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Looking for a GtD "tuneup"

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  • Looking for a GtD "tuneup"

    Hi Folks,

    I've been working on implementing GtD and I've hit some snags. I am hoping that some of you can give me some suggestions as to things that I should try. This is a long message, so if you want to find the issues that I'm wondering about - you can do a search for ?? since that's how I labeled my questions.


    So far:
    - I've read GtD book and I've been working on implementing the concepts
    - signed up to B&N course and tried to follow that (work and other circumstances interfered)


    My setup:
    Hardware: palm Tungsten C for both work and home, with a pc in each location (i.e. work and home, where I use synchronization software to keep my personal data in sync between work pc and home pc)
    At home:
    - Calendar (i.e. hard landscape): Act 6 on desktop, with Act for palm on palm side
    - Address book: Act software (see above Calendar)
    - Eudora for email
    - Physical inbox
    - Implemented suggested tickler file system from GtD book (physical type with folders) which I look through every day (bills, etc..). In the same box with the tickler system I have 24 additional folders (2 years of jan-dec labeled folder) where I file those things that I might need from the past month (like used bills), but which I intend to shred next year (i.e. This year's jan folder items will be shredded in Jan 2005).
    There are some records that are supposed to be kept for 7 year - is there a better way to do this??
    - Filing system at home (using label maker and file folder - this works great, even if the file names are not "perfect"...but now I can find things really quick). When I place any items in a file - I put current date on the item (so it can be easily purged later).
    At work:
    - Calendar: outlook calendar for work related activities (no synchronization to palm). The amount of meetings are sufficiently small not to warrant getting this data on my palm (personal calendar is same as above in Home section)
    - Outlook for work email
    - Physical inbox
    - Filing system (same type as one described in home section from above)
    Palm:
    - used to keep lists of projects, and next actions (see "Where things are now" below for problems with system)

    - Palm related rules that I've set for myself:
    1. I will only use an application related to GtD on the palm if it has a desktop equivalent (pc not mac), since I am around desktops most of the time and that's where the majority of my data entry occurs. There are those that view the palm as the center of activity, with the desktop being used for backups - I'm not one of these folks (it doesn't work for me).
    2. The less proprietary a solution, the better. I've had too much software become obsolete due to a company going out of business (or at least - software that allows you to export to xml or csv)

    - PC file naming convention (trying to be GtD like with goal of making it easy to find files on desktop. My thinking is that folder_name should be the same type of thing that I'd create with a label maker for a physical folder. Any text in file name can be found via normal search function and wild cards - for example - to find all 2004: search with *2004*):
    folder_name.what_data-date.document_type
    for example:
    teaching.apache_class-2004-02-18_community-college.pdf

