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  • Where do all the project support material folders go?

    I guess I am not following the initial collection thing yet, I am going through all my files and purging like crazy and trying to set up a new pro-GTD filing system - with the 43 folder tickler and the reference file drawers. There's so much stuff that I don't want to even make it to "IN" it's going right out! I've been working out of this home office for 17 years and I have a stack of paper beside my shredder as high as it is (it's too early to shred without disturbing my neighbours.

    I am running into a problem with the project files - both the way DA uses the word and the way most people do. I thought I understood what DA said about project folders and I realized there'd be a lot - but where do they all go? I have a place for active client project folders - the kind of work I do I don't have too many contracts at one time. But with the wider definition of active projects I have lots - including prospective client sales efforts, household projects, personal expression things. Well I am sure you get it.

    I'm trying to re-use a lot of the various organizational gear I've bought in the past. I have tons of folders (having emptied so many out) and I have yet to re-arrange the office so all my drawers are within swivel distance. I've tried other organization methods before - usually starting by buying a bunch of stuff and then not following through. So I'd like to see how GTD will work for me before I start buying more things.

    Actually, if all it does for me is motivate me to keep purging so much intellectual, emotional and physical clutter - I am already impressed. I am going through stuff I've tried to thin out a thousand times before without much success but this time, I pick something up and I get a fairly immediate response. I might pick up an old (completed or dead) project folder and this time I think either "trash" (a lot of it) or I see *how* it could be useful and because I am thinking about what I would do with it - I might pull out the final report because it will make a good reference example, or the list of firms on the competitive review I did as a possible source for future leads and throw the rest away.

    I also find I am sometimes spontaneously completing small projects around the apartment that I have been vacuuming around for years.

    But the project folders have me a bit stumped.

    I have dedicated 4 file drawers to reference, 2 file drawers to "general" files - like insurance policies, marketing plans and brand standards and things like that, and one file for the "tickler" file and - well I thought - "informal" or "potential" projects.

    I have these slot things on a shelf above my desk for files on live "formal" projects including client projects, seminars I am developing or personal expression or volunteer projects I am working on. But I haven't even really started the mental sweep thing and I am already thinking of so many projects (in the DA wider sense of the word). I presume I am supposed to create a folder of support materials for each one, right? But where do they go? Are they supposed to go in those 4 alphabetical reference drawers? Is all that reference supposed to be specifically project related?

    Don't get me wrong, I think this is an awesome idea. But I am picturing piles of *meaningful* folders as tall as the various "ugh" piles I am looking forward to saying goodbye to. (I listened to the audiobook, I have no ideas how DA spells those piles of "stuff" you don't know what to do with.)

    In the desk file drawer to the right of my chair, I set up the 43 folder tickler system (the best I could - I'll probably ask a question about that later) and behind that I guess I had figured I would put prospective and informal projects.

    But I have filled up the room I have for project folders and I haven't really started...

    Any thoughts or advice?

    Will

  • #2
    What I do

    First, you need to be sure you have a well-defined, active projects list. Once you've done that, you may or may not need a project folder for each project. I have many projects on my list (more than one action to complete defines a project in GTD speak), but I don't have that many with PAPER associated with them. Only those projects with paper associated with them need a project file.

    You can keep them wherever there is room, but you want to keep them together and fairly handy. I keep mine in a desk drawer, behind my tickler file. Many others keep them in a stand up file on their desk. It's a matter of personal choice, really.

    Here's another tip: If your project has just one piece of paper, say, tied to one action, you may want to create a file called "Action Support" and drop it in there. Make a note on the related task that the associated paper is in action support, like this:

    Complete application for car loan (A/S)

    That way you don't have a bunch of project files with just one piece of paper in them.

    You also might be able to save a lot of time shredding by putting it all into a box and taking it to a local office supply. They shred by the pound here in the states--and it's CHEAP!

    Does this help?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by willbetoned View Post
      I presume I am supposed to create a folder of support materials for each one, right? But where do they go? Are they supposed to go in those 4 alphabetical reference drawers? Is all that reference supposed to be specifically project related?
      Don't make a project support folder unless you need one. I combine all my reference files and project support for Someday/Maybe projects into one single big A-Z filing system. It currently takes up 9 file drawers. I have one file drawer with my tickler files and the project support for my current active projects and I have 2 drawers, one for the Sheep Association files and one for the Ditch company files that I keep separate.

