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GTD Mastery 100: Step 4

To read my complete journey to GTD Mastery see the main post.

Step 4 to GTD Mastery is: I have a physical inbox, which I use daily.

On page 92 of Getting Things Done, Allen lists (at least three) paper-holding trays as the first basic processing tool for GTD.

These will serve as your in-basket and out-basket, with one or two others for work-in-progress support papers and/or your “read and review” stack. The most functional trays are the side-facing letter or legal stackable kinds, which have no “lip” on them to keep you from sliding out a single piece of paper.

My physical inbox consists of four, letter-sized, “lipless”, stacking trays.

My stacking trays


The top tray is for any new items that need to be processed. When I’ve finished emptying my in-basket for the day, I get to press the red, shiny “easy” button.

The second tray is for items I may need in the near future (e.g. receipts, current reference material).

The third tray is just a stack of lined paper which I use for doing homework and any writing that doesn’t need to be word processed.

The bottom tray is for my read/review which includes books, articles/magazines, and CDs that I want to listen to.

I haven’t grasped the concept of the “out-basket.” I don’t think it’s mentioned anywhere else in the book. If any readers use an out-basket in their system, I’d be interested in what it is and how you use it.

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Related posts:

  1. GTD Mastery 100 Series
  2. GTD Mastery 100: Steps 2 & 3
  3. GTD Mastery 100: Step 1
  4. Meme: My Killer GTD Setup
  5. Vitalist, possibly THE best GTD app out there

7 Responses to “GTD Mastery 100: Step 4”

  1. Skye Stout says:

    I have an OUT folder, that I carry along with my IN and Read & Review folder, and when I have something to mail or a paper to turn in, I put it in ‘OUT’.

  2. DWarrior says:

    I think the Out Basket is more for work environments where you regularly have to send out letters and documents.

    I have a similar setup, except only 3 trays, so I don’t have a paper tray. When I have to send out the odd letter, I put it sideways in my Work in Progress (middle) tray so it sticks out, or just put it in my bag.

  3. Mary Anne in Kentucky says:

    My outbox holds mainly things to be mailed. Sometimes it has information I need to take with me to shop: the specs for my vacuum cleaner’s HEPA filter, the number of a paint sample, things to be photocopied. I have a place near the door for things like library books that wouldn’t fit. My “read and review” stack is near my favorite reading chair because, being mostly books and newspapers, it would never fit in a tray. My other two trays hold paper, like yours, and the disks I use to sneaker net things between my two computers.
    When I was in grad school everything that went to campus went directly into my book bag, bypassing the outbox.

  4. Nathaniel says:

    Wow, talk about organization dedication. Nice. Efficiency can be key.

  5. Chris Y. says:

    Thanks for all the insightful comments.

    I have to agree with Mary Anne. Anything that I need to take to school just goes straight into my backpack because it takes less than two minutes to pack it.

  6. Dan Smith says:

    I’ve a similar system, with an inbox and a tray containing active “project” files that I might need in the next few days and a pad of paper. A read/review box would really be a good idea so I’m hunting about for my spare inbox at the moment. Cheers.

    Does the “easy” button flash and sing a song? I really want it to.

  7. Chris Y. says:

    It says, “that was easy.” It’s the slogan for Staples.