Getting All Your Eggs in Your In-Basket For Spring!

It takes only SIX baskets to keep you organized – anything beyond that, and you will start finding ‘rotten eggs’ – missed obligations, forgotten appointments, and lost paperwork. 


It’s the first day of spring, and you are probably ready for some spring cleaning of your desk and workspace. Start fresh with a clear desk and a clear head.  You should have a ‘place for everything’....  and you know the rest.  


The six baskets are:

1.     Trusted Note-taking Capture system/To-Do list

2.     Physical In-basket

3.     Calendar

4.     Tickler files

5.     Project Support Materials

6.     Reference Files


The goal is to know exactly where everything is, so you can retrieve it with ease when you are ready to work on it and you will be reminded of the information when you need it.   No egg hunts!  You can avoid having piles of paper, mail, receipts, files, journals, and notepads all over your desk, car, and kitchen counters.


David Allen, the foremost authority on stress-free productivity and inventor of the Getting Things Done GTD® system, explains, “any potentially meaningful thing you can’t finish the moment you think of it needs to be captured externally, in some trusted place. Sooner than later you need to look at what that is and decide more discreetly, “what exactly am I going to do about that? In terms of outcomes and actions.”


You then need to park the results of that thinking in appropriate categories, so that some part of you doesn’t have to keep re-thinking ‘what does that mean’? “


Continue reading for more detail on each basket….


1.     Trusted Note-taking Capture System/To-Do List – It’s important to have only ONE capture system. Keep it with you in your phone, wallet, or bag.  If you have more than one, quickly move all the captured thoughts, ideas, and to-dos into one system, and discard the reminder. You might record a voice memo while walking the dogs, for example, but plan to write down the content of the memos in your trusted notebook or list system at the end of each day.

2.     Physical In-basket -   a collection spot for any items you have not yet decided what to do with.  Have only one ‘IN’ basket for items you have not dealt with yet.  These may be mail, bills, notes you have written to yourself with great ideas, task reminders, collected project materials, etc.  The important thing is to designate one location for all the ‘stuff’ and then clear your purse, car, desk, and other surfaces of these items. Drop them in your in-basket.  Each day, or every few days, you should work your way through the in-basket until you can see the bottom.  I use the top drawer of my desk as my inbox, so that I can close the drawer and have a clear work surface when I’m ready to start the deep work of a project, without distracting clutter.

3.     Reference Files – Keep factual information for reference in a set of file folders, filed alphabetically in a drawer within easy reach of your workspace.  Examples may include landscaping tips, kids old schoolwork and report cards, insurance policies, and keepsake letters.  A ‘to file’ pile is another basket – avoid this! 

4.     Tickler files – Tickler files are a set of 43 files labeled with days of the month 1-31, and months of the year, January - December, as a perpetual calendar file folder system. These files contain information you will need to refer to or deal with on that day.   Send yourself reminders in the future by dropping a note in the tickler file on a future day.  Mom’s birthday is the 12th. Put her card in the tickler file for the 8th so you remember to drop it in the mailbox right on time.

5.     Project Support Materials – Each project you are working on should have its own folder, containing your notes and references for the project.  Taking a trip to Paris?  The articles you have printed out, train tickets, hotel reservation confirmation, and your Paris pass will be in the folder.

6.     Calendar – Electronic or paper, your calendar contains the list of appointments you have with yourself and others.  The items in the calendar are non-negotiable, firm commitments, with ‘hard-stop’ times.


Take some time to give your desk an ‘over-easy’ spring cleaning, or you’ll be scrambling when you want to be out playing and egg hunting!