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Dividing Home and Work in Outlook - Ideas?

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  • Dividing Home and Work in Outlook - Ideas?

    Hi everyone,

    I have a situation in which I work a 9-4 job, I volunteer at a non-profit (15 hours a week) and I have a personal life. I want to implement GTD in all areas of my life, but without making my head spin. I get numerous emails and tasks/projects in each area but would prefer to not have them merged. Has anyone has experience with this, especially in regards to outlook?

    My idea is to make folders @word, @volunteer @personal and then have subfolders under each of these (these would be @phone, @computer, etc). I also have pocketthinker, an outliner software installed and wanted to make things like a "work" and a "volunteer" lists with sub lists as well (for next actions, projects, etc).

    Do you guys know if there's anyway to configure this with the GTD Outlook Plug-in? Is this sophistication in keeping these areas of one's life divided unecessary in your experience?

    Serene

  • #2
    Years ago, when I picked up a Franklin Planner, I learned that it's best not to have different systems or calendars. I try to keep all of my information in one system. I use categories in Outlook. For my appointments, I use the old Franklin Covey roles, like Employee, Father, Husband, member of this or that... For tasks, I use David Allen's system of contexts with the @ symbol so that they go to the top of the list: @Home, @Errand, @Home Computer, @Work, etc. I've played around with these and I'm still tweaking my system. I sync with Pocket Informant on my Pocket PC and also with my laptop at home. I'm still tweaking my system, of course, which will likely be a life long endeavor. I just think it's best to keep it all together. Some contexts can be merged. I may have to make a call for personal business that can only be done during work hours, for instance. Or I may get a brilliant idea for something that I could do at work on Sunday afternoon.

    If you find an efficient way to break your system into subsystems, I'd love to hear it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Serene
      Hi everyone,

      I have a situation in which I work a 9-4 job, I volunteer at a non-profit (15 hours a week) and I have a personal life. I want to implement GTD in all areas of my life, but without making my head spin. I get numerous emails and tasks/projects in each area but would prefer to not have them merged. Has anyone has experience with this, especially in regards to outlook?

      My idea is to make folders @word, @volunteer @personal and then have subfolders under each of these (these would be @phone, @computer, etc). I also have pocketthinker, an outliner software installed and wanted to make things like a "work" and a "volunteer" lists with sub lists as well (for next actions, projects, etc).

      Do you guys know if there's anyway to configure this with the GTD Outlook Plug-in? Is this sophistication in keeping these areas of one's life divided unecessary in your experience?

      Serene
      You can add fields to outlook to support extra tags on your items. The GTD add-in support site has (had?) information on using existing fields to support super/subprojects. I taught my wife to do this, using KeySuite on the palm to link Outlook at work and at home, in order to give tasks a project tag.

      I have to say, I think you are setting yourself up for trouble if you are new to GTD. Too much structure, too many places to look, too many options to set can all lead to problems. Back when I was using Windows (Oh God, it feels so good to say that ), I tried a lot of different schemes in Outlook, and I tried Pocket Thinker too. It was all a waste of time for me. My advice: impose only what organization David Allen recommends to start with, and then see what else you need. Experienced GTD'ers tend to agree it's the habits, not the implementation system, that is important.

      Comment


      • #4
        Simple is great

        Apologies to those who have seen me post this a trillion times, but you can do a ton in GTD, especially when you are getting started, with a simple paper notebook and a pen or pencil. These have the advantage of being cheap, highly portable, and incredibly flexible.

        Software is great if you frequently have to move things around between contexts, or perhaps if you're constantly switching between an active context & @Waiting. And they provide an audit trail, which is great for some things. But I'd wait to make the time & money investment in software until you know where *your* pressure points are. Every piece of software will impose limitations--it's great to know if those limitations are something you can live with, or dealbreakers for how you organize your mind and your life.

        The thing I do use heavily in Outlook is the calendar. I also get great mileage out of creating GTD context folders (@Action, etc.). This means I have two places to look, so that's not perhaps the Platonic Ideal of GTDdom, but it's manageable, especially as my Outlook account is strongly associated with a single context (my work computer) for me. You can use these with Outlook right out of the box, no add-on required. I use the Outlook folders for relatively quick and simple NAs--if a project or NA gets more complex, I go to my paper system.

        I use my paper notebook for all contexts, so I refer to it all the time and can really trust it. And it's very lightweight, so not a hassle for me to bring home evenings or weekends. (Unlike my laptop, which weighs so much that I think it must have been carved out of marble.)

