One of my biggest organizational problems is that I always have things floating around in my email inbox, and always have tons of browser tabs open. It causes overwhelm and makes it difficult to focus.
However, I recently had an insight into one big reason why I follow this behavior. It’s not purely out of laziness or lack of organization. It’s actually kind of adaptive, in a way, in that my attention is constantly browsing over my inbox and browser tabs, and so letting things sit around in these areas is a way to keep them fresh in my mind in a very natural / passive / automatic way until they’re dealt with in a more final and decisive form.
I can actually be quite well organized when I want to be. But when I file things away into an organizational system (say, in an intuitive subfolder of my bookmarks, or informative label in my gmail inbox), those things almost immediately become invisible to me. I know where to track them down when I need to find them, it’s true, but what I lose is the general ambient awareness that they are things I should still keep in mind, or should review or revisit sometime soon, or have some task(s) still associated with them that I still need to accomplish. I basically forget they exist and they lose traction on my awareness and intentions.
So, I figure that what I need is a way to structure my system that will address this need to have certain items (like specific emails or websites) have a status of “things to keep in mind / be aware of / review / address in the near future,” but in a way where they’re not constantly in my face and cluttering my mind. Basically some kind of organizational middle ground between “stuff that’s lying around disorganized right in front of you” and “stuff that is neatly filed away that you’ll immediately forget even exists.”
Are there any good organizational solutions for this? I have a vague idea that one way to do it would be to have some kind of automated reminder be associated with the relevant items once they’re filed away. The automated reminder would serve as the prompt to revisit them, and in the meantime they would be filed away and out of sight. What has NOT worked for me is doing something like maintaining a separately curated list of things / emails / web sites to keep in mind in the short term. Maintaining such a list adds a lot of overhead compared to just leaving emails in the inbox / leaving browser tabs open, and ironically the list itself winds up being something that I eventually stray from visiting regularly because it requires deliberate remembering instead of being automatically / passively viewed like my inbox and browser tabs.