Keeping the Inbox the Inbox

Ikea desk accessories At my day job as a graphic designer for a small marketing/design firm, I’m the only person who uses GTD. It’s been hard trying to implement some sort of GTD-based system when nobody else you work with does it. However, I’ve tried to set an example by actually writing things down and asking questions that make the Next Action clear and obvious (at least to me.)

When we moved into our new office last summer we got some nifty “Dokument” inbox trays from Ikea, with three tiers. At home I just use two trays: one to hold the Inbox and one to hold the Tickler folders. But at work I don’t need a Tickler, since my job is usually to deal with things as they come up (or as my creative director gives them to me) and I work my way through the stack of project folders in the inbox.

Inbox Tray Labels

I decided to use these three trays for three specific things, and I created business-card-sized labels for them:

  • Inbox - Place new and returned projects here
  • Waiting On - Projects where I’m waiting for something so I can move forward
  • On Hold - Projects that have been put on hold

So it should be pretty clear what is in each tray so that I or someone else can find project folders, given what sort of state they’re in. While “on hold” and “waiting on” seem similar, in my line of work there’s a bit of a difference. “Waiting on” projects are usually missing one or two things, usually some text to lay out, or some images from a photo shoot. The projects that have been put on hold usually stay in limbo a bit longer, sometimes for months, and I don’t need to keep worrying about them if they’re in the inbox.

Now, if only I could get people to put new things in the inbox instead of my chair, which to be honest I think of as an inbox for my rear end.