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  • Project Folders in the GTD sense

    I picked up from David Allens book that, in the context (no pun intended) of GTD, a project is an outcome that requires more than one Next Action. A lot of outcomes that I need to accomplish required more than one NA but possible only 3, 4 or half a dozen tha can, mostly, be accomplished in a short space of time. I can't see the practicality of creating a folder (as suggested by David) and labelling it each time (and, yes, I can pull out a folder, label it and file it in approx 1 min - so it's not a chore). What do others think?

    Regards
    Edward

  • #2
    I think it depends on the project. Even a relatively simple project can generate a fair amount of paperwork, and you need a place to put the paperwork.

    For example, I recently purchased, then returned, an electronic gadget. This involved five different pieces of paper: (1) the confirmation of the original order, (2) the manual and such that shipped with the gadget, (3) the letter issuing the return number, and (4) the tracking receipt for the return shipment. It also generated a Next Action to followup and make sure my credit card statement (5) was actually credited for the return.

    A good filing system will let you find (2) in order to ship the item back, and will also let you find the other four items eight weeks later, when it turns out that the return credit *didn't* come through. If your system can do that, then you're fine. If not, you might think about using Allen's approach.

    For most short term projects, I just clip the relevant paper together and throw it all in my Pending file. But if a short term project generates more than a few pieces of paper, or if it turns into a long term project, then I usually need to give it a separate file.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      HOT files: tickler and alpha

      I love accordion files. Three of them reside in a rolling filebox underneath or next to my desk. One is a 31-day tickler, another a 12-month tickler, the last an alpha file. These are great places to house paperwork that doesn't warrant a file. I even have room for some separate HOT project folders.

      Timed stuff goes in the ticklers. Info for @WaitingFor items or delegations that someone else will determine the timing for sits in the alpha file. I can dispense with folders or even put a thin folder in the accordion file. I don't like clips too much, but they can work. Staples are a bit better.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by SteadyEdd
        I can't see the practicality of creating a folder (as suggested by David) and labelling it each time (and, yes, I can pull out a folder, label it and file it in approx 1 min - so it's not a chore). What do others think?
        I don't think DA suggests making a project folder for every project. But suppose you have a project that generates paper stuff. What do you do with it all? Keep it in a pile with other papers? Throw in on the floor? Stuff has to have a place to go, or it goes everywhere. If you have a good alternative, tell us!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by SteadyEdd
          I can't see the practicality of creating a folder (as suggested by David) and labelling it each time (and, yes, I can pull out a folder, label it and file it in approx 1 min - so it's not a chore).
          So, if you can do it in about a minute, and it's not a chore, why can't you see the practicality of it?

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          • #6
            Brent, good point. I think I have a mental hurdle to get over in that I still, subconciously, think that only 'important' projects warrant a folder.

            Edward

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mcogilvie
              But suppose you have a project that generates paper stuff. What do you do with it all?
              Following DA's recommendations on setting up a very basic paper based system, I have a file folder labeled "project planning/notes" that I keep any papers relating to a project that is not large enough to get its own folder.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by SteadyEdd
                I think I have a mental hurdle to get over in that I still, subconciously, think that only 'important' projects warrant a folder.
                I had the same problem when starting out. I'm still getting used to GTD's pervasive planning. I need to learn, "If it's important enough for me to spend time on, it's worth planning."

                Of course, that doesn't mean that I have to plan every project in excruciating detail. It does mean that I'm willing to plan every project.

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                • #9
                  Project thinking: a Product or a Process?

                  I had the same problem when starting out. I'm still getting used to GTD's pervasive planning. I need to learn, "If it's important enough for me to spend time on, it's worth planning."

                  Of course, that doesn't mean that I have to plan every project in excruciating detail. It does mean that I'm willing to plan every project.
                  These are great prompts. In fact, we address these all the time in our coaching and seminars. As I read this forum thread, I observe that most of the comments relate to the "product" project planning gives. I like to concentrate more on the "process" project planning takes.

                  By no means do I maintain a "project folder" for every project, it would be un-manageable. However, I completely identify the "outcome" as the project-completed. And, since I use an electronic system, I can easily attach "idea notes" to the project for later review. From 1997-1999, I used a 3-ring binder system. Instead of file folders for each project (again, too much to carry), I had a "section" of the planner with single sheets of paper to hold ideas for specific projects.

                  Again, I did not have a sheet of paper for every project, just pages to capture ideas as I thought of them over time. (Here's an overview of that paper-based system: http://www.davidco.com/tips_tools/tip25.html )

                  If you review chapter 10 in David's book Getting Things Done, there is a lot of great ideas on getting projects under control through a "thinking process."

                  And, here are a couple of things I've written about project thinking...


                  http://jason.davidco.com/blogs/jason.../thinking-time
                  http://jason.davidco.com/blogs/jason...ctive-thinking
                  http://jason.davidco.com/blogs/jason...to-cleaning-up

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                  • #10
                    Use post-it note labels

                    I don't like the thought of wasting tons of folders, which would happen if I made a new folder with a permanent label every time something came up. As a matter of fact, that used to be a mental stumbling block for me, and I would keep papers in piles while I tried to design filing systems.

                    So for the past year or so, I've used post-it notes: I grab a folder and take a post-it note, and at the top of the post-it, on the front (oppposite the sticky side) I write a folder title. Then I put the post-it on the folder so the top shows the label space (the tab) and the rest of the post-it hangs down in the folder. That way I know I can easily re-use the folder as my needs change. The post-it's stay on for a long time, have never had a problem with them falling off, and if I wanted to I could use the super-sticky post-its and they would be even more semi-permanent. I bought a pack of the Avery removable file labels but I don't like having to grab a folder _and_ grab a label -- the post-it's are everywhere and always at hand, and I feel happy to be organizing, concentrating on that process rather getting caught up in the labelling process (maybe I get distracted too easily or have trouble concentrating) and I like using the post-its--I buy so many and don't really have that many uses for them, so it's good to have another use. And there are lots of colors to use for color-coding, too, though I don't do that myself.

                    I just hate re-using folders--if you pull off the label, it ruins the folder. I've tried putting new labels over the old ones, but either the old label shows through or it just looks messy. And I like to be able to combine or re-name or re-classify, and the post-its make that easy and I don't have to worry about wasting folders.

                    I use end-tab folders for my client folders, with the alpha coding, etc, and I do those up right so they will be organized and easy to find on the shelves. But for reference files and temporary files, and internal forms, and other personal and business filing, I prefer the post-it note labels. If I decide something needs to be saved permanently, I can use standard file labels, and file them permanently (where I generally never see them again). But for getting things on my desk and nearby organized cost-effectively and quickly and helping me to get it done and move on, the post-it note labels have really set my mind at ease and made me comfortable.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks 'Unregistered Guest'. I know David made the point that a nicely printed label makes a good impression to others as well as subconciously changing how we view the folders themselves but, like you, I've resisted making folders on a number of occasions where, on hind-sight, it might have made sense to. I'm going to try your Post-It note suggestion for a while and see how I go.

                      Regards

                      Edward

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                      • #12
                        Here is a thought - if you do not wish to 'waste' a folder for project support, why not place a piece of clear tape on the tab of the folder then any label can be added or removed without too much trouble.

                        This way when the 'project' is completed or archived the label is removed, with little damage if any to the folder tab and ready for the next label.

                        Been doing this for a short time (< 10 years ) and has worked for me.

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