Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.

Announcement

Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

How are you all doing paper NA lists?

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • How are you all doing paper NA lists?

    So...I have read the book...listened to the 3 CDs of the book...read some other places on the net...and I am still confused as to the exact method for a totally paper GTD system.

    Right now I am writing each action item on one sheet of Jr. Pad paper...a sheet of lined paper from a pad that is 5 inches by 8 inches. I use paper instead of index cards because the paper is thinner.

    So...each sheet of paper looks like this:

    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    _____CUSTOMER_______________
    _______PROJECT______________
    _________ACTION ITEM________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________


    During each day I write down action items on a Jr Pad that later I tear out the sheets and shuffle them into my stack sheets of paper. On my weekly review I throwaway items that are done or no longer important, and shuffle the stack into a new order of importance.

    I switch back and forth between a plain stack of paper, and putting these sheets into a series of 10 folders that are:

    Monday
    Tuesday
    Wednesday
    Thursday
    Friday
    Saturday
    Sunday
    Next Week
    Future
    Someday

    How do you do your plain paper stack of NAs? If you have 150 action items, do you have a stack of 150 sheets of paper or 150 index cards, and you just pull out the stack and do the top item? Or the top item based on the context that you define? Note in the example above that I am not doing context. How are you doing context? Maybe you put your action item sheets or cards into separate folders for context. If you are at your phone or at your computer you take out a different folder of sheets of paper or index cards.

    I am not sure if I missed something in the book...but this is not clicking for me. The book and the CD seems to be detailed on the very first capture of information, but weak on the maintenance of the system.

    Please let me know what you are doing or where this is discussed in clear detail here or elsewhere on the net.

    Thank you!

    tim99.
    Last edited by tim99; 10-14-2005, 04:55 PM.

  • #2
    Maybe this would be better:

    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ___CONTEXT__________________
    _____CUSTOMER_______________
    _______PROJECT______________
    _________ACTION ITEM________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________
    ____________________________

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm an electronic user, but if i was paper based it would be

      _____CUSTOMER_______________
      _______PROJECT______________
      _________ACTION ITEM___CONTEXT


      and then group the cards/pages with the same context together.

      Regards
      eowyn

      Comment


      • #4
        Or like this:

        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        _____CUSTOMER_______________
        _______PROJECT______________
        _________ACTION ITEM________
        ___________CONTEXT__________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________
        ____________________________


        So then if you used separators or folders or piles, you would separate out based on context, and if you where @office you would take that stack of NAs and start at the top one without sifting through and without thinking about it because the order was established at the weekly review?

        tim99.

        Comment


        • #5
          If I used paper, I would use index cards, separated by context. Then I could look at all the cards in a given context at once in order to decide what to do.

          I actually use a combination system, in which I print a one page list, sorted by context.

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            I do NOT keep a separate sheet for each project, or NA, as that seemed like a terribly ineffective way of scanning my NAs for what to do next, compared to just looking through the list items on a single sheet for the context I'm in.

            Basically, I keep a list of projects on one piece of paper (actually two as I separate projects into Home / Work), then I have lists of Next Actions on other papers (marked with the context in the upper right/left corner of the page).

            The project support material has, beside any other useful information, one page with a project outline and the actions needed to complete it (at least that I know of so far). Here's where I get the Next Actions from, that go on the NA lists.

            Here's how my paper system works, quoted from another thread (Keeping NA List in Sync with Projects):

            I'm using a Filofax planner, with the calendar (of course) and then sections related to my GTD implementation: Next Actions, Projects, Agenda, Checklists.

            * Projects are divided into Work and Home, then numbered from 1 and up, like "W39 Write instruction for startup / shutdown of tape robot".
            * Next Actions are divided into contexts and have a description and a reference to the project, like "Take photos of tape robot controls (W39)".
            * Project support material is gathered into hanging folders that are numbered according to the project references, ie W1 - W61, H1 - H29. This way I never have to do any further folder labeling, except for extending the system in case of project overload of course.


            I also have a small section in the planner for project planning material in case I want to do some of that "on the road", then I can just merge with the project support material when I get back home or to my office.

