The Junk Drawer

I've slowly been moving over to Things 3 for task management, but more than that, I've been re-thinking just how my system needs to be fleshed out so that it works best for me.

As part of that move, I've been re-evaluating the way I think about capture. Typically, you've got an inbox, where you log all the incoming stuff in your life, and which you process periodically. That's fine for the usual do-delegate-delete-defer type tasks, but if I want to use Things (or whatever task management system) to capture everything, I've found that I need a place for things that live somewhere between the inbox and a project.

Which brings me to BINQ.

BINQ is a concept I heard Merlin Mann talk about on the Back To Work podcast, and is an acronym for Brainstorming, Ideas, Notes, Questions (or something like that).

Essentially, BINQ is a junk drawer for your thoughts. It's a holding pen for half-baked, hare-brained ideas that need to time to fully form. Tasks in the BINQ project don't quite yet deserve to become a project, but they really need to get out of the inbox.

Some folks use the concept of “Someday” for these things, but in practice I’ve found that “someday” makes more sense as a temporal definition (kind of like a “pending” or “waiting” context, but important enough to be a first-class entity in the task manager). This is how Things treats “someday”: you set this as part of the when for a task, not the where.

My BINQ project lives outside of any so-called “Areas” in things — in fact, it's the only project that isn't part of some area of my life. A few times a week, I'll check in and add some notes to a task that lives in there, or maybe delete something because it doesn't make any sense to pursue further for whatever reason. Ideas for posts go into BINQ too, before a draft gets written.

This is a good place for checklists within tasks, too. As you start to flesh out some of these ideas, it's handy to add checklist items to them. It then becomes pretty trivial to bring these out of BINQ quarantine and into your life using Things’ convert-to-project feature.

For now, I've set up four headings for each of the letters in the acronym (Brainstorming, Ideas, Notes, and Questions), but I don’t love the idea of having to decide what heading a task would fall under—it injects friction into what should be a easy process. Trying to enforce too much organization on a junk drawer just means that your real junk drawer lives somewhere else.

Too much of the pseudo-productivity silliness tries to package your life up into neat little packages, which is fine for remembering to take out the garbage, or for organizing your kitchen renovations. But sometimes, for the messy, ethereal things that come into your life, a good ol’ messy junk drawer is the right place for them to live.

Angelo Stavrow

Montreal, Canada
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Tinkerer with a strong interest for development, of both the personal and software persuasion; easily defeated with spatulas. Equal measures enthusiasm and concern for tech's effect on the world. He/him.