Getting Things Done (Part 2 of 4): From Inbox To Next Action 16 comments

Getting Things Done (Part 2 of 4): From Inbox To Next Action

I am not receiving compensation for the content written in this post. This book review is based on my opinion and personal experience. 


Last week in part 1 of this series, I talked about the 5 Stages of Mastering Workflow from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I provided the diagram below to show how to ORGANIZE and PROCESS the results of the things we COLLECT. Therefore giving us an opportunity to REVIEW them and DO the work needed.

Getting Things Done (Part 2 of 4): From Inbox To Next Action Diagram

This workflow process applies to paper clutter, large physical objects, e-mails, EVERYTHING. I will be referring to paper documents mostly because that is my area of need. You can do a complete overhaul of every item in your home or office. Or you can choose one room or area at a time. It all depends on how much time you can devote to the process. You will be simply collecting, processing, and organizing items with this diagram. The reviewing and doing comes later.

What you will need to get started:                     
Paper holding trays 
Storage bins
Stack of plain paper
Post-it notes
Digital or printed calendar
Trash bags
Paper clips
File folders
Label maker (optional)

“The outer ring of the workflow diagram shows the main grouping into which things will go as you decide what they are and what needs to be done about them,” writes Allen.

Projects & Project Plans
Waiting For
Next Actions

I set up storage bins to hold most of the things that fit into these main groupings as I go through the steps of the diagram above. I mark the bins clearly because I am a visual person. Also because the more you can get out of your head and onto paper–the better.


Trash: I absolutely love purging items. If I can put something in a trash bag, I will! Old financial and confidential documents no longer needed are shredded. And I recycle. Read my post My Big Fat To Do List to find out how. I also donate applicable things as well. I utilize Pick Up Please also known as Vietnam Veterans of America. I can schedule a pick-up online and place the items (clothes, toys, small appliances, etc.) outside my front door. No need to be home when they arrive. They leave a receipt for you. Check to see if they are in your area.

Someday/Maybe: I rip pages out of magazines constantly. Then I recycle the magazine. The pages are normally of places that I want to visit, things I want to do, products that I want to try. These go in the Someday/Maybe bin. I also make labels for file folders to put here to organize travel, products, etc. You can also keep a running list of these things and keep in this bin. Then the item where the idea originated from can be trashed or recycled.

Reference: I use file folders with labels here for household records, medical records, income taxes, etc. You may find that these folders are only looked at a few times a year–only when you need to access information, update, or purge. I also use a holding tray for reference items I want to act on immediately and may not need the reference item afterward.

Calendar: In addition to housing all the important dates in your life such as birthdays and anniversaries, calendars are great for triggering action. I prefer an online calendar and the one on my cell phone. I can set up alerts for upcoming events or things to review in lieu of a piece of paper. Writing actions on a printed calendar is still effective if you place it a week ahead or a day ahead and you monitor your calendar daily.

Projects & Project Plans: This bin for me is oversized or consists of more than one bin. I always have dozens of projects going on. The key is to assess the next step for the project. Here are my scrapbooks and the materials that go with them. I have several lists of DIY projects that I want to tackle as well in this bin. Any projects with deadlines can be noted on your calendar and a reminder alert can be set up if it is a digital one.

Waiting For: This area can be a little dicey. Here is where items go that you need someone else’s input on. Or you need something else to take place before it can be accomplished. Write what you are waiting for on a Post-it note and attach it. I will discuss weekly reviews in next week’s post about how to stay on top of this grouping and the others.

Next Actions: I do not rely on the physical thing to trigger my mind to process it. I write what the next action is on a Post-it note and attach it. Many times that allows me to purge it from this particular bin completely. Make the next action specific. For example, Use this data for my HaHeWi Post next week, Rig this recipe and make tomorrow. Take pics for upcoming post. If I use file folders with labels in this bin, the Post-it note is attached to the front of the folder. Everything else is a single sheet of paper or an object with a note stating a specific next step.

TIP: Represent a large physical object with a sheet of paper. Write a name for the object on it and place it in the holding tray/storage bin for the main grouping it belongs in.

The intent is not to keep these bins full all the time. Part 3 of this series will talk about how to review these bins to get things constantly moved out of them.


Which organizing system do you use?

Do you think the workflow diagram is helpful?

Linking to: The Art of Living Fabulously 

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16 thoughts on “Getting Things Done (Part 2 of 4): From Inbox To Next Action

    • BeingAWordsmith

      In my previous jobs outside the home, I was horrible at delegating. I either didn't want someone else doing my work incorrectly, didn't think someone else could do it as well as me, or thought I could do it quicker than explaining it to someone. I have since learned that outside help is ” A-OK”. You don't have to be superwoman all the time. Thank you for commenting.
      My recent post Celebrities Who Need To Go Sit Down Somewhere

  • adrianscrazylife

    I think my problem is that I am a very visual person. It I can't SEE it, it isn't likely to get done. And I am the worst Email hoarder ever! I keep thousands of the darn things, even though I have an aggregator service that rolls up my coupons and newsletter-type Emails. I just don't make enough use of the delete button. I think I need to have a separate folder or something where I can corral the actionable items and keep on top of them. But Inbox Zero – I don't think I'm ever going to get there and I don't know if I want to. I tried it for a while and I spent so much more time obsessing about my inbox and very little time actually doing the stuff in the inbox! I think I need to go read your Big Fat To Do List post and see if that will help.
    My recent post Much Ado About a Tattoo

  • Britton

    Oh Gosh! I am organized in my professional work like, but at home…my life is an absolute mess! I LOVE throwing away paper and trash, but I always seem to keep paper I don't need often and it always piles up! These are some wonderful tips on how to stay organized and this flow chart is great! Thanks for linking up!
    My recent post I Dreamed Of My Sister…

    • BeingAWordsmith

      You are already on your way. Your inbox is out in front of you. Go for it!
      My recent post Everything You Need To Know About The Haves And The Have Nots

  • rxfitnesslady

    Good follow up Kim. Thanks for sharing your tips. I have a pretty good filing system…remembering to file is where I get behind. I wish there were a few more hours in the day!

    • BeingAWordsmith

      It can be overwhelming. I work on it for about an hour and take a break. I try to do enough to make the area look neat. Buying cute storage containers and bins can make clutter invisible. Thanks for stopping by, Cassi!
      My recent post Everything You Need To Know About The Haves And The Have Nots