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  • Trying to stick with Outlook, but how to handle pending paper?

    I'm trying to keep all pending tasks maintained in Outlook - even if they originated with a paper trigger... but I'm having trouble knowing what to do with all of the related paper that goes with them until they are completed.

    I've been keeping them sorted by folders labeled "pending - to do" (for random things) and "pending - [project name]" but it's hard to keep organized. I'm leary of switching to folders by context, because then my project work gets spread out over many physical locations.

    I can get organized using my current method... but I have trouble staying organized once I get to "Do" next actions, all the while with new things collecting. My neatly sorted folders becomed mixed up piles again.

    How do other people maintain the paper related to items on your next actions lists?

    I need to do less "reorganizing" and more "doing"! Help!

    Julia

  • #2
    Pending Paper

    I would use Outlook only for "hardscape" items like appointments, etc. I keep my paper triggers in my tickler file, and reference materials in client files.

    Danny Hardesty

    www.dannyhardesty.com

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    • #3
      I do use a tickler file for those papers that have due dates that are firm (an agenda for meeting, driving directions for an appointment, tasks that HAVE to be done on a certain day).

      I have a lot of other paper triggers that are "as soon as I can get to them". I've tried assigning them to days in the tickler file, but feel that I'm constantly shuffling them to later dates. (I'm not a good judge of what I can get done in a day... plus "must-do-now" things come up at work unexpectedly.)

      The other concern is that I don't always know where they are if I need them. For example, if I have a report to respond to and I think I'll get to it on Thursday, I'll file for that date in my tickler file. But then, if something comes up and I need it sooner - I don't always know exactly where it is.

      Maybe I should track the location of the paper item along with the next action in Outlook (ex. Complete expense report (in Tickler 6/29))... which means I'll have to constantly update Outlook (via PDA) as I make changes.

      Would it make sense to use a combination of the tickler file and folders by context for the paper triggers as long as, in Outlook, I have those items that go together linked by category and with an indicator of where they are physically located?

      Example:

      Task: Complete expense report - due 6/30 (Tickler 6/29)
      Category: @computer, NYC Trip

      Task: Call Karen to thank for visit
      Category: @call, NYC Trip

      Task: Fill out feedback form for company tour (@anywhere folder)
      Category: @anywhere, NYC Trip

      (The feedback form being one of those kinds of things that I would try to add to a tickler file and then keep shuffling as it needs to be done but isn't urgent. Also one of those things where, if someone asked me for mine to make a copy, I wouldn't be able to remember where I have it.)

      Does this seem to be making it too complicated? It does to me right now... maybe it will work once I get everything processed and use it for awhile??

      Julia

      Comment


      • #4
        Use a context-agnostic Support Material folder

        I faced this problem some time ago, here are a few ideas I've tried.

        I carry two slim (but bulging) folders with me at all times for "analog" material - the Read/Review folder, and a Support Material folder.

        When I create a Next Action in Outlook, I make sure the supporting documents/papers go into the Support Material folder. The context is irrelevant because I can access the folder anywhere (or at least wherever I carry my backpack).

        Sometimes, supporting materials are not papers and documents. E.g. an NA like "Return faulty audio cables to Radioshack" comes with a sizeable package of cables I can't lug around with me everywhere. In this case I get the support material as close to the context of the NA as possible. The context for this NA would be "@Errands", and since I drive to most of my errands, I'd keep the cables in my car.

        If there's a lot of stuff in your Support Material folder, it might be useful to attach some kind of "ID" to the documents, and referring to the ID in the NA in Outlook. The IDs can really be anything as long as they uniquely identify the support material. You can use numbers or words (I use words I learn from my "Word a Day" mailing list...!)

        Hope that helps!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Broto
          (I use words I learn from my "Word a Day" mailing list...!)
          What's that, Broto?

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          • #6
            http://www.wordsmith.org/awad/ It's a great mailing list if you're into arcane vocabulary.

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            • #7
              Why can't you just file the associated papers?

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              • #8
                Pending papers

                I travel between three regular sites during my work week... so pending paper for next actions has to travel with me. I like Broto's suggestion of just having a support material file that can go with me. As long as I don't have too much in that file (hopefully cutting down my backlog over the next two weeks will help), I think it will work. If it gets to be too much, I think I'll try to set them up by context so they match the Outlook tasks.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Julia
                  I travel between three regular sites during my work week... so pending paper for next actions has to travel with me. I like Broto's suggestion of just having a support material file that can go with me. As long as I don't have too much in that file (hopefully cutting down my backlog over the next two weeks will help), I think it will work. If it gets to be too much, I think I'll try to set them up by context so they match the Outlook tasks.
                  I have a set of plastic folders that I carry with me - Inbox, @Action, @Waiting For, @Return to Home/Office and Read/Review. These things are great in plastic, and they have held up going back and forth between home and the office quite well, for the better part of 3 years.

                  If I have a N/A that has no associated project, I put the physical support in my @Action folder. Otherwise, it gets filed in with my other project support material.

                  For stuff that is "pending" at work (and on my @Work list), I have a physical bin labled "Pending" to house the physical support. Same goes for home. If the stuff can be done at either work OR home (or anywhere, for that matter), it goes in my plastic folder. For example, if I have an @Calls N/A, I'll put the support in my plastic folder, so that it is avaliable to me the next time I'm at a phone. On the other hand, if that @Calls N/A is part of a project, I'll put the entire Project folder in my briefcase. This way, I have the support with me at home, in the car, at work, etc.

                  Julia, it looks to me like you may be making this more complicated than it needs to be. Dumb it down, and you'll see that it's much easier to manage than it currently appears.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    New process "growing pains"

                    I think you're right. I guess I'm just used to carrying "everything" with me, never knowing when I would be able to carve out a chunk of time to get through some project work and trying to avoid the all too often "oh, I left that at another site". I've been known to lug around the equivalent of 2 milk crates of files... plus my laptop from site to site.

                    But now, with identifying what the Next Action is and knowing that I'll be reviewing my project plans so that nothing gets lost... I shouldn't need to carry that much stuff around.

                    Thanks for your suggestions!

                    Julia

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