You’ve gone through last week’s exercise of collecting everything that has your attention, now it’s time to actually wade through all of it. By the time you’re done with this step, you will have trashed the unnecessary stuff, delegated as much as possible, sorted through your own organizing system and identified any larger projects that are looming.
Check out the chart. Scary.
Basic rules: process the top item first, process one item at a time, never put anything back into your “in” basket. By “process,” Allen means “decide what the thing is, what action is required and then dispatch accordingly.” Your in basket is a processing station, not a storage bin, and the key question to keep in mind is “what’s the next action?” The action step needs to be the absolute next physical thing to do – such as “call accountant and set meeting.” If there is no real and immediate action that can be taken, you can trash it, incubate it or keep it as reference material in your filing system.
Once you determine the next action step:
Do it – delegate it – defer it.
Do it if the action takes less than two minutes.
Delegate it if you’re not the most appropriate person to do the action.
Defer it into your organization system as an option for work to do later.
Finally, shift your attention to outlining your projects – those outcomes that will take more than one action step to complete. Make a list of projects to ensure you have placeholders for all of those open loops. This project list must be completed, and maintained as the key driver for appraising your status and progress.