Piles are deadly to your productivity. Why? because when stuff piles up, it enters a kind of Twilight Zone.
Not a spooky kind of Twilight Zone, but a form of limbo where no work gets done.
Piles reek of uncomfortable questions:
What’s in there?
Is anything seriously late?
Is there anything that’s going to be awkward to bring up again at this point?
And piles prevent us from asking questions that could be helpful:
- What should I be working on now?
- What should I work on later this week or next week?
- What should I just drop, so it’s no longer on my mind?
Like mucky ponds, piles stink because they’re stagnant. They have no movement, no velocity, no momentum.
3 Kinds of Piles
We get three main types of piles. All three are bad, and all three are avoidable.
Physical piles—actual paper documents on our desk
Email—an inbox full of un-dealt-with messages waiting around for the “someday” when we’ll have time to deal with them all
Tasks—items on our to-do list that we haven’t processed into a useable system (in an app like Remember the Milk)
The electronic piles are just as bad as the physical kind, because they can grow even faster, and it’s easier to stop looking at them.
The Velocity Principle
Say goodbye to piles. Say hello to Inbox Zero, whether the inbox is physical or electronic.
If we want to get our most important work done, we have to put things in motion.
Have a document that’s been sitting on your desk for a while? Slap a Next Action Sticky on it and throw it in your tickler file. Or pass it on to whomever should be handling it.
Have a bunch of tasks sitting in your to-do app inbox? Process them into your list system so they’ll get the attention they deserve.
But don’t leave any of this in piles. Piles stink. Velocity is the key to getting work done and getting rid of your piles.