Independent Thinking Blog

Inbox Zero, One Year Later

Twelve months ago, I wrote a post about my efforts to clean out my office, close out the 2009 books, and achieve Inbox Zero. Operation Clean Office was a success. And the biggest takeaway was that these tasks, individually, don’t take a lot of time if you don’t let them mushroom out of control.

Entering 2011, I thought it might be useful to inventory where I succeeded and where I failed in 2010–and some new lessons learned for organizing in the new year:

  • Inbox Zero is thriving. I was skeptical about this, but moving items in and out of my Inbox has proven to be very effective. Okay, it’s not quite at zero, but it is at 5 right now. I accomplish this largely by setting up Outlook Rules that automatically move subscriptions, Facebook notices, and other regular-and-nonessential correspondence to a separate folder. In addition, I have a “Pending Week” folder for the nagging stuff I have to deal with–but not right now.
  • My books are still open. I fell down a little on this one. I did a pretty good job tracking Metro fares, restaurant receipts, and so forth–but not so good at recording  the recurring expenses and the stuff that ended up going onto my credit card. So I have a stack of credit card statements and a check register to plow through before I can close the 2010 books.
  • Post-It Notes work better than Sticky Notes. I thought the desktop utility would become a substitute for all those little paper notes, but that hasn’t happened. I’m just addicted to little pieces of paper, possibly because I get great satisfaction in crossing something off the list and physically throwing it out.
  • Clutter-free is an ongoing challenge. That said, I’ve largely risen to the task, doing periodic sweeps of my office. The “miscellaneous desk papers” file in my hanging file folder has helped keep my desk clean, and there’s both available shelf space and filing space.
  • One week off is not enough. Last year, I had two weeks to conquer the back office challenge. That enabled me to tackle the tasks one at a time, a couple hours a day, without feeling like I was spending my holiday cleaning up. With just one week of downtime, I just couldn’t face the prospect of spending part of it cleaning up. But I’m determined to close my 2010 books this week, to get back to scheduling bookkeeping time, and to keep focused on having a workspace that works for me.

So this is where I find myself this first work week of 2011. What about you?

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