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How to track/handle phone calls, notes, etc. during the day

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  • How to track/handle phone calls, notes, etc. during the day

    Hi,

    I am new to GTD and am really trying to get it and embrace it, but right now, I feel like the kid outside the window looking in longingly at everyone having fun.

    Here are my questions:

    I have a small notebook that I've started carrying with me everywhere and jot down things as I think of them.

    Some of these things may be small like "buy catfood" and others may be big like "write speech"

    So, it's conceivable that the list could look like:

    Buy catfood
    Write speech
    Draft press release
    Sew button on shirt
    Talk to Bruce about business plan
    Match socks

    Is that right? It's just a download of everything that's on my mind regardless of whether it goes together?

    Am I supposed to put the next action on this list or wait until I transfer it and then figure out what the next action is? Instead of "sew button on shirt", should I be putting "find needle and thread" here?

    Second, how should I handle things that come up during the day? For example, if I get a phone call and make notes about the call that may result in action items, should I put them in the notebook where I'm dumping everything or in a separate notebook? The problem that I have now is that I use a notebook to track things that come up during the day (like phone calls or if my boss walks in my office and asks me to do something), but then it turns into a mishmash. Instead of one page to a day, it's several days on a page, or instead of one subject to a page, it turns into a quasi-to do list with random notes, important stuff, doodles, etc.

    Same with meetings where I may have action items. Should I just write them on any piece of paper and then transfer them to the proper categories in NA and throw out the paper?

    Any/all feedback would be greatly appreciated. I think I have ADHD and this would help me to stay focused if I can figure it out without making it too complicated.

    Thanks!
    Robin

    I'm using Toodledo.com, which syncs with my iPhone

  • #2
    I think you have it right, using your small notebook as a capture tool. Just get it out of your head. Then, process your notebook entries using the GTD workflow (what is it? etc.). During this step is when you can refine the next action, decide if it is a project not just an action, and so on. At a minimum, I process my notebook twice a day, the first thing and the last thing I do each day.

    Regarding whether to keep phone call notes in the same notebook, this is a matter of personal choice. I use one main notebook. This means I don't have to think where did I make those notes. I mark a line across the page in pen to separate the events (not just the days). This helps me find things later. Then I write down my notes. I mark potential action items with a plus sign. Later, when I process the notes, I change the "+" to "+>" (looks like an arrow) to tell me that I transferred that item to my main GTD system, or delegated it to a person. In that case "+> (Joe). If an item is completed, I change the "+" to an "*" and if it is dropped I change the "+" to a down arrow (can't show it here in text).

    During my weekly review, I double-check the notebook since the last weekly review and look for items that might have fallen through the cracks. This has saved my butt quite a few times.

    I wish I could show this as a handwritten version -- it is much clearer and easier to do.

    Ken

    Comment


    • #3
      Remember to process, don't sweat if it builds up

      I use a similar system, paper for capture in a pocket notebook, then process this into an electronic system (Outlook).

      Processing is the key here. You may find it easier to separate the capture from the processing. I do this by tearing the pages from the notebook whenever I'm back at my desk and putting them into my Inbox (I use an A5 plastic folder from "Remarkable" as this makes it portable)

      As I process the paper I recycle it. Even if you process into a paper based system, it's still great to trash your collection paper. It instills trust in your system. Ideally you shouldn't go more than 24 hours plus or minus 24 hours without processing this inbox to zero using the steps outlined in GTD.

      If you've got a crazy time in your life (my work is doing this to me at the moment), then you may find it's several days between processing, or between even reaching your desk! This is fine if you're genuinely too busy firefighting to actually get to your action lists. But under normal circumstances don't let it build up.

      Don't be surprised if processing takes more time, patience and thought than you anticipated. If you find it difficult to concentrate for a period of time, start working out when you are most focussed during the day and making yourself a reminder to process then.

      Sounds like you've got capturing nailed - that's a victory, well done! Treat processing as your next thing to adopt and you'll be well on your way!

      Comment


      • #4
        I used to use a notebook too, but found it difficult to process. It's easy to take actions like 'buy catfood' and put it in your list manager, but if you write a page of notes that are related to a project and then realise it's project support, its hard to process if its mixed with other things. I've changed to a note pad, so I can just tear off pages and put them in a project folder, that avoids typing the notes up.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Robin324 View Post
          I have a small notebook that I've started carrying with me everywhere and jot down things as I think of them.
          ...
          Is that right? It's just a download of everything that's on my mind regardless of whether it goes together?

          Am I supposed to put the next action on this list or wait until I transfer it and then figure out what the next action is? Instead of "sew button on shirt", should I be putting "find needle and thread" here?

          Second, how should I handle things that come up during the day?
          ...

          Same with meetings where I may have action items. Should I just write them on any piece of paper and then transfer them to the proper categories in NA and throw out the paper?

          Any/all feedback would be greatly appreciated.

