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Working at speed...

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  • Working at speed...

    I want to reach those of you, and I'm sure there are many, who work in the thick of things - where next actions are coming at you thick and fast.

    I want to hear how you have devleoped the system to cope with intense demands in your work routines.

    I have just switched from using a pda for my next action lists to using paper because I receive next actions faster than I can input them onto my pda. I've also moved to use a paper diary for the same reasons.

    My work involves responding to enquiries, providing administrative and technical support to people who expect results either almost immediately or within the same day.

    I can see the benefits of using the GTD system - it works for me at home, now I want to make it work for me in my professional life too.

    At work I feel like I'm a long way off from 'Mind like water'!

  • #2
    My full-time job can lob, say, ten NAs at me each day. Here's how I keep track:

    All my Next Actions are kept in a text file on my computer, which I keep open all the time. If I'm asked to do something when I'm at my desk, I immediately put the first action on the bottom of my Next Actions list, and add an appropriate Project to my Projects list.

    I also have a small deck of 4x6" index cards held with a small binder clip, that I take with me everywhere at work. The lined card on top is labeled "ACTIONS" at the top. If I'm asked to do something when I'm not at my desk, I write it on the top lined card. About once a day, I put everything on that top card into my Next Actions text file, and cross out everything on the card. (The card on the other side of the deck, which is plain unruled white, I use for doodling and note-taking during meetings).

    I have other aspects to the system--in particular, a tickler--but the Next Actions file and the index cards are how I take care of incoming actions.

    Does that help?

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm mainly paper based at this time.

      My capture tool of choice is a 3X5 note pad that lives in my shirt pocket - I tend to be mobile. If it comes my way I record it. From there it gets processed.

      To move the item into the right project, I keep my project files in clear color coded plastic folder (Pendaflex #51055). The front or top sheet is a "Project Outline" or ''Project Detail" from from the DIY Planner web site. I take the note and record it on the sheet - this second processing gives me a moment of reflection. Very useful if deciding the what and how of the next action.

      If its an new project I complete the project outline form and slip it into a folder (have both these items on hand and within reach). For future dated items, tickler folder - usually as is.

      At the end of the day, it comes down to the disciple of capturing and action. Even in the thick of the action, you have time to think and you should take it ... the outcome will be better.

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      • #4
        More than 90% of my incoming "stuff" arrives as e-mail. So I ruthlessly process my inbox. I block off at least an hour to an hour and a half each day for inbox processing. I probably do a half hour or so of inbox processing between appointments, or when waiting for for the terminally late to arrive at a meeting. Most of my appointments are by phone so I can easily access Outlook while I wait. Since I use the GTD Add-in for outlook I can usually plow through about two e-mails a minute. I've gotten a bit better at deflecting non-actionable e-mail so most e-mail that comes in results in a next action. I generate roughly 50 to 100 next actions a day. Most are delegations. Of course about half of the e-mail coming in helps close out those existing @Waiting For next actions...

        I'll typically have a minimum of 4-6 phone appointments a day and each of those will generate anywhere from 1 to a half dozen or so next actions. Again, I work hard to make sure that most of those are waiting fors... An appointment should also close out a half dozen or so Next Actions, mostly @Waiting Fors, or @Agendas, but sometimes other Next Actions...

        Our company provides most employees laptops with docking stations, so I generally have my laptop with me even if I'm not at my desk on a phone appointment. If not I have my palm and portable keyboard with me.

        I do everything I can to capture meeting notes digitally in DayNotez desktop or on my PDA. I also do whatever I can to capture the Next Actions immediately. When on phone calls I'm typically typing notes as I participate and make certain that I track all of the next actions in those notes. Afterwards, I send an e-mail to all participants with my notes and the follow-up items. (I usually create @Waiting Fors depending upon how important the follow-up is to me or a project I own.)

        Sometimes the above is not possible of course, and I either take notes on paper, or at a minimum record next actions on paper or my PDA's digital voice recorder. Both of these require later processing, so if I can avoid it I do so at almost any cost. Often when on phone calls while on the run (such as schleping luggage through O'Hare) I'll ask another attendee to send out action items via e-mail to all participants. Again this requires me to do some e-mail processing later, but at least I know it will be captured, and e-mail Inbox processing is much easier for me to handle than paper or the voice recorder...

        I avoid paper like the plague. Probably because it has never been a trusted system for me. Too much history of loosing that important piece of paper and spending 4 hours looking for it. If I store something digitally on my hard drive I can usually find it in minutes if not seconds. That may just be me though...

        The PDA is still extremely useful. Its not the best for capture (though it can be done with a portable keyboard) but it's very good at storage and retrieval. Allows me to carry my full system with me basically anywhere. Most important for cranking out @Errands, @Calls, and @Anywhere. Sync early and often.

        I manage a team that does both long term projects and direct support of a 1 to 7 day nature so the projects can be of both types. A lot of activity around those short projects that need an answer before noon... I don't think I could manage any way except digitally, and for me that requires a notebook computer.

        Biggest challenge I have with my system is when I don't record digitally and have to go back and process stuff from paper... It's a pain and feels very unproductive...

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by dbobfish
          I want to reach those of you, and I'm sure there are many, who work in the thick of things - where next actions are coming at you thick and fast.!
          In my opinion this kind of situation is outwith the application of GTD. When you've got a lot of stuff coming in and is has to be done TODAY (usually from your boss) then you just go ahead and do it.
          Originally posted by dbobfish
          At work I feel like I'm a long way off from 'Mind like water'!
          Actually, I think this is Mind like Water. You receive the tasks, do them right away and complete them on the day. There is no interruption to the work flow. It's an extension to the 2 minute rule (but it's a as-many-minutes-as-it-takes rule).

