. If anything needs to be saved as reference, it gets scanned. I do not have any paper filing system.
My clients always get this overwhelming sense of relief when I take all of the piles scattered around their house and simply put it all into one box. It’s super fun.