        Comment


        • #5
          mcogilvie - You mentioned all of that was a waste of time - what do you do now, a totally paper based low-tech system? I'm very curious to know, given I am new to GTD and just starting to implement. I wanted to start on a good foot.

          Sonia - don't worry about posting too many times For new people like me I need to get some opinions (and I'm sure I'll need many more as fumble with the system through the learning curve).

          One issue I have that is unique to me, is that I feel as though I almost have three jobs - normal work, volunteer work (different location) and many personal professional projects (I'm a research scientist). Technically I can't mix my work in these areas (I shouldn't work on personal projects when I am volunteering for example), so I don't know how a GTDer would manage to get away without somehow seperating these areas...

          Serene

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with the comments about keeping it simple and not having too many place to look.

            However, the add-in will allow you to set up contexts for
            @Home-calls
            @Home-waiting for
            @volunteer-calls
            @personal-calls
            etc.

            You can't make sub-contexts in a nested outline way that will expand and collapse, but the above approach is simple and usable.

            There is also a way in the add-in to assign a field in each task to be "home" or "work" or "volunteer" and then you can sort and filter views of these tasks. I tried this and found it workable but cumbersome - an extra field to type in for every task. You may love it.

            The add-in has a built-in ability to have projects with subprojects, like
            Big project
            Big project\first subproject
            Big project\second subproject
            Big project\third subproject
            etc

            Since your concerns are mostly about different contexts, though, I would not recommend using projects and subprojects to separate @volunteer from @personal.

            I mix everything together in outllook using the add-in. I have a context for @home and one for @office. While in the office, I filter out the @home tasks, or I use a view grouped by context and collapse the entire group for @home. In my calendar, I created an auto-formatting rule that colors personal appointments green so I can easily keep them separate while I look at the calendar. I use outlooks categories to mark an appointment as personal. I could filter them out if I was required to show my work calendar to my boss, for example, but so far I have not needed this.

            As far as storing emails and documents, you can have whatever folders and subfolders you like. The add-in will support filing to anyplace that outlook will support. So, you could have a folder @volunteer with subfolders @maps or whatever. Just remember, that the add-in uses tasks and task views to manage contexts, not folders. That is, my @home tasks are not stored in any @home folder. They are all in the outlook Tasks folder, grouped by context.


            Ken

            Comment


            • #7
              If you *really* want them separate, Outlook will let you create multiple folder trees. That is you can put all home stuff -- email, tasks, and calendar items -- in one set of folders, all work stuff in another, and so forth. This works best if you have a different email address for each role. Or, depending on which version of Windows you are using, you can create three separate user accounts, each with its own Outlook data file. If you set the permissions right, the work user can't even see the data for the home user. The only way to isolate them even more would be to have different physical computers.

              Which is exactly what people who *really* can't mix personal and work tasks do. (People who work with classified information, for example.)

              At the other extreme, some people throw all tasks into one big soup and depend on contexts to show them only what they need at any given time.

              So I guess my question is why don't you want to merge the two? Is it a hard limit, like you'll get fired if your boss catches you making a dentist appointment on company time? Or a soft limit, like not wanting to be distracted by one hat when you're wearing another? The harder the limit, the higher the walls between roles need to be. The softer the limit, the more likely high walls are to drive you crazy.

              Katherine

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi guys,

                Thanks for much for all of this advice! I am keeping a copy of this discussion for reference. I decided I will try one way and experiment and if my intuition tells me to experiment with another style I will. I will start simple to begin.

                I decided to will keep the same @Action, @Waiting, etc folders for each area so when I look them over, I will focus on just those pertinent to where I am. For example when I am volunteering, I will scan the @Action folder and look just at the "volunteer" related emails.

                I think projects however I will divide by the work / personal / volunteer division, as it is easier to look over I think...

                Serene

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's helpful to be able to print out a list of all the tasks for the day or week from outlook, home and work, all on the same list. So I use the special characters on the number keys to sort things for me. Tasks for clients all start with @ and the client name. My own tasks start with # and my initials, and I add my daughter's name, or MED for medical, or contexts. So my own home or personal tasks all fall at the bottom of my task list, and my client or work tasks are at the top. I'm just learning Outlook and am not sure what would happen if I set up separate folders, and anyway I want to keep it simple. The more complex it gets, the more trouble I'll have trying to remember all the tricks or conditions, etc.

                  Comment

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