            Recently I've abandoned the "pure" pen-and-paper approach in favor of keeping the actual lists as documents on my computer, then printing them on A5 paper for the planner. During the week I do write on the paper version of those lists for changes and additions, but the computer document gets updated and printed during the weekly review. Similarly I'm probably going to merge my contacts from the planner into Outlook and make printouts from there instead, though I haven't tested that yet.
            It should be noted that I've recently merged the contact lists, and so just print this from Outlook now. Since I'm printing on one side of each sheet only, I can make notes and additions on the back of the sheet. (I'm printing sorted by first letter of last name. Printing on both sides would make two different letters end up on the same sheet, that I needed to be separate for matching the A-Z index tabs of my planner.. go figure.)
            Last edited by jwarlander; 10-16-2005, 02:33 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by tim99
              So...I have read the book...listened to the 3 CDs of the book...read some other places on the net...and I am still confused as to the exact method for a totally paper GTD system.
              There is no "exact" method. The most basic implementation of GTD concepts includes 1) a list of all GTD projects and 2) lists of NAs grouped by context.

              Specifics of the implementations vary to meet different individuals' needs. For example, many people want to organize their projects list further; for example, by grouping related projects. Or grouping projects by the contexts Work and Home.

              You want to find something that meets your own needs.

              Originally posted by tim99
              How do you do your plain paper stack of NAs? If you have 150 action items, do you have a stack of 150 sheets of paper or 150 index cards, and you just pull out the stack and do the top item?
              No. I wouldn't want to deal with 150 sheets of paper. Ever. Yikes! Nothing in GTD, incidentally, requires you to use separate sheets of paper for each action.

              I recommend lists rather than separate sheets of paper. Separate sheets 1) don't scale well with larger numbers of NAs; 2) put too much load on working memory; and 3) require a lot of review or else you're in trouble. It's just far easier to scan a list of items than to shuffle through unprioritized separate sheets. If you have more than a few (say, 5) sheets in a given context, unprioritized, you have a lot of shuffling every time to want to determine what to do next using the GTD 4-part model for doing; or else you will end up doing things near the top of the pile whether they are more important or not. More discussion is in this thread.

              If a context list is still too long to choose an action from easily, then you should cut it down with some upfront planning in your weekly review.

              Originally posted by tim99
              Or the top item based on the context that you define? Note in the example above that I am not doing context. How are you doing context? Maybe you put your action item sheets or cards into separate folders for context. If you are at your phone or at your computer you take out a different folder of sheets of paper or index cards.
              You gotta do context! Grouping actions by context is definitely a big concept of GTD. A folder for each context would be one way, but you still have the shuffling-through-separate-sheets problem. Another way would be page-per-context lists.

              Originally posted by tim99
              I am not sure if I missed something in the book...but this is not clicking for me. The book and the CD seems to be detailed on the very first capture of information, but weak on the maintenance of the system.
              I agree that the book is quite specific about how to collect and particularly how to process. This seems reasonable to me because these steps seem the most universal. How to organize and do are described less specifically, which also seems reasonable because there will be more differences in implementation to accomodate people's different situations and constraints.

              The point is that you want to pick out the concepts that will help you and then devise a way to implement those. Your implementation should also evolve as you go along. I think there's a difference between the habits you might need to establish in the beginning stages versus later on. For example, I reviewed a projects list for awhile, just as described in the book, but after awhile, identifying multi-step projects became a natural habit so I no longer needed to track them all so strictly. So my implementation changed. But tracking them for awhile developed that habitual way of thinking in the first place.

              Comment


              • #8
                Action Folders with Lists work for me

                I combine folders with my lists.

                I keep file folders with a list clipped to the front, sorted by context.

                I find that since most of my N/A's have paper that go with them, I tuck the paper inside the folder and record the N/A on the list on the front of the paper.

                I find this particularly useful for my @Errands list. I typically leave the office only 1 day per week to do all the things I need to do. Throughout the week I gather info, including maps if required for my errands inside my folder. When I actually get to leave, I simply grab the folder and go.

                All the documentation I need should already be there waiting for me.

                Works like a charm.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by andersons
                  I think there's a difference between the habits you might need to establish in the beginning stages versus later on.
                  Oh no...I need to determine the very best most perfect way right now that will work forever and for all times even though I have little experience with GTD and less knowledge of what the future might bring.

                  tim99.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bassdrone42
                    ...for my @Errands list...throughout the week I gather info, including maps if required for my errands inside my folder. When I actually get to leave, I simply grab the folder and go.
                    That is fantastic.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I thought so...

