In the previous article we explained why it is important to reduce the number of places where you collect new information. In this article, we explain again how to efficiently incorporate those gathering places into your Time Management system. Your gathering places are not places to organise work. That’s what you do in a system. The bridge between the two? OHIO.

We are very much in favour of: one mailbox instead of five, one notepad instead of three, one pile of mail instead of spreading it all over your office. Why is this more convenient? Because you only get a certain amount of new information. 

If you spread that new information out over more gathering places than necessary, it will not only take you more time to organise everything, but you will also lose the overview and start making mistakes or worse setting the wrong priorities.

But a gathering place is not a system

Your mailbox is not a system, the pile on your desk is not a system and your notes are not a system either. They are gathering places. Your Time Management system is a system.

Why is a system more convenient?

What enables you to see more quickly how much work you have and to decide what has priority: a pile of 20 emails or a list of 20 tasks? The list of 20 tasks, of course. The same goes for a stack of 20 requests. In both cases, the same thing applies: in a to-do list, you can choose what has priority. You choose the work, not the other way around. 

It is therefore important that you process your gathering places regularly. The following principles apply here:

  1. You process the gathering places as often as necessary and not once more.
    You probably don’t run to the letterbox at home every time you hear clattering. Do you? At the end of the day, you walk to your mailbox and pick up the mail. And if you forget it for a week? Probably not a disaster. Mail is not in such a hurry.The same goes for your other gathering places.
  2. Really sit down and focus on processing.
    When you start processing the information you have collected, don’t do anything else. You are going to create an overview and nothing but that.
  3. Don’t stop until the gathering place is empty.
    Whether you are processing your mailbox, a pile on your desk or your notes: everything has to go. You don’t leave anything lying around and you certainly don’t put anything back under the motto: “I don’t feel like it”. It has to be empty.
  4. Work according to the OHIO method.
    Force yourself to make a decision about everything and work according to this proven method.


Ohio – only handle it once

The OHIO system – an acronym for ‘Only Handle It Once’. Handle something only once.

You do that by processing new input and making a decision about everything. As soon as input comes your way, but also when you open an e-mail, have an invoice in your hands or a spontaneous idea pops into your head. 

You decide immediately and on the spot what you will do with the new input, as soon as it arises.  

And the OHIO model offers you a number of options:

  1. Discard
  2. Archive
  3. Delegate
  4. Do immediately
  5. Do later

Let us elaborate on these points:


If you have an item that has no action attached to it (i.e. you don’t have to do anything with it) and you don’t need it at a later time, throw it away immediately.

Think of spam messages, advertising leaflets, a memo about a meeting that has already taken place.


Archive items to which no action is (or is no longer) connected, but which you may need later. 

Think of your pension statement, a contract or a report that may come in handy one day, your login codes. 


You delegate an item that contains work that someone else has to carry out. 

Think of a quotation that needs to be signed by your colleague or a price overview that the trainee still has to process. 

Do it right away

If you come across input that you can easily carry out within five minutes, do it immediately. 

Think of giving a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a request or answering a simple e-mail.

Doing it later

Items that take longer than 5 minutes should be scheduled for later – in the time management system you learned about during our training. It is important that you make the task as specific as possible. In this way, you choose from a clear planning, instead of a collection. 

You no longer put that invoice in sight, so that you “… remember to pay it later”.

You don’t mark that e-mail with a red flag so that you “…don’t forget to answer it later”. You don’t keep that idea in your head any longer – “…I shouldn’t forget to call that customer”.

No, you now have an overview where your brain can choose from 3 tasks: pay the invoice, answer the mail and call the customer. Because you made a decision, immediately when you encountered input. So you are no longer busy with a hundred thousand things at once, but just with one thing.

Good for your focus, better for your productivity and great for keeping calm.


You are aware of all your gathering places. You have also reduced them to a minimum and, like the icing on the cake, you know now how to process them. Why? A gathering place is simply no place to organise your work. You’d rather have a list of 20 tasks in a system so you can effectively prioritise and know what to do than have 20 mails in your mailbox. 

So OHIO your gathering places regularly and choose one of the options for each item: throw it away, archive it, delegate it, do it now or do it later. 

That is it. That’s all there is to it. 1 simple method with which you process everything that comes at you daily. The result? An empty mailbox, an empty desk, an empty head.


And then?

That empty head gives you the chance to work on your priorities. With focus, without distractions. After all, your brain is now aware that you have everything under control, and that gives you peace of mind.

How to make time for these priorities, we will tell you in our next article or during our 1-day Time Management training (or refresher course) Dutch only! Here, we will elaborate on the above techniques and teach you how to plan your things in such a way that you will have an efficient and productive (work) day. We look forward to seeing you there – in person, or digitally.

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