It's been far too long since I offered up another tasty piece of wisdom from "The Zen of Bureaucracy" so here goes:
"Sitting quietly, doing nothing, files come and go by themselves."
It sounds so simple yet it is one of the most difficult things for the novice bureaucrat to master. When faced with an overflowing inbox, one's natural inclination is to rush in and tackle every file until the inbox is empty. Ironically, this apparent noble action becomes instead a self-defeating process.
Taking on new work with haste results not in completed tasks but in more and more work. One file leads to another and another, each in turn returning to your inbox for more and more actions.
It takes great wisdom, experience and patience to sit quietly and avoid the inbox. At first, this seems like irresponsible inaction but with the passage of time, one can see that the continued ability to quietly resist will result in the files seemingly moving by themselves.
The secret of this ancient approach is that someone somewhere will inevitably need each file in your inbox and whether or not you work on it, the file must be passed on to another person. It matters little whether or not you have added anything to the file for the next recipient perceives his own responsibility regarding the file and unthinkingly dives in to work on it.
Therefore, resist the urge to open and file and perform some task on it. Simply wait as long as it takes for someone to come and remove the file from your office and pass it on to a less learned soul. In the rare instance where this approach fails, it is acceptable to shred, burn or otherwise destroy the recalcitrant file.