                      Thanks.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        But if you have these three paper context lists:

                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ______@work_________________
                        ________project 1___________
                        _________item 1_____________
                        _________item 2_____________
                        _________item 3_____________
                        _________item 4_____________
                        _________item 5_____________
                        _________item 6_____________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________


                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ______@work_________________
                        ________project 2___________
                        _________item 1_____________
                        _________item 2_____________
                        _________item 3_____________
                        _________item 4_____________
                        _________item 5_____________
                        _________item 6_____________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________


                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ______@work_________________
                        ________project 3___________
                        _________item 1_____________
                        _________item 2_____________
                        _________item 3_____________
                        _________item 4_____________
                        _________item 5_____________
                        _________item 6_____________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________
                        ____________________________


                        1) You have to rewrite these lists during your weekly review to update them, and

                        2) When you are @work you have to constantly sort through a stack of projects to find something to do. Oh, I am going to do project 1 item 1, then project 1 item 2, then project 2 item 1. I mean, you know the *next action* for each project, but you do not know the *next action* for each context, and you do not know the sequence that the next next actions will take.

                        Since my NAs are on separate sheets of paper, I can sort and stack them during my weekly review, and then when I open my @work folder, start doing the first sheet of paper action item. But then I do not have a sequenced project list.

                        I think I need to write my action items down twice. I think I need a sheet of paper for each project where I put down in sequence all items in all contexts that need to be done for that project, and then I need to put each of those action items on separate sheets of paper that I sort into context folders. Then I sit down at my desk and open my @workdesk folder and start doing the very first thing in the stack. That way I can have a project action items list and I can plan out my action items beforehand in order. I can look over my projects, and I can look over my contexts.

                        tim99.
                        Last edited by tim99; 10-17-2005, 12:36 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          And that list:

                          ____________________________
                          ____________________________
                          ______@work_________________
                          ________project 3___________
                          _________item 1_____________
                          _________item 2_____________
                          _________item 3_____________
                          _________item 4_____________
                          _________item 5_____________
                          _________item 6_____________
                          ____________________________
                          ____________________________
                          ____________________________
                          ____________________________
                          ____________________________


                          Is not the "real" project list, because it is by context, so items in other contexts are missing...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Technically, your context lists would contain all the next actions you can do in a given context. Such a list would look like
                            ______@work________________
                            _________item 1.1____________
                            _________item 1.2____________
                            _________item 1.3____________
                            _________item 1.4____________
                            _________item 1.5____________
                            _________item 1.6____________
                            _________item 2.1____________
                            _________item 2.2____________
                            _________item 2.3____________
                            _________item 2.4____________
                            _________item 2.5____________
                            _________item 2.6____________
                            _________item 3.1____________
                            _________item 3.2____________
                            _________item 3.3____________
                            _________item 3.4____________
                            _________item 3.5____________
                            _________item 3.6____________
                            ____________________________

                            In practice, it may be reasonable to further subdivide the work context into different mental activities. For knowledge work, continuity of thinking can be as valuable a resource as any other. For example, I might have
                            @Work-Writing
                            @Work-Programming

                            since I don't want to be switching around between these different activities or I'd never get anywhere with either. Defining useful contexts -- and scheduling time to spend in them -- is a first-pass filter to cut down the length of the actions list in broad strokes.

                            Say that Projects 1 and 2 are writing projects. Project 3 is a programming project.

                            So I have
                            @Work-Writing
                            ------------------
                            item 1.1 [since items must be done in order for this project, I switch to the project view if I need to see the rest after this; then return to this list]
                            item 2.1
                            item 2.2
                            item 2.3
                            item 2.4
                            item 2.5
                            item 2.6

                            @Work-Programming
                            -------------------
                            item 3.1
                            item 3.2
                            item 3.3
                            item 3.4
                            item 3.5
                            item 3.6

                            I broadly schedule my actions by choosing in advance to work on writing projects in the morning and programming in the afternoon. In the morning, I look at the @Work-Writing list. I also consult any supporting material or plans for the current project as necessary; this information is maintained separately, but referred to when needed, which is usually when working on actions for the project. Then in the afternoon, I look at the @Work-Programming list to see reminders of those actions. Or maybe I look at it, then decide to keep working on the Writing actions since those seem more important at the time. Or because I have momentum with those projects. See the flexibility of the approach? Advance planning is done broadly, by 1) choosing projects and by 2) scheduling time in various contexts. The fine-grained actions are then chosen on the fly. I can change my plans relatively easily without a whole lot of rescheduling or paper shuffling.

