Component/Fundamental #3 — Tossing v2

Tossing is one of the components that can directly follow Emptying.


Once a time demand enters or is entered into one of the capture points, a decision is made during the component of Emptying about what to do with it.

Certainly, one of the options is simply to take the time demand out of existence without further regard, or in other word to “Toss” it away or to delete it.

An example might be:

  • a piece of junk mail or spam that is either thrown away or deleted
  • a voice-mail that is erased
  • a thought jotted down in the heat of the moment to do a particular item, that seemed to make sense at the moment, but upon later reflection should just be discarded
  • an email that is deleted from an in-box
  • files that are not needed


Physical or electronic items take up psychic space, and as much should be thrown away as is possible to make room for future items. Too much of anything that demands time and even a small amount of attention adds up quickly, ruining peace of mind and clarity.

Wherever possible, information is extracted from books, emails, letters and voice-mails and the original source is tossed, discarded, deleted or given away.

At the different levels of competence described before, there are different levels of practice that we describe:

  • The world of the Novice or White Belt is marked by clutter in many places.
    Essential Practice #2 Emptying is done poorly, resulting in time demands that accumulate at each capture point, and other points of storage. When the practice of emptying is attempted, items end up where they started – in email in-boxes, on pieces of paper, in personal memory, in notebooks.When they are unable to effectively process time demands, (sometimes because they cannot make up their minds) the time demands get stuck in their system at different points.Also, they keep items around them “just in case” they need them later, without a clear plan for doing so.This user also has a problem saying “No” to new time demands, and instead either gives vague comments or just says “Yes” resulting in their schedule becoming an impossible one to execute. The Novice is a pack-rat of sorts, resulting in time demands accumulating around them.
  • A Yellow Belt has begun to learn tossing, mostly at the times when they feel a sense of being overwhelmed and they initiate “spring cleaning”. They get to the point where they “can’t take it anymore” and might come in on a weekend to clean their offices of piles and piles of paper. However, they are unable to apply the same principles to electronic items, and to their schedules.
  • An Orange Belt has begun to maintain a minimum number of electronic items, including the number of items in their in-box, in Outlook folders, in Windows directories and in various lists that they might keep. They are beginning to cut their scheduled activities to a minimum, and the more effectively manage their life commitments by saying “No”.
  • The Green Belt is proficient at keeping a lean and mean system. They ruthlessly deal with paper, email, notes, presentations and files that they do not need, or can easily reproduce by simply throwing them away. They clearly see accumulated time demands as a source of trouble that destroys their peace of mind.They are always looking to clean out their schedule, lists, storage systems (both online and on paper), items in piles, clothes in closets – anything that might distract them at any point in the future and ruin their productivity.They frequently say “No” – and have no problem doing so – refusing to clutter their mind with half-commitments, or promises they don’t intend to keep. When they cannot make appointments they clearly communicate their intention to not attend or to be late.