Inbox Zero, Everything Zero

August 6, 2013 holman

Maybe I was being a bit facetious when I tweeted this yesterday, but it is indicative towards how I do things these days.

todo is a (very) simple script that basically runs touch ~/Desktop/$1, so todo book-nyc-hotel will create a blank file on my desktop called book-nyc-hotel. When I’ve booked a hotel, I just delete the file from my desktop. That’s it.

Workflows without tools

I’ve used a lot of tools. Tools designed to streamline your workflow, tools that tag things, tools that organize things, tools that organize your tools.

Everyone works differently. The trick is finding out how you work best. For me, I tend to take an OCD approach to emptying things. I keep a clean desktop: under three icons at a time, preferably. It made sense to use my desktop as a kind of bucket I needed to empty: it’s always there, and I can put short, actionable items there because that visually disturbs me enough to want to clean it off (and do the action).

This is why Inbox Zero works so well for handling email for me. I try to use that mentality everywhere, really: iOS notifications, browser tabs, terminal tabs, and so on. Reducing ambiguity around what to do next is a huge deal for me.


I think what I like most is that this approach isn’t glamorous. I can’t search through my todos (well, aside from find(1)). I can’t tag them. But that means it forces me to focus on actionable things I can accomplish today or by the end of the week. Anything further out just doesn’t matter right now. Constraints are helpful.

Tools are great. But make sure the tools you’re using aren’t themselves another version of shit work.