                            Originally posted by tim99
                            1) You have to rewrite these lists during your weekly review to update them. . .
                            Yes. This is one reason why I do not use paper to implement GTD. GTD requires you to track where you are in your projects (project view) and separately to maintain context-grouped lists of all next actions, regardless of what project they support (action view). If you use paper, you must either keep the connections between actions and projects in your head, or you must write them down and rewrite as necessary. To maintain paper, you'll need less views and more review. That may be fine for some people's data and unreasonable for others'.

                            GTD inherently requires 2 views of the same data.

                            Originally posted by tim99
                            Since my NAs are on separate sheets of paper, I can sort and stack them during my weekly review, and then when I open my @work folder, start doing the first sheet of paper action item. But then I do not have a sequenced project list.
                            GTD wants you NOT to schedule actions (Chapter 9). At the weekly review, you may prioritize certain projects and actions to have "active" status the following week (everything else goes on Someday/Maybe lists). Then all those actions go into the appropriate context lists. This weekly prioritizing strategy is not explicitly in the book that I know of, but has been advocated by davidco coaches.

                            Then, when you have time to do those actions, you choose among them using the following 4-part model:

                            1) Context -- maintained explicitly in separate lists
                            2) Time available
                            3) Energy available
                            4) Priority

                            With GTD, you maintain a list of all the actions you have committed to that require a given context. Say @Work. Say you have 20 actions on that list. Which one do you choose at 2 PM Monday? GTD says, Look at the list, consider what you have time and energy to do, and then choose the most important one. How do you know the most important? Use your intuition. This is the GTD approach described in the book on pp. 191-195 "Doing: Making the Best Action Choices."

                            With GTD, you do NOT sequence the actions for the week in a previous review and then work through them in order. With GTD, you never order them in advance, mainly because your world changes throughout the week and your ordering can become obsolete and therefore a waste of time.

                            So you don't do the top action on the list. The list is not ordered by priority. You look at all the actions on your list and choose -- right then and there -- what appears to be the highest-priority one you can do with your available time and energy. That's the "pure" GTD approach as described in the book.

                            Now, is that kind of spontaneity scaring the heck out of you?

                            So of the 4 ways to determine what to do, GTD says that it DOES pay to sort in advance by context, because these don't change much if at all, but NOT by priority, because these can rapidly change.

                            GTD is not the only approach to productivity that works. Some people prefer to schedule their actions more. They are not wrong, of course, if they get their desired actions done! However, GTD provides a more flexible approach that some find works better with their changing inputs and personal preferences.

                            If you really, really want your order of actions to be determined in advance, I think that pure GTD is not the approach for you. I think that level of advance planning is just too fundamentally different from the GTD approach. Ordering at the fine-grained level of individual actions is a lot of work. Maintaining separate views of projects and their associated actions with paper is also a fair amount of work. Trying to do both of those with paper is going to be a heck of a chore. You may find yourself spending too much time organizing your actions instead of doing them.

                            Originally posted by tim99
                            So...I have read the book...listened to the 3 CDs of the book...read some other places on the net...and I am still confused as to the exact method for a totally paper GTD system.
                            OK, I'm going to be a bit bold here. There is a lot of stuff on the net about GTD, with people describing various implementations in great detail. Some of these implementations diverge so far from what's in the book as to directly contradict it. That's fine for the individuals using their own implementations -- individuals need to modify and fuse any and all productivity approaches to work best for them. However, some of those web sources may confuse people who are trying to figure out what GTD is all about. And no matter how engaging the writing, some of the stuff on the net may not work for you. Some of it would be ridiculous for me to imitate. I'm not trying to be the GTD police here, but sometimes you need to understand the rules before you can break them effectively.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by tim99
                              So...I have read the book...listened to the 3 CDs of the book...read some other places on the net...and I am still confused as to the exact method for a totally paper GTD system.
                              That's because there isn't one. GTD is system-agnostic. You can implement it using whichever tools you prefer, provided that those tools capture the following:
                              * Your hard landscape, usually in the form of a calendar.
                              * New inputs for processing, via one or more inboxes.
                              * Your project list and project support materials.
                              * Your next actions, sorted by context.

                              The project view and the context view of your next actions are fundamentally different. It is not necessary, or even desirable, to see both views at once. Basically, the project view is for planning, while the context view is for doing. Thus, not all actions associated with your projects will appear on your context list, because the actions aren't all immediately doable.

                              Katherine

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X