I’m refining this organizational theory for completing tasks. Inspired by highways, warehouse shipping/receiving, the human body, and other data processing systems, this workflow has only three sections: “incoming,” “processing,” and “outbound.” When all aspects are working correctly, things flow smoothly. Otherwise, if one aspect isn’t working correctly, things build up. I’ve been successfully using this system to tackle my own hoarding tendencies, so let’s explore the specifics of this component of my “Zeal” office renovation.
Let’s say I just got home from going to a concert where I bought some albums.
Before, I’d place the albums in a random spot near my media computer, and maybe eventually get to cataloging and filing away the albums. I’d sometimes get to this right away, mostly however, not. Now I have a designated “incoming” spot for anything: leisurely albums, work notes, or tasks to do. Ideally, this spot should be empty, so the next time I’m at my office computer, I’ll have easy access to these things to “process.”
This helps me retain focus.
Continuing this post-concert example, by placing these albums in the “incoming” spot as part of my decompression process, I’ll tend to them the next time I’m working at my office computer. My focus can remain on drinking water, then preparing for bed, so I can wake up at a decent hour. Once I’m rested, and later on in the day when I’ve allocated time and focus for the cataloging “process,” I can get to work.
You can’t “process” things all day, every day, after all.
Since I’ve instilled the “incoming” spot as empty space, when I sit down at my office computer, I’ll tend to tasks until I’m done, run out of time, or tired. Let’s say I’m done with prior obligations and it’s time to catalog those albums I bought at the concert. Once I’m done, I’ll place the albums in the “outbound” spot, which I’ll take with me to file away the next time I leave the office.
The “outbound” spot should also remain empty.
For both the “incoming” and “outbound” spots, to stay organized, I have a fast and slow lane. The fast lane is for tasks that need a quick check, such as cataloging albums, researching tasks, or testing items. The slow lane is for tasks that require more time like reading mail or reviewing projects. Both need to keep moving, so if there’s a stalled task, it’s deferred until later thus maintaining the throughput of the system.
This isn’t a purely physical system, either.
My theory is that things accumulate because the throughput is clogged somewhere in our systems. Let’s say you have a stressful job. If you’re taking in stress, processing the stress, and flushing out stress, then you’re in good shape. What happens if there’s too much stress queued up? What if you haven’t properly addressed the stress? Or what if you haven’t put the stress away? The system might keep on going for a while, hopefully…
Good luck accessing the messes.