    Where things are now:
    - Work email is under control - inbox is empty. I don't think that I need to do a review for work since its fairly isolated from personal stuff and tasks are fairly well defined
    - Personal email: out of control - I have an @Action folder and I've been trying to follow the 2 minute rule for email when it comes into my inbox. What's been happening is that my @Action folder is full of the emails that used to be in the IN box within Eudora.
    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with the issue of an out-of-control spiraling box of email??
    - Home Physical Inbox tends to pile up over the week, and by the weekend when the weekly review should occur - I begin to feel a sense of dread/panic which leads to procrastination on the in box and further piling. Any suggestions on this??
    - Weekly review: I don't do it as religiously as I need to do it. I review the book's weekly review chapter (around p. 185), but I still feel that I'm not doing it thoroughly or the "right" way. Ideas/comment??
    - Calendar (i.e. the hard landscape): The work calendar is not a problem, but the home one - which is the one using the Palm is problematic. I used to use the Palm's built in calendar, but it was somewhat limited in that a contact from the address book could not be associated with a particular appointment (whether itís a call, todo, or meeting). Act provides this capability, in addition to a history of interaction with a contact. The problem is that the Act software that runs on the palm is not reliable in terms of synchronization (entering contact data may or may not show up on desktop besides double entries for calendar activities - so essentially the palm side of act is only good for viewing the data which makes it somewhat useless for me), so I don't trust it anymore. Does anyone have any suggestions for a palm application (with a desktop equivalent) that performs reliable synchronization and has the ability to link appointments or actions in the datebook with a calendar event??
    - Address book: I am using Act as the contact management software. The problems I'm having with it are listed above in Calendar section. The key characteristic that Act has is the ability to track the history of a contact (i.e. when I've had meetings, calls, etc..). One additional thing is its groups capability, where contacts can be placed in multiple groups. Does anyone know of a palm application (with a desktop equivalent) that provides rock-solid synchronization and the capabilities mentioned above?? (if it augments the built-in palm address book - that's even better)
    I was thinking that contact management through excel would be ideal because its not as proprietary as programs like Act - does anyone know of any software that provides contact database capability (i.e. contact history) in excel??
    - Project notes, and GtD next action lists (including contexts, and so forth):
    This has been quite a black hole of effort and frustration for me. I used to use HandyShopper, but because of lack of a desktop side (per my operational rule from above) - I don't use it anymore. I looked into LifeBalance too (and instructions by Ratz), but I felt that things were out of control in terms of tasks and trusting LB didn't work for me. So ultimately, I've been trying to implement Jacques Turbe's CypberPoche method (http://avm.online.fr/cyb.html) with the criteria that anything I use on the Palm must have to have a desktop equivalent (this knocks out pedit and ptools since it only applies to the palm - even with an awesome scripting language). Right now - I'm using memo pad on the palm (memoleaf for sorting and looking at memos), and Palm desktop on pc. My memo categories are Today, ThisWeek, IN, SM (some day maybe). My implementation of CyberPoche has been far from perfect, but itís a work in progress (one thing that I'm not clear about is the use of datebook in terms of capturing history??). For a new project, on the palm - I have a short cut that generates:
    next_action {state outcome} 4w20 .enter_context.
    I use the above for projects and memo pads that have next actions, where the next actions are delineated with:
    ???next_action 4w52 .na.additional_context.
    I use various symbols for actions (# = calls, // = web , @ = email, etcÖ). This helps get to action oriented contexts without having a separate list. In other words, if a project has:
    #joe regarding estimate
    then above does not go on a separate @Call list, and I can still find it by using palm's find on # (both desktop and handheld).
    The great thing about this methodology is that it does help me to constantly review my lists, as I tweak the lists and figure out what to do in the current day.
    The above is still a somewhat clumsy way of doing things, and I haven't found a way of capturing the history of things I've done, besides archiving past projects/next_actions to a word file that gets synchronized using Document to Go - any suggestions on this??

    I know that the above is much more than anyone would want to know about my system, but I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions that you might have.

    Njnjboy
    Last edited by njnjboy; 05-08-2006, 10:54 AM.

  • #2
    files kept for 7 years -- I have a separate drawer where these are filed by year with the oldest in back. Then I purge the out of date one annually.

    Spiralling email -- I have had this problem. My life is still not perfect, but I'm a lot better. The first thing I concluded was that an @action folder didn't work for me, as it was too easy to ignore. Voila, every email I process goes like this:

    What is this?
    Is there an action associated with it? (If not, I file or delete as seems prudent.)
    If so, will it take less than two minutes? (If not, I put this NA on the appropriate Next Action list.)

    Part of the setup for my weekly review is to get the email inbox to empty, just as I get my physical inbox empty.

    hope this helps,

    Ambar

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Ambar,

      Thanks for responding!

