A lot of times people try to find the latest and greatest tool to fully organize their lives. I can tell you up front… it’s not gonna happen. What makes the self-help/productivity arena so interesting is there there isn’t one tool to “rule them all”. Some have come close, but tools aren’t meant to organize everything in our lives. That’s not their strength.
Because as of yet there hasn’t been the mythical app that controls every detail in our busy lives, we should focus more on becoming more productive with our existing tools. So in that spirit, I’ve decided to share a little trick that works pretty effectively with your online tasks. I’ve used this system mostly for blogging, but the uses are practically limitless. I call it the Browser Inbox.
The basic premise is this: use your browser’s tabs to track your things to do. If you have a modern browser like Firefox, you can have multiple tabs open within the browser. Each tab can be thought of as a task (or Next Action for the GTD Junkies), and once you’re done with the task, close the tab. It’s extremely simple, but it’s surprisingly effective.
Here’s an example.
I’ll crack open my trusty Google Reader and start browsing feeds. If I see a story that’s compelling and a possible post topic, I’ll hit V and open the original page in a new tab. By the time I’m done reading, I may have 6 or 7 tabs open. I systematically go through and read each story, deciding whether each one is blog-worthy. If it is, I write the post. If not, I close the tab. Easy, right?
I love this approach because
- The tabs are physical reminders that I can’t ignore
- I’m not bringing any other tools or extra processes into the mix
- I have everything I need in one spot
Granted, this system has some obvious limitations (like all tools). The browser inbox only works if I know I’m going to be writing in the immediate future. Also, if Firefox crashes and the system can’t restore your session, or your browser is accidentally closed, you’re screwed.
But, at the same time, the simplicity forces you to quickly get through the “inbox” of your browser’s tabs quickly. The physical closing of each tab is pretty satisfying too, so that’s a subtle motivator as well.
So there you have it. The Browser Inbox: Gently forcing people to finish their online tasks quickly. A nice tagline, don’t you think? ;)
I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions on this system. Can anyone think of other uses for the BI?
[Update: You guys had some great suggestions! Be sure to check out the comment thread for incorporating the BI with offline tasks as well.]