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  • The work-by-routine-tray

    Hi All,

    A few days ago I finally got to understand that a certain type of items in my in-box gets my processing phase longer than it should be.

    I can get every day a dozen or more items with which I should do a relatively short, predefined chain of steps, which can change slightly depending on the exact case, and those actions should better be done as soon as possible.

    A few examples:

    A new prospect client called, and after the conversation he asked to be sent information- I have to add the lead to my CRM system, and could be I have a template with the information he requests, and it needs only to be filled with the contact info and can be sent to him by fax or email.

    A signed order got in, I took it from the fax machine and it's in my inbox. I need to close the reminder to check if it came in (in waiting), update the client's account, set a reminder to produce and ship the item ordered, and produce an invoice for the charge.

    I worked for a few hours for a client, outside the office, upon coming in I dropped the note including the billable hours worked for him into the inbox. I have to feed the information to my system, calculate the price for the time, and update the client's account, and if the work is finished - produce an invoice.

    All of those issues, and there are more type of such items, should better be done sooner than later. If I don't send out the information the prospect asked for, I might lose the lead. If I don't ship the item ordered, the client might get upset, and without sending the invoice to him- the payment will also be delayed.

    So, till now I used to actually DO those things immediately while processing my in-box, but it made processing slow, because it takes much more than 2 minutes to do, and often my inbox did not get empty on a daily-basis.

    I now think I should make a special tray for this kind of items, processing them from the inbox will be short- What is it? An order. Need action? Yes- it's a rutine item, put it there to be done.

    And I think that even though my system is basically electronic, this tray will by itself be the 'container' and the context, I don't need to list these items, I just have to sit down - pick an item and just do what's needed. I can even pick the one I think needs to be done first, even though it is not the top one - this tray is not an in-box - it's a context.

    What do you think?

    Michael
    Last edited by Mic; 02-05-2012, 08:16 AM.

  • #2
    Since now you sometimes don't empty your inbox because of those things, then when you implement the new system you may always empty your inbox but you will sometimes not empty your secondary processing box.

    You can have a routine of processing your inbox and then usually immediately doing the secondary processing.

    Pros:
    -- It may help you have a clearer mind.
    -- If you sometimes have items in your inbox that are a lot more urgent than those secondary processing things, it will let you (almost?) always get to those.

    Cons:
    -- It could lead to procrastinating doing the secondary processing. You might end up with an empty inbox but a growing pile of secondary processing.
    -- It will delay the secondary processing at least a few minutes.

    Ideas:
    -- You might want to use a 5-minute rule instead of a 2-minute rule.
    -- You might also want to avoid putting anything very urgent or important into the secondary processing box.

    I agree that if you tell someone you're going to send them some information, it's good
    to send it immediately -- while they're still thinking about it! Even a few minutes' delay
    could lose their train of thought. Using this secondary pile could create that few
    minutes' delay.

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes, I would certainly recommend trying that approach. There is no point in confusing a GTD system with the digital tool that is the main part of that system, i.e. that which is more useful to keep on the computer goes there, at that which is more useful to keep on other types of lists goes there.

      If you start with the premise that any group of similar items makes a list, then a tray with signed orders that all need the same processing certainly is a list, and a very context specific list at that, since you have set up your work to do that processing at the very place where you keep the tray. And that is the key point in that setup: An inbox is always an inbox, but once you have setup a tray dedicated to a certain routine, it is no longer an inbox with "stuff", but a list of clearly defined next actions.

      The typical example here would be manual data input from paper into a computer system. If there is a tray for unprocessed input, then (assuming there are no particular deadlines to individual items) a tray is all you need to track your work.

      My guess is that since most GTD implementations are not made by or for people in more standardised admin roles, this tends to be overlooked in favour of building systems for tracking more diverse tasks and projects, but that any standardization of processes that can be achieved without restricting the actual work process will be helpful in an admin role - which is why I am fascinated by the idea of combining the concepts of GTD and Lean in real life settings.

      Just make sure that you still have the ability to get a good overview of all available tasks for the relevant contexts, so that you don't compartmentalise to the point of losing the overview.

      Comment


      • #4
        Not a inbox, and no more processing

        Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
        You can have a routine of processing your inbox and then usually immediately doing the secondary processing.
        As I worte in my OP, I don't mean to split processing. The items I plan to put in that tray are to be done, not to be processed (In the GTD terms).

        I have a routine of actions pertaining to the items involved, but it takes more than 2 minutes to do.

        I think DA hints about this, but only regarding items of common next action, like making a call-back to clients, etc.

        Michael

        Comment


        • #5
          Sounds like a good idea. In my job the routine thing I do is handle invoices, and they are always dealt with the same way, and are all to be processed within the same time period, and I have come unstuck a few times because they have gotten lost in my inbox which is piling up.
          I think this concept still aligns with GTD, which recommends a read/review box for articles, so having things that are dealt with in a standard way in their own tray should streamline things.
          This idea might be good at home also, eg having a separate tray for all budget items (mostly bills to be paid).

          Comment


          • #6
            Sometimes the item you pull from your inbox is enough of a reminder of what you need to do. Items in this category can include "Read and Review", "Receipts to Process", and "Bills to Pay". It's totally acceptable to channel things like "new prospects" into a discrete bucket on your desk without writing things on a list as long as you remember to look at that bucket regularly.