      Originally posted by Ambar
      Spiralling email -- I have had this problem. My life is still not perfect, but I'm a lot better. The first thing I concluded was that an @action folder didn't work for me, as it was too easy to ignore. Voila, every email I process goes like this:

      What is this?
      Is there an action associated with it? (If not, I file or delete as seems prudent.)
      If so, will it take less than two minutes? (If not, I put this NA on the appropriate Next Action list.)
      ...
      This is very helpful. Now the Next Action list - is that a folder in your email system? Or do you mean that you put the action associated with that email (i.e. "send Bob estimate for project xyz") in a Next Action list (whether paper or otherwise)

      njnjboy
      Last edited by njnjboy; 05-08-2006, 10:55 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Weekly Review

        The more gap you give between your first time in-basket processing and the next, the more is the uncomfort level. My suggestion is to keep at it. Please ensure that the weekly interval is adhered to. It is sacrosanct. To get into the 'zone' you need to make the weekly review an exhaustive (and exhausting!) affair - esp. if the last review has been more than two weeks. You have to do a mindsweep, desktop sweep, etc., till you start feeling good. I think the weekly review is the key to GTD - the most important thing to do if you want the system to be operational.

        Ashok

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Looking for a GtD "tuneup"

          Here are just some of my notes based on your questions.

          Originally posted by njnjboy
          I have 24 additional folders (2 years of jan-dec labeled folder) where I file those things that I might need from the past month (like used bills), but which I intend to shred next year (i.e. This year's jan folder items will be shredded in Jan 2005).
          There are some records that are supposed to be kept for 7 year - is there a better way to do this??
          Rather than keeping used bills in my tickler file, I file them in their own file folder. This might just be the way I think, but if I need to reference them again (credit card bills, for example), I prefer to be able to see all bills for a single credit card in one folder, rather than having to pull bills from each month.

          What I do instead is keep a reminder in my January tickler folder that reminds me to purge my filing system as appropriate. I keep a list there of guidelines on what needs to be kept for how long.


          Originally posted by njnjboy
          Personal email: out of control - I have an @Action folder and I've been trying to follow the 2 minute rule for email when it comes into my inbox. What's been happening is that my @Action folder is full of the emails that used to be in the IN box within Eudora.
          Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with the issue of an out-of-control spiraling box of email??
          When you put emails in your @Action folder, do you list those tasks anywhere else? Do you regularly go through your @Action folder to work through those items? Although I have @Action folders with both my work and personal email, Iíve found that I also need to add those items to my NA lists (To Do on my PDA) to get them done. Otherwise, I spend too much time re-reading the email and processing again what needs to be done with it. This is similar to what Ambar describes, except that after noting the action on my NA list, I file it in the @Action folder. That way, I know that whatever is left in the inbox has not been processed yet.

          There are tips here in other threads about dealing with a lot of email, but hereís what worked for me. First, I processed the inbox down to zero. Now, Iím very diligent about keeping it at that level. Things donít stay in my inbox for very long. I also looked for ways to eliminate the unnecessary emails I was receiving (using a good junk mail filter, unsubscribing for mailing lists, etc.)

          Originally posted by njnjboy
          Home Physical Inbox tends to pile up over the week, and by the weekend when the weekly review should occur - I begin to feel a sense of dread/panic which leads to procrastination on the in box and further piling. Any suggestions on this??
          The single biggest obstacle to completing a weekly review for me was spending the entire time processing my inboxes (physical and otherwise). Now I process them on a more regular basis, so my weekly review time can be spent truly reviewing.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Looking for a GtD "tuneup"

            Originally posted by njnjboy
            - Home Physical Inbox tends to pile up over the week, and by the weekend when the weekly review should occur - I begin to feel a sense of dread/panic which leads to procrastination on the in box and further piling. Any suggestions on this??
            When my inbox gets really piled up, I work on it for 15 minutes at a time. I actually set a timer. Got that idea from FlyLady

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by njnjboy
              This is very helpful. Now the Next Action list - is that a folder in your email system? Or do you mean that you put the action associated with that email (i.e. "send Bob estimate for project xyz") in a Next Action list (whether paper or otherwise)
              I have no next actions in email folders. I keep my NA lists in Life Balance on my Palm (LB also has a desktop app for my laptop). What I learned was that all my NAs had to be in one system. Otherwise I wouldn't look at the second system.

              Once I've extracted any NAs from an email message, I generally file it for reference, but that still gets it out of my inbox.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Weekly Review

                Ashok,

                Thank you for your response.