      In addition to the trick of creating a single Action Support folder for the one off pieces of paper like Barb mentioned I also create some catch all folders for classes of Someday/Maybe projects and classes of completed and now reference projects.

      So for example I have one folder with Knitting patterns - Sweaters. Within that are all the notes about possible sweaters I want to knit. When I decide to start a new sweater project I usually create a new folder for it. I never really follow patterns so a lot of my knitting projects will have sketches, measurements, stitch counts over the pattern(s) used, any charts I need and so on. During the knitting these items are typically in a folder either in my knitting bag if the design is to the knit it stage or in the file drawer with my tickler file if I am still designing it. Then I knit the sweater. Often during the knitting I change the design and so I often make notes on my design pages as I am working on it. When the sweater is done I move all the design stuff into a file in my reference system called Knitting Projects - Sweaters Finished. That way I don't have a ton of folders all with a small amount of stuff in them and can find things more easily.

      I am also incorporating a lot of digital files for holding project support. I am using DEVONThink as my digital filing cabinet. My computer based reference files are just indexed in DT but I have most project support files in DT with all the supporting documents there.

      I had a project of purging my file cabinets that repeats yearly but it's getting overwhelming so I am moving to a project that is going to have purge one file cabinet drawer a month so I am not stuck at the end of the year trying to clean out the cabinets.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm almost completely electronic, but I do have things like the snail mail notice to renew my car registration which I plan to do online (but I still need the paper notice). If you have both paper and electronic files, I think it is pretty clear you don't make a file of either kind unless you need to. If you need a reminder whether a file exists, you can put a note with your projects and/or next actions to remind you, e.g., [filing cab. under a] or [documents\aardvark].

        Comment


        • #5
          less is more

          Will! Great questions!

          I have a home office, too, so we have the advantage of having everything in one location.

          I struggled with my filing cabinets for some time, though, until I just gave up trying to divide them into meaningful sections (business, personal, and subdivisions in between). Now everything non-actionable that has paper associated with it goes in its own file folder alphabetically. I never have to guess where anything is... such a time-saver!

          The whole filing cabinet gets purged once a year... at least that's my working theory. I'll let you know when I've finally done it.

          If it's actionable it goes in Action/Project Support.

          The only files I keep on my desk - other than my ticklers - are Action/Project Support, return address labels and current receipts. Easy-peasey.

          Congratulations on setting up your new system!

          Dena

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by willbetoned View Post
            I have dedicated 4 file drawers to reference, 2 file drawers to "general" files - like insurance policies, marketing plans and brand standards and things like that, and one file for the "tickler" file and - well I thought - "informal" or "potential" projects.

            I have these slot things on a shelf above my desk for files on live "formal" projects including client projects, seminars I am developing or personal expression or volunteer projects I am working on. But I haven't even really started the mental sweep thing and I am already thinking of so many projects (in the DA wider sense of the word). I presume I am supposed to create a folder of support materials for each one, right? But where do they go? Are they supposed to go in those 4 alphabetical reference drawers? Is all that reference supposed to be specifically project related?
            You need to keep clear distinctions between Projects, Someday/Maybe, Reference and Backlog. A project is a multi-step action that you are committed to NOW. If you have a project that's informal/potential, that sounds like a Someday/Maybe project. Reference is things you refer to and use, but aren't active. Reference and Project support aren't the same, and you do need different folders for project support. If you have 17 years of files, you also need to make an area for all the old stuff that you aren't going to put into your GTD stuff now, but will wait until it's up and running - that's Backlog. Put it in a designated physical space, and leave it alone until you're ready to look at it again. This will speed up your GTD implementation.

            Yes, there will be lots of project files if you make a folder for each project. Lots of GTDers have 50+ projects. Going electronic is a huge space saver, so you will find it best to only make a physicial folder if you are going to need paper for that project. I use Lever Arch folders, with dividers, and each divider section is given to a project, these I use for my working, files, and I purge these regularly. i have separate Manila folders for work files that need hardcopy long term records, and these get archived after the project is finished.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Where do all the project support material folders go?