          Sounds like a good start to me. I carry a small 3 x 5 spiral notebook and pen with me all the time. I take notes just like that.

          What you seem to be missing is the processing step.

          Take notes however you wish in whatever form will remind you what you wanted to do but then you have to fully process those notes. I do it by tearing off the aper, tossing it into my inbox so I'll process it fully when I get to that stage each day.

          So from your example when you see the item "sew button on shirt" during processing time the first things is is it actionable. The answer is yes and the project is really something like "Green shirt buttons all secure and sewn on properly" Yes, then what is the next action, it might be "look in sewing cabinet for green thread to repair button" with a context of inside the house or it might be "google how to sew on a button" with a context of computer internet.

          Other projects will come out of your notes and some will be processed into the trash, or into someday/maybe projects.

          For example my notes today that I wrote down in my notebook were things like:

          backstrap loom portable?
          L pr lrg terry socks
          insulated gloves

          These turned into

          A someday maybe project of make or buy a portable backstrap loom I can weave on while at the brewery when I don't want to knit nothing more done just added as a thought for now

          an action in my project of process wool orders to bill L for a pr of large size terry socks that he picked up today with a context of computer mac

          add stop at building and pick up my insulated gloves I left there to my errands as a 1-off item with a context of in town

          Once I added all those notes, fully processed into my system (I use Omnifocus to manage my GTD projects & lists) I tosses the pages I had torn from my notebook.

          Comment


          • #6
            Can you share more...

            [QUOTE=CoffinDodger;86217]

            Processing is the key here. You may find it easier to separate the capture from the processing. I do this by tearing the pages from the notebook whenever I'm back at my desk and putting them into my Inbox (I use an A5 plastic folder from "Remarkable" as this makes it portable)

            What kind of notes do you place in the plastic folder? Meeting notes, ideas about projects, what else? I'm assuming that when you review the papers, that you either add the item to your Action or Project Lists or you start a Project folder, yes?

            Where can I find the Remarkable folder you mentioned?


            Thanks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Google for A5 Plastic Wallet!

              I can't remember the online store I bought it from, but it's the A5 one in black at the bottom of this page. I think my wife has one in girly pink somewhere...

              http://www.remarkabletrade.co.uk/cat...tegory_id/1490

              Anything this size would be fine - I like it 'cos it's about the same size as a netbook sized laptop - easy to carry. It'll fit inside it small torn off notes and till receipts, but also full A4 size letters folded in half, which is great for chucking utility bills and official letters in to be processed.

              You can probably find these world round by other office suppliers. It's a semi-rigid plastic box rather than a flexible wallet. A google Images search for "a5 plastic wallet" found plenty of similar hits and you can see the difference between the types.
              Last edited by CoffinDodger; 02-19-2011, 06:54 AM. Reason: Typos

              Comment


              • #8
                In answer to your question about what do I do with processed stuff...

                I aim to recycle or shred as much as possible. Paper is unbeatable for collection, but it's bulky for long term storage. Yes short term, bills and paperwork may be support materials, and longer term go into my filing system if they have to, but all actions and GTD stuff goes into my electronic system, in my case Outlook. I have so few paper support materials that I can usually keep them all in that one folder for a week or so. If you had more you'd need a different approach!

                I take paper actions in almost every interaction of the day (I lead a software team in a busy company and at home am a husband and father with a toddler) but if I'm taking minutes or detailed notes in a meeting I'll take in my netbook and take the notes live on that, probably displayed on the wall mounted screen so everyone can validate the notes at the time and I don't need to write them up again. OneNote links well enough with Outlook for that.

                So paper for me is really the capture tool, "Process" is the gateway, and everything past "Process" is electronic.

                Hope that helps?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Excellent

                  Originally posted by kglade View Post
                  I think you have it right, using your small notebook as a capture tool. Just get it out of your head. Then, process your notebook entries using the GTD workflow (what is it? etc.). During this step is when you can refine the next action, decide if it is a project not just an action, and so on. At a minimum, I process my notebook twice a day, the first thing and the last thing I do each day.

                  Regarding whether to keep phone call notes in the same notebook, this is a matter of personal choice. I use one main notebook. This means I don't have to think where did I make those notes. I mark a line across the page in pen to separate the events (not just the days). This helps me find things later. Then I write down my notes. I mark potential action items with a plus sign. Later, when I process the notes, I change the "+" to "+>" (looks like an arrow) to tell me that I transferred that item to my main GTD system, or delegated it to a person. In that case "+> (Joe). If an item is completed, I change the "+" to an "*" and if it is dropped I change the "+" to a down arrow (can't show it here in text).

                  During my weekly review, I double-check the notebook since the last weekly review and look for items that might have fallen through the cracks. This has saved my butt quite a few times.

                  I wish I could show this as a handwritten version -- it is much clearer and easier to do.

                  Ken
                  Thank you - I look forward to trying this!

                  Comment

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