                Originally posted by Ashok Atluri
                The more gap you give between your first time in-basket processing and the next, the more is the uncomfort level. My ...desktop sweep, etc., till you start feeling good. I think the weekly review is the key to GTD - the most important thing to do if you want the system to be operational.
                You're absolutly right about this. In the book - DA mentions that it is critical, but when I think about the weekly review - it seems like a gigantic black hole. I guess - I need to approach it with the mentality that even a little bit of weekly review is better than none (the 15 minute approach by Marcia seems like a good way to go).

                njnjboy
                Last edited by njnjboy; 05-08-2006, 10:55 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Looking for a GtD "tuneup"

                  Originally posted by ko
                  Here are just some of my notes based on your questions.

                  Rather than keeping used bills in my tickler file, I file them in their own file folder. This might just be the way I think, but if I need to reference them again (credit card bills, for example), I prefer to be able to see all bills for a single credit card in one folder, rather than having to pull bills from each month.

                  What I do instead is keep a reminder in my January tickler folder that reminds me to purge my filing system as appropriate. I keep a list there of guidelines on what needs to be kept for how long.
                  I've done this in the past and ended up with thick bill folders going back 10 years. I like the idea of the purge reminder in the tickler folder.

                  Originally posted by njnjboy
                  Personal email: out of control - I have an @Action folder ...Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with the issue of an out-of-control spiraling box of email??
                  Originally posted by ko
                  When you put emails in your @Action folder, do you list those tasks anywhere else? Do you regularly go through your @Action folder to work through those items? Although I have @Action folders with both my work and personal email, I?ve found that I also need to add those items to my NA lists (To Do on my PDA) to get them done. Otherwise, I spend too much time re-reading the email and processing again what needs to be done with it. This is similar to what Ambar describes, except that after noting the action on my NA list, I file it in the @Action folder. That way, I know that whatever is left in the inbox has not been processed yet.
                  You and Ambar hit the proverbial "nail on the head" on this one. Somehow - this wasn't an obvious thing for me from the book. What I am going to do is pursue the NA for actions from emails I get in, and have word docs for reference material (for example career tidbits, etc..), which I can access via docs-to-go on desktop and palm. This will allow me to extract the data from the email and get rid of it. I'm thinking that I can get rid of it altogether so that I don't have to go back to @Action folder to get rid of that email.

                  Originally posted by ko
                  There are tips here in other threads about dealing with a lot of email, but here?s what worked for me. First, I processed the inbox down to zero. Now, I?m very diligent about keeping it at that level. Things don?t stay in my inbox for very long. I also looked for ways to eliminate the unnecessary emails I was receiving (using a good junk mail filter, unsubscribing for mailing lists, etc.)
                  I absolutley need to get the in box to zero (like my work In box) so that I can process in-coming email quickly. In terms of newsletters/mailing lists - I've found 2 ways to deal with them:
                  First way: create email aliases on www.despammed.com and direct them to a spam type of pop3 mailbox (they do a great job in removing spam)
                  Second way: Use bloglines.com's capability to create a temporary email address to see mailing lists via web without polluting my personal email address.

                  Originally posted by njnjboy
                  Home Physical Inbox tends to pile up over the week, ..further piling. Any suggestions on this??
                  Originally posted by ko
                  The single biggest obstacle to completing a weekly review for me was spending the entire time processing my inboxes (physical and otherwise). Now I process them on a more regular basis, so my weekly review time can be spent truly reviewing.
                  I need to work on that self discipline.

