If you’re like me, you download or clip a large number of articles and other materials you plan to read, process, or use later. And, if you’re like me, you often fall behind. Even though you regularly process and/or purge your inbox, it always seems to get bigger.  

Like The Blob, it continually grows. And it’s coming to get you.   

To get this mess under control, one thing I’ve done for my notes and clippings is to set up multiple inboxes instead of putting everything into one. Smaller inboxes are less overwhelming, making it more likely I will get through them instead of avoiding them as I sometimes do when I’m tired or busy with other things.

It’s easier to get thorough 20 articles than it is to get through 200. 

Break your big inbox into smaller, more manageable chunks. Divide and conquer. 

You can do this with notes, email, articles you want to read, documents you need to go through, or anything else where you tend to fall behind. 

You might have separate inboxes for different clients or cases. Anything that comes in regarding Smith vs. Jones, for example, goes into its own inbox. When you’re working on that file, you have everything in one place and don’t need to find these notes or documents among 300 others in a general inbox. 

You might have separate inboxes for

  • Different clients
  • Major projects
  • Blog or newsletter ideas
  • General reading
  • Marketing or productivity articles (e.g., my emails)
  • The book you’re working on
  • Documents or correspondence to file
  • Items you need to review this week

When something comes in, it goes in the appropriate inbox. When you’re ready to work on that project or file, or you’re in the mood to read about a certain subject, you’ll have everything in one place and can get through it more quickly. 

You can also give the contents of a certain inbox to an assistant and let them do the processing and filing for you.

Another advantage is that sometimes you find you don’t need the contents of a certain inbox and don’t have to read the contents at all. When a project is completed or you decide to abandon it, for example, you can either delete all those new and unread articles or archive them for a later date. 

Productivity experts tell you to have as few inboxes as possible to make collection and processing easier. But when you’re falling behind and have a big backlog staring at you, I find that multiple inboxes is the way to go.