The Inbox is maybe the most elementary and the most popular feature of GTD.
Since it is used to gather everything in one place it could be extremely useful to whoever tries to be organized.
But, there are cases where the Inbox rule tends to become dictatorial (well, it IS dictatorial for our own good in the first place).
The motto of GTD is to put everything in the inbox without giving it a second thought, because it will be processed later.
...because it will be processed LATER!
Here is the real problem.
Not that you will procrastinate and avoid processing, but even if you process, you will do it later! Not on the fly. Because the system is built just on this principle!!!
But there are cases where this principle is more of an annoyance than anything else.
I work on several projects at the same time, and when an idea pops-up I find more natural to put it right away in in the project folder.
But this is not possible unless I have indeed instant access to this folder, without breaking the stream of my thoughts!
The GTD system assumes you don't have instant access to your folders, this is why there is a single inbox for everything, and this is certainly a very great feature of GTD.
But if I had instant access? I mean, if I would just type a few letters of the project I want to work on to have it displayed instantly and ready to accept new notes at the right place?
I would have my projects' information always up to date.
So if I would need to retrieve an information I had just entered I would know where to find it : right in the plroject folder.
With the GTD system I would fear it could still be in the Inbox, without really knowing.
It happens so often since new information is often the one which is the most needed.
The problem I often have with GTD is that when I look for some information in the project folder I sometimes don't find it because it is STILL IN THE INBOX!
Therefore the GTD system doesn't work for me(without stress) since I don't have all my info at the same place.
Of course you would say I should always keep my inbox clear... But to do so I should process info as soon as I put something into... that means, having an inbox becomes an extra step in this case, and bypassing the inbox would be a faster strategy indeed.
So, as I stated in an article on WikidPad I access my projects immediately and append info to them.
I don't have a page full of checklists of different projects sorted by importance or context, I have a checklist BY project ON the project page.
Why that??? Because when I want to see the checklist of project2, it is absolutely unnatural to first search a page named "checklist".
So I search "project2" right away, THEN I search "checklist".
Concretely, in Wikidpad it would be roughtly 2 steps :
- ct2 ← these are the last letters of project2, since I have several projects beginning by "project" it is the fastest way to get the wanted page
- Ctrl-F ← this is the command for the incremental search on the page
written like this it looks complicated but in fact in my head I think only:
So I can access all my information ubiquituously the way I think it...
I think this is the true base on which we should try to build the trusted system.
Instant access IS the solution (and when it is not possible, of course, there is the inbox. In my case, a HPDA for analog capture, a cameraphone for pictures and mails on the go, and google as a digital repository/nerve center(gmail, docs, photos), as well as a USB drive with all my essential portable apps, including Wikidpad, firefox portable with all my customizations, and a command line launcher, for the most used. I also use ccleaner for uninstalling programs and FastStone viewer for browsing pictures).
And we are getting closer and closer to a good instant access interface for windows with the recent increase of command line launcher softwares like Dash and Executor (I can't get why we still don't have a killer one but... well).
If it isn't clear enough you can ask in the comments, and I will correct what needs to.