                  Thank you for your thoughtful/thought-provoking response.

                  njnjboy
                  Last edited by njnjboy; 05-08-2006, 10:56 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Looking for a GtD "tuneup"

                    Marcia,

                    Originally posted by marcia
                    Originally posted by njnjboy
                    - Home Physical Inbox tends to pile up over the week, and by the weekend when the weekly review should occur - I begin to feel a sense of dread/panic which leads to procrastination on the in box and further piling. Any suggestions on this??
                    When my inbox gets really piled up, I work on it for 15 minutes at a time. I actually set a timer. Got that idea from FlyLady
                    Good point about the 15 minute rule. Is there a cliff-notes version of the FlyLady method. I went to flylady.net and it seems to be geared for women (to quote seinfeld: "not that there's anything wrong with that")

                    Thank you for your suggestion.

                    njnjboy
                    Last edited by njnjboy; 05-08-2006, 10:56 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ambar,

                      Originally posted by Ambar
                      I have no next actions in email folders. I keep my NA lists in Life Balance on my Palm (LB also has a desktop app for my laptop). What I learned was that all my NAs had to be in one system. Otherwise I wouldn't look at the second system.

                      Once I've extracted any NAs from an email message, I generally file it for reference, but that still gets it out of my inbox.
                      Thank you for the clarification. You and Ko have clarified the importance of NA creation while processing the email.

                      Does saving the email for reference mean that it will take up space...why not delete it? (or do you delete it at a certain time)?

                      Eli

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by njnjboy
                        Does saving the email for reference mean that it will take up space...why not delete it? (or do you delete it at a certain time)?
                        There's a point in the GTD book where David gives this tongue-in-cheek method for choosing what one saves for reference vs. what one deletes / throws out:

                        1) When in doubt, save it.
                        2) When in doubt, delete it.

                        When it comes to email, I follow rule 1). I have a laptop with a 60G hard drive, which is a bit over a quarter full (most of that is my music collection). I have several years of email archives, and they often save my !@#$ in a crunch.

                        Specifically, I rely on the search features in my mail application, and simply throw everything I wish to save for reference into a folder called "2004 Archive" (or whatever year the mail came in).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Weekly Review

                          Originally posted by Ashok Atluri
                          To get into the 'zone' you need to make the weekly review an exhaustive (and exhausting!) affair - esp. if the last review has been more than two weeks. You have to do a mindsweep, desktop sweep, etc., till you start feeling good. I think the weekly review is the key to GTD - the most important thing to do if you want the system to be operational.
                          I agree that it's the key to the whole system, but it doesn't have to be exhausting! I think my first one took 2.5 hours. That shrank gradually as my processing skills got better and my backlog got smaller. Now an hour is a comfortable amount of time. But you are absolutely right that the longer one has procrastinated, the more unprocessed "stuff" has stacked up and the harder it is.

                          If there's a lot of backlog, making a separate appointment with oneself just for processing would probably help break up the task into more manageable-looking chunks.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Weekly Review

                            Originally posted by Ambar
                            I agree that it's the key to the whole system, but it doesn't have to be exhausting! I think my first one took 2.5 hours. That shrank gradually as my processing skills got better and my backlog got smaller. Now an hour is a comfortable amount of time. But you are absolutely right that the longer one has procrastinated, the more unprocessed "stuff" has stacked up and the harder it is.

                            If there's a lot of backlog, making a separate appointment with oneself just for processing would probably help break up the task into more manageable-looking chunks.
                            Ambar:

                            That's worked for me on the rare occasions when I've had to postpone my weekly review due to a meeting or trip. I have a standing appointment with myself every Friday afternoon for weekly review. If I can't make it, I reschedule for as early the following week as I can.

                            My big win, which has my weekly review working well in a 1.5 hour slot, is to do a "mini-review" every morning of that day. In the quiet time I enjoy very early in the morning, I review my hard landscape for the day and my list of NA's and make agreements with myself right there and then about what is reasonably going to get done that day.

                            Those items I am confident I can get to get a spot on my calendar. Those I'm equally confident will not that have a date attached get moved forward. If I'm light that day, I start drilling into my undated NA's looking for alignment with current focus areas and the contexts I know I will be in that day.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by njnjboy
                              Marcia,
                              Good point about the 15 minute rule. Is there a cliff-notes version of the FlyLady method. I went to flylady.net and it seems to be geared for women (to quote seinfeld: "not that there's anything wrong with that")
                              FlyLady helps anyone who has trouble getting their house organized and their housekeeping done (that would be me )

                              Comment

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