Traditionally a plastic containter placed right above or next to the outbox where incoming material (letters, memos and other work related essentials) usually arrived. Nowadays it's a location in e-mail software for numerous loveletters, strange advertisements for pyramid schemes and friendly chitchat with friends and family.

If you like organization, or if you suffer from the lack of it, you really want an inbox.

Maybe you have noticed that you constantly have a choice to make about organization. You can either put thing X in its proper place, which is organizing, or you can leave it where it is, which grows a mess.

The problem with organizing is that it's work. It requires that you put on hold whatever else you're doing, and it's not mindlessly simple. Mindlessly simple actions are obviously better, and that's why usually we choose to leave a mess and keep having a good time. But, then you run out of clean shirts.

Stop. There is a middle way. The way is to have exactly one inbox for whatever kind of thing you are choosing to organize or not to organize. This is where things go when you don't want to put them in their place now. It's every bit as mindless as not organizing, and it's just as rewarding as organizing. A Zen master would say, it is one and the other and both and neither. Consistent use of an inbox produces uncanny results. It is a ninja move.

An inbox is a fantastic thing to have because everything goes in it and therefore nothing gets lost. Eventually you go through the inbox and move things to where they should be. If it's an inbox full of computer files, you'd move them to appropriate places on your disk, or to the Trash. But in the meantime, everything that you don't want to spend time to organize now goes into the inbox. And that means all the disorganization is in the inbox. Poof! It's nowhere else. And that means everything, on the whole, is organized, even though the inbox itself is not.

  • Libraries have inboxes. They're called book returns. Everything else in a library is organized, and the mess is in one place, and therefore a library is always completely organized.
  • Dishes have an inbox. It's that part of the kitchen counter where you put dishes you don't feel like washing yet. The dishes are thus organized away from the coffee table.
  • You have an inbox for laundry: A basket. (Well you do have one, don't you? If not, start there.)
  • The post office has a huge system of inboxes from which it collects letters. Then it organizes the letters and sends them back out to different inboxes. (It's hard for them, but it's easy for you, because you have just one.)

If you're familiar with Getting Things Done, you already know what I'm talking about, but now you've gone and read about it again, which is probably because you love this stuff as much as I do. *fist bump*

By the way, a fine email strategy which leverages your "inbox" as an inbox is named Inbox Zero.

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