Where are the black holes in your system?

black-hole-space-flikr.jpgWhere are the places in your system that semi-processed items collect, never to be heard from again?

The things that end up in these places are the items you sorta-kinda-maybe know need to go somewhere, but you're not certain exactly where. More importantly, you don't feel like taking the time on the front-end to actually decide.

I call these places "black holes" because similar to black holes in space, items get sucked into them and never re-appear. For many folks, the biggest black hole is the email inbox.

In my system, a big black hole used to be the "Read/Review" context. When I came across denser materials such as meeting notes or lengthy articles needing my attention, they'd end up in this context vortex. That's fine on the surface, but the problem was, I wasn't really certain I was committed to reading these items. Many of them were better suited in a Someday/Maybe entry or in an email folder for reference. Or even just deleted outright.

I should have kept a hard edge on my Read/Review context by reserving it only for actions I was committing to myself to get done. Because I didn't do that, it ballooned into something unmanageable.

When I'd do my Weekly Review on my preferred day of Monday, I'd skip reviewing the Read/Review context because it gave me a headache. Too many semi-processed items clamoring for a decision.

The problems with allowing this kind of situation to develop are twofold:
1. Your system starts to repel you
2. You have to process these items again later = double the work

Your system starts to repel you

The more pockets of semi-processed (really, unprocessed) items that are in your system, the less time you want to spend there. Those pockets represent decisions begging for your attention, and that's just plain stressful. The longer this goes on, the less your system becomes a trusted system. The end result is that you start keeping everything in your head and you fall off the GTD wagon.

The solutions are straight-forward but hard to do consistently: make time for a regular Weekly Review to keep your system fresh and be ruthless about making decisions on the front-end.

The better your tools support you in this, the happier you'll be. That's why eProductivity includes the Weekly Review Coach and features such as prompting you to create a next action once you've started a new project.

You have to process these items again later = double the work

This is obviously unproductive. Save yourself time by processing everything only once, if possible.

For many people, their email inbox is the biggest source of double processing. They leave emails in the inbox because they haven't really decided what the email means. Then every time they look at their inbox, they have to mentally process their emails again. That's exhausting.

Again, that's why eProductivity makes processing emails easy. It encourages you to decide about your emails on the front-end and quickly put them in their rightful place, whether that is a new task or in a reference entry.

So what about you?

Well as for me, finally one day I spent some time and did make some decisions about Read/Review. The number of items there was trimmed considerably.  I swore to myself that going forward, I'd maintain harder edges on that context and only allow in items I was committed to get done.

So far, it's going alright. ;-)

Where are the places in your system that need harder edges and more complete decisions on the front-end?

Photo:
Ethan Hein

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