          The problem comes when the tasks are not doable. If you've got 10 todo's coming in per day and you can't do 5 of them then you'll have 15 to do tomorrow- that's when you need to give your boss a reality check! That's also when GTD should kick in.

          Comment


          • #6
            dbobfish, here is what I do:

            I keep a stack of 4x6 index cards at my desk, and as NAs come in I write them down on the cards (one per card). Then, I toss the card into my inbox where it sits until processed.

            Nothing goes into my PDA until it's processed, so speed of entry really isn't an issue for me.

            Keep in mind that the intent of the PDA is not to be a capture tool as much as it is an organizing tool... this distinction my very well be the crux of your issue.

            Also, the point of NAs are to serve as reminders of commitments made, or stakes in the ground, if you will... so, having said that, I don't believe that it is necessary to write down every single last NA if you are doing them in the moment. In fact, it's my opinion that the whole point of writing down a NA is because you are not going to do it that moment... (eg., 2-minute rule items don't get written down).

            You need something to remind you of the commitment that you made when you do come back to it. That's where the NA comes into play. If I'm doning something in the moment and I stop, I write the very NA down and throw it in my inbox as well.

            Hope this helps,

            Jim

            Comment


            • #7
              Agree that you do not need to enter anything on an NA if you just do it.

              My NA list is on paper, and I scribble new NAs on it as they come in, and as I process my email & meatverse in-boxes. Each day at about 4 (to give myself some breathing room before I leave for the day) I update the paper list (it's in Word) and add in the new NAs that didn't get completed. I also clear out & process my in-boxes and delete completed NAs.

              This system is very fast, very simple, very easy to update & review and can easily follow me around during my day.

              Comment


              • #8
                Many of the next-actions I record are 'two minute tasks' but usually arrive when I'm right smack in the middle of another task.

                I just need to take a step back here - all of your replies are helpful, didn't expect so many so quickly.

                Many of you have spoken about the use of the desktop pc, but although I work with a desktop pc I am not working at the pc all day. So having my list here doesn't really work for me.

                The Pda is great for keeping track of the next actions. I like what many of you have said about capturing them on paper and then tranfering them to Pda later in the day - that could be useful. Although, when the next day starts I'd have two points of reference - my pda and my stack of index cards or notepad.

                Rebuild wrote 'Even in the thick of the action, you have time to think and you should take it ... the outcome will be better.' Well put, I've recently learned the importance of this.

                Jpm 'The PDA is still extremely useful. Its not the best for capture (though it can be done with a portable keyboard) but it's very good at storage and retrieval. Allows me to carry my full system with me basically anywhere.'

                This is why I find it so difficult to ditch the pda altogether. I love that I can carry my system with me everywhere.

                Treelike, 'Actually, I think this is Mind like Water. You receive the tasks, do them right away and complete them on the day. There is no interruption to the work flow. It's an extension to the 2 minute rule (but it's a as-many-minutes-as-it-takes rule).' That's half the problem though, I find that there are so many interruptions to workflow that it's difficult to get everything done in the day. This is why I need such a well trusted system to record (quickly record) and track all of those tasks and requests from others throughout the day.

                jkgrossi, 'Keep in mind that the intent of the PDA is not to be a capture tool as much as it is an organizing tool... this distinction my very well be the crux of your issue.' Oh yes - totally agree. Using the Pda as a capture tool just didn't work for me, that's why I moved to pen and paper for capture.

                And, 'I don't believe that it is necessary to write down every single last NA if you are doing them in the moment. In fact, it's my opinion that the whole point of writing down a NA is because you are not going to do it that moment... (eg., 2-minute rule items don't get written down).' Well, I try to note most things down - saves committing it to memory and forgetting it altogether - or thinking about it all day, 'Musn't forget such and such task..'

                As I say, many two minute tasks come my way whilst I'm in the midst of something else which doesn't permit me to drop everything and go and do the newly arrived 2 minute task.

                From what you've all mentioned collectively, I think I'm going to give the index cards a try, then move larger items Projects and larger next actions that will take more time into my pda and use this as an organising tool.

                Thanks for all of your responses - things are a wee bit clearer now!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dbobfish
                  Many of the next-actions jkgrossi, 'Keep in mind that the intent of the PDA is not to be a capture tool as much as it is an organizing tool... this distinction my very well be the crux of your issue.' Oh yes - totally agree. Using the Pda as a capture tool just didn't work for me, that's why I moved to pen and paper for capture.

                  And, 'I don't believe that it is necessary to write down every single last NA if you are doing them in the moment. In fact, it's my opinion that the whole point of writing down a NA is because you are not going to do it that moment... (eg., 2-minute rule items don't get written down).' Well, I try to note most things down - saves committing it to memory and forgetting it altogether - or thinking about it all day, 'Musn't forget such and such task..'
                  Well, my point with the 2-minute rule items not being written down was that they get done right then and there (as you are processing)... so, there is nothing to not forget.

                  You don't necessarily do your 2 minute items as soon as they arrive; You pick up the item from your inbox while in process-mode, realize that it could be done in less than 2 minutes and wham... you do it and it's done.

                  Now, you won't necessarily have two points of reference (paper & pda) if you're writing stuff down on paper and then tossing it into your inbox. If you're processing regularly, the NAs on the scraps of paper in your inbox will be transfered to your pda. So, you only will have one point of reference.

                  Keep in mind that the intent of "projects & NAs" is to remind you of your commitments. The NAs need to be specific enough so that you don't have to rethink what it is that you have to do... You don't have to think because you already thought...

                  So, don't make your NAs TOO big, you know?

                  Jim
                  Last edited by jkgrossi; 04-27-2006, 01:15 PM.

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