              Thank you. It does help. Especially your thoughts about the "action support folder" and the fact that not every project (in the GTD sense) needs a folder.

              Actually I had been thinking about the fact that some projects on the project list(s) might have some information right in the list. Your example of putting the location of support material lists (A/S). It will also help in the situation where the support materials might not fit in a folder. For example I am building a storage unit in my bedroom and I might want to indicate where to find the wood, metal pieces and required tools if I have stored them somewhere. The idea of abbreviations or codes right in that single line is brilliant

              And I had beee imagining a sea of folders with a single sheet of paper or a magazine article. Your approach make for vastly fewer folders and more weight on managing the actual lists - which admittedly I haven't really implemented in any comprehensive way.

              But you have helped me get a few steps forward toward implementation! Thanks!

              Oh, and I am taking about 10 minutes every hour to do some shredding - that's about when it starts to overheat. But I will check out the bulk shredding services. But hopefully my next purge will be sooner than 15 years and my pile to shred will be less intimidating

              Comment


              • #8
                Where do all the project support material folders go?

                More great insights, Oogiem. I am several previous attempts eat things like project lists - some electronic some on paper. I hope to commit to a particular medium soon. I hadn't thought of DevonThink but I will look at it. My most ambitious run at it has been in Daylite for the Mac by Marketcircle. But that was all prior to reading GTD thoroughly.

                I also like the extension of Barb's "Action Support" folder to a handful of "catch-all" folders for classes of projects with not so much paper support materials.

                I am also keen on the monthly purge of specific sections of files rather than a yearly purge-fest.

                Thanks!!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Where do all the project support material folders go?

                  You guys are great - these are really practical tips!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    THanks to Barb, mcogilvie and Dena!

                    Sorry folks, I thought it would threaded so it would be obvious who I was replying too. Great advice and great moral support

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                      If you have a project that's informal/potential, that sounds like a Someday/Maybe project. Reference is things you refer to and use, but aren't active. Reference and Project support aren't the same, and you do need different folders for project support.
                      Actually, by informal I just meant the GTD definition versus a client contract or a home improvement project.

                      And the potential projects are a VERY important and currently unused or unimplemented part of my business. That's prospecting - looking for new customers - some I am just researching, some I am already in discussions with. When I let this areas lag, it means gaps of time with no new client work - and not much revenue. But I think everyone is right - they don't need a paper folder unless they really do!

                      ANd I respect your opinion and my soon share it for all I know, but I am intrigued by the idea of putting some active but critical active projects in with the reference stuff. THat allows me to have active client projects AND prospecting close at hand (in paper or electronically. I don't mind going to the reference folder when it's time to work on refinishing my dresser.

                      Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                      If you have 17 years of files, you also need to make an area for all the old stuff that you aren't going to put into your GTD stuff now, but will wait until it's up and running - that's Backlog. Put it in a designated physical space, and leave it alone until you're ready to look at it again. This will speed up your GTD implementation.
                      I think I am using a hybrid approach to that. I am charging right through my file folders and drawers because they are half organized already. But all those "Uggh" or "I-don't-know=what -to-do-with this" folders may well go into backlog. They seem to be much more emotionally draining for some reason than the old file folders.

                      Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                      Yes, there will be lots of project files if you make a folder for each project. Lots of GTDers have 50+ projects. Going electronic is a huge space saver, so you will find it best to only make a physicial folder if you are going to need paper for that project. I use Lever Arch folders, with dividers, and each divider section is given to a project, these I use for my working, files, and I purge these regularly. i have separate Manila folders for work files that need hardcopy long term records, and these get archived after the project is finished.
                      Hmm... intriguing. I don't know what a Lever Arch folder is, but wouldn't that give you a bunch of folders inside a bigger one - in essential a group of projects. I could see that working for me - maybe quite well if they were a group of closely related projects (e.g. different small improvements around the home / office) but I wouldn't like unrelated files stuck together.

                      I am intrigued by your archive. Where do your physical archive folders or envelopes go?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Work archives files into boxes for offsite storage.

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