Taking Control of Your Queues

by Kelle on June 8, 2009

New Year, Clean Inbox by patrickrhone

Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits is always putting up great posts about productivity and happiness. One of the most recent ones is 8 Liberating Strategies for Clearing the Queues in Your Life. Some common queues that are constantly battling for our attention include: work email, personal email, work voicemail, personal voicemail, instant messages, text messages, astro-ph, our to-do list, Facebook comments, unread items in feed reader, tweets, and it can go on and on. Just writing that list stresses me out!

Photo by patrickrhone.

In this post, I summarize and put my own spin on Leo’s suggestions for clearing and consolidating your queues with the goal of minimizing the stress they can cause.

  1. Simplify your queues. Consolidate and eliminate. I don’t have work voicemail and with Google Voice, I hope to soon only have one (New York City 917) phone number. I use one GMail account for all my various email addresses. I frequently take stock and unsubscribe from non-useful RSS feeds and email distribution lists.
  2. Self service. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again, find a way to automate the task. Put frequently requested information on your website or FTP server and remove yourself as a bottleneck.
  3. Stop at the source. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. In academia, seminar spam is ridiculously prevalent. Encourage seminar organizers to share the seminar calendar so that people can use their own calendar program (e.g., iCal or Google Calendar) to decide where they want to be at 3pm on Wed and how and when they want to be reminded and eliminate the absurdity of multiple emails for recurring events.
  4. Filter out unnecessary stuff. Use email filters to prevent non-pressing things (e.g., newsletters, monthly bill notifications) out of your Inbox. I use GMail filters to tag and move the vast majority of my email someplace where I can read it at my leisure. My current Inbox has 23 messages in it.
  5. Pick the most important. To me, the key to an effective task-management system is the ability to identify the top 3-5 things in your queue that you want to deal with first. I use the Things Today view for this purpose but you could also use a label, folder, or tag.
  6. Clear the rest. Get rid of items that you will probably never get to or really don’t care about. Archive in GMail, Mark all as Read in Google Reader, Someday label/folder/tag for items you might want to come back to at a later date.
  7. Skim. Just because you subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds, doesn’t mean you’ve committed to reading every post. Skim, read the headlines, and then mark all as read.
  8. Let go of the need to get to the end. Accept the fact that we’ll never get to the end of our various lists, and that that’s OK. Stop stressing about the length and existence of queues and instead, manage them smartly and deal with the flow as it comes in.

Read the full article: 8 Liberating Strategies for Clearing the Queues in Your Life [Zen Habits]

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: