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Path: Capabilities: Individual: Productivity: Inbox
Friday, 08 September 2017


7 Processes For Organizing Your Inbox

Francis Pedraza
Sep 8, 2017 · 7 min read

First, when we say “Inbox”, we do not mean your Email Inbox. Indeed, “Inbox” for us has nothing to do with Communication per se. When we use the word “Inbox”, we mean “place where you add stuff to your digital brain” — your mouth, your input location.

For instance, when an Idea pops into your mind, where do you put it? You don’t have time to go find your Ideas Channel on Slack or an Ideas Folder on Google Drive. So you need an Inbox.

Slack is perfect for building an Inbox system. Start with one Channel for your master Inbox. Mine is called #inb-fjp. That Channel is always starred and I add things to it all day long. If I remember a Task I forgot to write down, I add it. If I have a Thought, I add it. If I find a Book I want to read later, I add it. If I remember an Email I want to write later, I start a draft there.

If you build an Inbox for yourself, you’ll soon discover what a powerful tool it is. It lets you capture inspiration while allowing you to stay focused.

But what if you’re not in Slack? What if you’re in Email or Facebook Messenger? What if you’re mobile? Do you have to switch back to Slack every time you want to add something to your Inbox?

And what happens when your Inbox piles high? What do you do with all of these inputs? Don’t they have to go somewhere?

Without Invisible Technologies to help you build and run Processes to organize your Inbox, there are no good answers to these questions. Either you have to design a very simple but weak system, or spend a huge amount of time creating and organizing and maintaining a powerful system, or you just give up on having an Inbox altogether, forgoing all of the benefits of a digital brain.

1. Reminders

The first thing you’ve got to do is build a habit around using your Inbox. Your S.I. will send you reminders if you stop using it frequently. If you overcome the input costs, your digital brain will begin to grow.

2. Sorting

Once you have a reasonable set of Messages in your Inbox, your S.I. will begin to sort them into Data Types. For example, Ideas are a data type. So are Agendas and Books and Feedback.

Here is a recent “Thought” I had.

No matter what kind of data you input into your inbox, it has a unique type. Eventually you may have hundreds of data types.

If you don’t like way your S.I. categorizes your data by default, you can request edits to the taxonomy — like everything that we do, it is customizeable; (a dynamic orthodoxy, if you will).

The important thing is to start grouping likes with likes. Once your S.I. can do this, it can recognize and categorize anything that you enter, and then begin to perform various operations on it to organize your data into a robust digital brain.

3. Nests

Every data type gets its own unique channel. For example, I can find all the recent additions to my Book list in #inb-fjp-books, and all of my recent Meeting Notes in #inb-fjp-meetings.

We call these sub-inboxes “Nests”, because they are nested under the master Inbox in your Slack sidebar. Your S.I. will move Messages from your Inbox into your Nests, so you can see likes with likes.

If you visualize your Inbox as an unsorted pile of data, your Nests are the first step towards the exact opposite. Your S.I. has now labeled the data and sorted it into smaller, more manageable, piles.

(Partial View) I have such a big Nest, I have a Directory just to keep track of them!

Moving things into Nests gets your Inbox down to Zero. Getting to Zero Inbox is very motivating, because it sends a signal to your brain to create more! When a system does the organization work for you, you are free to create as much as you want — and move at the speed of your mind.

As you can see, my master Inbox is empty; because my data has been moved to Nests.

4. Bits

So far we have skipped over exactly how your S.I. labels your data. Suppose you enter the following text into your Inbox:

Finished report.

Your S.I. will then turn this into:

Done Finished Report.

That is what we call a Bit. It is one sentence of structured data. It isn’t just an ordinary Message anymore, it is now structured data. With the addition of the data type in bold, it has now been labelled and can be sorted into a Nest (#inb-fjp-done), where all the other recent Done Tasks are piling up.

5. Bites

What about longer Messages, like paragraphs? Suppose you had a dream last night, and you enter this in your inbox.

I had a dream last night.
I was flying in space, naked, without a suit.
Somehow, I was safe and I could breathe.
I could go as fast as I wanted to go.
I travelled from solar system to solar system.
I even went inside of suns and gas giants.
I eventually found a blue world and landed.
Then I met a strange and beautiful race of sentient beings.
It wouldn’t be right to call them humans, exactly.
But they were like humans — even more powerful and beautiful.

Your S.I. will then turn this into:

I had a dream last night.
I was flying in space, naked, without a suit.
Somehow, I was safe and I could breathe.

This is what we call a Bite. A Bite is a paragraph of structured data. Just like a Bit, once it is labelled it is sorted into a Nest. This Bite, for example, will go to #inb-fjp-dreams where my other recent Dreams await further processing.

6. Blocks

Is it possible to structure data further? Of course it is! You can add Metadata. For example, suppose you get a book recommendation from a friend. Like this:

Last night, Nick B recommended All Things Shining. Something about the Homeric gods inspiring mortal action.

Your S.I. will turn this into:

Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Title: All Things Shining
By: Hubert Dreyfus, Sean Dorrance Kelly
Via: Nicholas Brysiewicz
Something about the Homeric gods inspiring mortal action.

This is a Block. A Block is one or more paragraphs of structured data, including metadata. Every Data Type has its own Template for Blocks. The one you see above is the Template for book recommendations.

Also, you see that, in this case, there is actually a Notes Bite nested inside of the Block. That is typical. Data Types can be paired or unpaired (attached or detached) with other Data Types, because each Data Type receives its own unique ID in our database.

Another example of this pairing is Discussions and Decisions. Discussions often result in Decisions and vice-versa, so sometimes it doesn’t make sense to view them as different files, but to see them combined. In our database, they are separate but related files, so we can display them to you either way.

Perhaps you also noticed that your S.I. guessed that Nick B was Nicholas Brysiewicz. That is the power of having humans in-the-loop, with access all of your data, in this case, your Contacts, Calendar and Communications. We make inferences like this all the time. But no vertical software-only solution is capable of this kind of magic.

Metadata is flexible. If you’d like your S.I. to keep track of new kinds of Metadata, you can request it. For example, you may want your S.I. to label each book by a category in a certain taxonomy. Category: Philosophy, perhaps, in this case. That’s easy to do too!

For example, I ask my S.I. to always add a link to an Ebook, first from iBooks and then, if not available there, from Kindle.

7. Logs

What happens with all of the data that piles up in these nested channels? Eventually, they get turned into Files. Bits turn into Bites turn into Blocks turn into Documents (Slack Posts or Google Documents).

What about forms of media other than text? You can add audio, photo, video, design and other files to your Inbox, and your S.I. will label and sort these too. Our architecture for Templates and Data Types can handle any File Type.

We save Files in Logs for long-term storage. Your S.I. will make sure that Log Channels on Slack and Log Folders on Google Drive mirror each other, so you can find anything you need in either place.

Logs are the archives of your digital brain, and you can search them at any time. Every Data Type gets its own Log, and every File in a Log is organized with the same Template. This way, you can search by Date, by Category, or by any other Metadata field.

As you can imagine, there is no way you’d have time to build and maintain such a powerful system for yourself. Organization is a full time job! Let us do your organizational work for you, so you can do your real work, and create!

Want something custom you don’t see here? Just ask. Our system is robust enough to accomodate customization. If you want us to build a new Process, we’ll build it. If you want to modify an existing Process, we’ll modify it. Chances are, if you want it — someone else does too.

Francis Pedraza

Written by

Is spirit moving?

Invisible: Processes

We do your work, so you can do your real work.

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