What’s an inbox?
It is not possible to get properly organised without the support of inboxes. We can’t avoid clutter from building up if we don’t have inboxes or if our inboxes are not well cared for.
Okay, but what is an inbox?
Inboxes are temporary storage areas for things that need to get done/organised.
Let’s have a look at a few examples:
The email inbox is the inbox that typically comes to mind when we talk about inboxes. It’s the easiest and simplest of all inboxes: We don’t have to install/arrange it – as soon as we create an email account, we automatically get an inbox. We also don’t have to personally arrange the inflow of data and information into our inbox, it gets filled up automatically: Any message that anybody decides to send to our email address will end up in the inbox.
The mailbox is another very common inbox. If we live in a place that has an address, we usually have a box that collects our mail. And even if we don’t have a specific mailbox, the postman will find another mail-inbox solution, for example, by slipping our mail through under the front door.
The in-tray on an office desk is another inbox that most people working in bigger organisations are familiar with. The company courier drops the interoffice mail in the box, and colleagues use it as well to leave messages and documents addressed to the person who works at that desk.
There are many, many more containers or places that we use as inboxes.
Often, they are not called ‘inboxes’ although they do the job of an inbox.
Inboxes help us organise the various areas of our life and avoid clutter.
Think about these additional examples:
Many people organise their time with the help of a physical or digital calendar – the use of a calendar allows them to collect all professional and personal appointments and events in one place.
A shopping list is an inbox. It’s the place – typically a piece of paper or a note on the phone – where all the things we need to buy come together.
The ‘gallery’ app on your phone is an inbox. It automatically collects all the photos you take with the phone’s camera.
Your to-do list – in fact, any type of list – does the job of an inbox. The same is true for a project action plan.
The laundry basket in the bathroom is an inbox. It keeps all the dirty clothes in one place.
Let’s have a look at what all types of inboxes have in common.
What’s the job/purpose of an inbox?
- To provide us with a default place where we can easily drop things that we can’t work on, can’t make use of at this moment – we get both hands/our head free to work on other stuff.
You take the mail out of the letterbox before you enter the house and then quickly drop it in your general paperwork inbox in your home office. Now you can forget about the mail and are free to do whatever you want to do right now.
- To provide us with a container/place where we can temporarily collect/gather loose individual items – we can trust that we don’t lose these ‘loose’ things.
While you are preparing dinner, you use up the butter. You write ‘butter’ on your shopping list, where it stays with other to-buy items – until you take the list along on your next trip to the grocery store.
- To provide us with a place where can reliably find things that haven’t been assigned their final destination – we know exactly where to find something that hasn’t been organised yet.
You are looking for a photo you recently took and find it easily in the ‘gallery’ app on your phone.
- To provide us with an overview of the things that we still need to make decisions about or work on – we have all the things that must be taken care of in one place.
A quick look at your to-do list helps you remember the tasks that need to get done. Now you can decide what you want to tackle next.
- To provide us with a place where we can sort the collected items into categories and/or according to priority – we gain an overview of groups of things to do, and we can decide what needs to be tackled first.
You empty the laundry basket and sort the dirty clothes into categories. You decide to get the shirts washed first because you want to do the ironing in the evening.
I believe that inboxes are a ‘natural’ basic element of all functioning organisational systems. In all areas of life, we find places and containers that act as inboxes.
As soon as you start thinking about inboxes, you will quickly start to see them everywhere.
What are some of the inboxes that you – consciously or unconsciously – make use of in your daily life?
Let me help you get going by giving you some personal examples from my life:
Inbox for unread books – I have an area on our bookshelves where I (temporarily) store the books that I haven’t read yet. And on my Kindle, I have a folder called ‘To read’. So, whenever I buy a book that I don’t start reading immediately, I know where to put it. And if I’ve finished a book, I know where I can look to choose the next book I want to read.
Inbox for self-empowering thoughts – I keep a note in my note app for any useful thought I come across that I might want to practice thinking in the future. So, when I feel a bit low, I know where to go to find some positive inspiration.
Inboxes for groceries – Our fridge, freezer, and pantry are inboxes for the temporary collection and storage of certain types of groceries. Our groceries are not spread all around the house, they have an intermediary home.
Inbox for bookmarks – I keep bookmark folders on my laptop to collect interesting online articles, links, etc. One folder is called ‘Inbox’. If I am in a hurry or don’t know yet where to store something, I put it in the bookmark inbox.
Pick one of the inboxes you regularly use in your daily life.
Now, have a closer look.
- What does this inbox actually do for you?
- Does it do its job well? Reliably?
- What would happen if you no longer had it?
In the next article of this series about inboxes, we discuss the requirements of a well-functioning inbox.
HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
Are you tired?
Tired of trying to (re)organise the various areas of your life entirely on your own?
Tired of investing vast amounts of time and energy in finding a way to create a better organised = better life?
Tired of feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, stressed, disappointed, exhausted, …?
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.
We can do it together.
You can decide to get my support, advice, and guidance – and achieve the desired changes in your life so much faster and easier.