While many productivity experts religiously follow the “only touch it once” system for document management, I’m more of a “touch it as few times as necessary” system follower. There are simply times when touching a paper only once is unrealistic for me — the mail will arrive while I’m on a phone call or I need to really mull something over before responding.
To handle these touch-more-than-once documents, I have a (gasp!) procrastination bin on my desk. Actually, it’s a basket that hangs from a shelf, but “hanging procrastination basket” just doesn’t have the same catchy name factor as the straightforward “procrastination bin.”
I have certain rules for what can and can’t go into the procrastination bin. The bin isn’t a dumping ground for things I don’t want to do or a spot for papers that need to be filed. It’s a designated area for things that can’t or shouldn’t be dealt with right now.
Qualities that make it okay for a document to go in the procrastination bin:
- It can fit. If the procrastination bin is full, nothing more can go inside of it and the document must be processed immediately. There is no squishing, fancy folding, or clever engineering to fit more inside the bin than what it was designed to contain.
- There are no consequences for procrastinating. If putting off the task will cause me stress, cause someone else frustration, or has a nearly immediate deadline, the document cannot go into the bin.
- Time is scheduled on the calendar for when to do it. When a paper goes into the bin, an entry must be made on the calendar for when to properly process the paper. Nothing can go into the bin and be forgotten.
- Procrastinating might be better than taking care of it right now. There are times when not taking immediate action is actually the best thing to do. The procrastination bin is perfect for these types of documents.
- The bin is small. I purposefully purchased the hanging basket that is made of wide mesh and isn’t very large. It can only be used for papers, and I’m not tempted to use it for items other than paperwork. It has a dedicated purpose and limited functionality.
In addition to the rules I have for the procrastination bin, I also have 30 minutes blocked off on my calendar each month to re-evaluate everything that is in the bin. Even with other dates on the calendar to process each paper, I’ve found that this 30 minutes will often take care of some of the items earlier than planned. I always schedule this 30 minute evaluation to occur right after lunch when my concentration levels are low. I realized that it’s better to use this time in a somewhat productive manner than waste it staring off into space, zoning out.