OFFICE Tip 54: Sort Your Inbox

Your Inbox contains the papers that have recently come in that you have not sorted yet. Recycle, shred, or delegate anything that you do not want or do not need to take action on. For the papers that need action, these get placed in your active files or Daily Action Center. Use whichever term works best for you; just know what differentiates active papers from reference files. Active files are your current or ongoing papers that need some type of response. Reference files are things you want to keep to refer back to later but no action is required.

Examples of papers you may move from your inbox to your action files might include: Current Projects, Client files, Bills to Pay, Receipts, Reading, To Schedule. Each of these may have folders within these categories. You may be working on multiple projects, have various ongoing clients, etc. I have subdivided Bills to Pay into Due 1-15 and Due 16-31 for clients who pay their bills bi-monthly. These action files are further described in 10-minute tidy tips later in this chapter.

Be sure that you make a decision about every paper that comes into your inbox. If you delay your decision, this just ends up as clutter. If you can’t decide what to do with a specific paper, put it on the bottom of the pile and keep making decisions about what you know you either need to take action on or want to keep. Sort you inbox as often as you necessary to keep it clutter free.

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