            Comment


            • #7
              It is a "Doing" tray, and not yet another inbox

              Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
              Sounds like a good idea. In my job the routine thing I do is handle invoices, and they are always dealt with the same way, and are all to be processed within the same time period, and I have come unstuck a few times because they have gotten lost in my inbox which is piling up.
              I think this concept still aligns with GTD, which recommends a read/review box for articles, so having things that are dealt with in a standard way in their own tray should streamline things.
              This idea might be good at home also, eg having a separate tray for all budget items (mostly bills to be paid).
              Hi Suelin23,

              I think a critical condition for the success of this idea is to be careful not to mix in anything who's 'processing' (In the GTD meaning of it), was not done yet. If a budget item is to be paid by calling and using your credit card, then the next action is obvious. If it is an invoice you have to feed into a system, and then send somebody- and you have a definite set of actions you always do with these invoices - then - I suggest - you could route them directly into this special tray - which I think can serve as a context - and you'll do whatever needs to be done with them- ASAP - against anything else you have to do.

              The benefit is that you will not be making processing your inbox too long a task on one hand, and not bothering to make files and list those items as projects on the other hand.

              One of the basic concepts of GTD as I understand it is - 'Donít make an item be a reminder of the doing it symbols' - because you will have to rethink what it means again and again (every time you see it). But I suggest (And I think DA also mentions it somewhere) that items you deal with according to a specific routine over and over again - CAN serve as such a reminder, because the thinking is done and known already, not less than just reading it off a list.

              Mic

              Comment


              • #8
                Exactly

                Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                Sometimes the item you pull from your inbox is enough of a reminder of what you need to do. Items in this category can include "Read and Review", "Receipts to Process", and "Bills to Pay". It's totally acceptable to channel things like "new prospects" into a discrete bucket on your desk without writing things on a list as long as you remember to look at that bucket regularly.
                ellobogrande,

                I saw your response right after posting the one to suelin23, and it's exactly what I mean. I'm glad others approve it is not a mistake. I sometimes have a rather complex routine to do with an item, but nevertheless it is obvious to me.

                Mic

                Comment


                • #9
                  Routine Actions

                  Hi,
                  If these items are truly routine then you could have a set of checklists to pull out and attach to each one to make sure that all of the actions you want to capture are done.

                  In this instance the item itself is then not the reminder of what needs to be done as the checklist will remind you what the actions are associated with each. This will also serve as a reminder for you of where you are if you get interrupted during the "doing" of an item.

                  your processing step then just consists of - this is and invoice, grab checklist & staple to invoice, put in tray of stuff to do.

                  Just a thought.
                  Andy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    An Action

                    iwantatr8,

                    I agree with you, it is possible, and the one who does this has to decide if it helps him or is it overkill, depending on the complexity of the job at hand.

                    The point to keep in mind, IMO, is, that the items to put into this tray should have a straight-forward course of action - otherwise they must be considered a project.

                    What I do when 'doing' such items is, I bring up a memo with a written checklist, on the screen before me, and work by it. And yes, if an interruption occurs in the middle, it is a good idea to quickly scribble a few words to bookmark where I am holding, and only then throw the item back into the tray.

                    Michael
                    Last edited by Mic; 02-08-2012, 01:36 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      be aware not to overcomplicate

                      hi,

                      you must always be aware not to overcomplicate things.

                      I bet all of us have a certain number of these "work-by-routine-trays", and you don't always need a check list to remind you what to do with them. They could be bills to pay, laundry to iron or to fold, ... we have a bag in our house where we put all clothing that needs repair (I don't really like that type of work), and every time my grandmother passes by (almost every week), she looks in it and repairs some stuff.

                      After all: you could call the kitchen sink a "work-by-routine-tray", you put all the used dishes and plates in it, and you simply know (no check list needed to remind you, no writing on your NA-list) that these need to be washed...

                      Myriam

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Myriam View Post
                        I bet all of us have a certain number of these "work-by-routine-trays", and you don't always need a check list to remind you what to do with them. They could be bills to pay, laundry to iron or to fold, ...
                        There is a very good reason to make checklists for even the routine stuff you know how to do. If you are ever injured or incapacitated or die suddenly, having those checklists will be of great benefit to the people who have to pick up and continue doing what you did. Even simple things like paying bills (esp. if you use on-line bill paying) are critical to have documented for emergencies. Consider making such checklists even if you never use or need them yourself.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Another reason for a checklist

                          Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                          There is a very good reason to make checklists for even the routine stuff you know how to do. If you are ever injured or incapacitated or die suddenly, having those checklists will be of great benefit to the people who have to pick up and continue doing what you did. Even simple things like paying bills (esp. if you use on-line bill paying) are critical to have documented for emergencies. Consider making such checklists even if you never use or need them yourself.
                          Hi,

                          I display a checklist in front of me, even for tasks I do a few time a day, if the task at hand is something like - update here, update there, print an invoice, make an envelope, mail it out, update the CRM of mailing it out, etc. which contains many computer updates to make - if I forget one of them, no trace will be left.

                          Mic

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I do see the point in making check lists for some specific stuff...

                            ... but it still is important to not overcomplicate things.

                            If the considered work is really very simple and explains itself, then no check list is needed... after all, we don't attach a check list to our "read & review" box, stating "have you read page 1? have you read page 2? have you read page 3?" and so on... the fact that something is in that box means "at some point I thought this might be interesting stuff to read"...

                            Myriam

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mic View Post
                              But I suggest (And I think DA also mentions it somewhere) that items you deal with according to a specific routine over and over again - CAN serve as such a reminder, because the thinking is done and known already, not less than just reading it off a list.
                              Step 11 in the GTD implementation guide (https://secure.davidco.com/store/cat...ZE-p-16636.php) mentions this specifically, and I'm sure it's in the book somewhere as well.

                              Comment

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