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  • Getting the filing done

    Hi all!

    I'm a lurker of about 7 months standing, and have been slowly implementing GTD both at home and at work. I reckon I'm just moving from White Belt to Green belt status (my e-mail in-box has been empty three weeks running, and I went on holiday knowing what was happening/not happening in all my important loops). I'm definitely a GTD convert!

    Now the problem: I have a large pile of stuff to file at home that has been accumulating over several years in a couple of boxes. I haven't worked out yet what is the hang-up that stops me doing it, but now of course it's so big I just look at it and freak out.

    What I'd appreciate is thoughts on how to make it happen. Some of the stuff is so old that I think I'd better start by "re - processing" the lot, on the basis that I can probably throw out quite a bit. I'll have my labeller and some storage at the ready, and I guess I've got to set aside some time to do it.

    Any other tips to overcome this "filing block" would be most welcome.

    Ruth

  • #2
    filing

    I am in the same boat with old boxes. The trap is that they MAY include something critical - a warranty, an important document or statement. But most should be trashed. Two suggestions from this Forum have helped me as I sift through the rubble. First, define what you'll keep, ahead of time. Rather than starting with David's "What is this?" ask "What is this NOT?" That way, if it does not fall in one of your pre-defined categories, it immediately goes in the trash. As an example, many of my boxes are the result of having to "stash and dash" at holidays or when company is coming. They tend to be a layered torta of the children's papers, recipes, and ill-defined mail. I make progress when I decide first that I will only keep the "keepsake-worthy" children's papers. The recipes and mail that I never acted on get pitched, not filed. When my daughter pulled out a box of keepsakes on the day of her high school graduation picnic, we found old drawings and lists that I'm so glad I kept.

    Second, if a box contains things that you definitely want to keep and the storage has worked OK so far, just give it a pretty new label. Avery makes label sheets that are 8 1/2 x 11 - you can slap a nice ID on the box without repackaging. I also swear by the hardware-free plastic shelving units that go up in 5 minutes with just a hammer. That way, you have room for the boxes, off the floor, very cheaply. If you already have shelving that is going to waste because it's all taken up with useless stuff, just buy ONE set of shelves and use it as a staging area.

    Glad GTD is working for you! Hope I've added a little help.

    Comment


    • #3
      Easy solution

      Originally posted by RuthMcT
      Now the problem: I have a large pile of stuff to file at home that has been accumulating over several years in a couple of boxes. I haven't worked out yet what is the hang-up that stops me doing it, but now of course it's so big I just look at it and freak out.
      Here is an easy way to handle this problem. Carry the box to the curb on trash day and be done with it. If this stuff has been accumulating for several years then there is nothing in it that is relevant enough for you to actually go looking through the box in order to file anything.

      There is nothing worse than a big box of ambiguous un-doable stuff even if the next action is simply "File Me". The problem with such boxes is that File Me is a less than two minute action and instead of doing the two minute action of filing you casually add to the box of ambiguous un-doable, un-findable stuff that is sitting there becoming an ever growing open loop.

      You're never going to go through that box so throw it away. End the madness.

      Now either one of two things has happened. You've decided pitching the box is the best idea and you're so enamoured of the idea that you've stopped reading this post and are busy hauling the box to the curb, or you are sitting there saying to yourself, "I can't throw that away, there might be something important in there?" If so here are a few questions and suggestions:

      1. Do you have a "Process box of stuff" next action on a list somewhere? If not then that may be preventing you from completing the work.

      2. Do you have what you need to complete the job? Is "buy labeller", or "buy folders", or "buy filing cabinet" a next action you need to do first that is really the next action? Is there some other action that needs to be done first? In that case there should be a project on your project list such as "Process box and file all materials in their permenant for-all-time place of storage" and a next action for the project such as buy labeller or buy folders.

      3. What's in (or what might be in) that box of stuff that you can't just pitch it? Do you even know? Try this. For the next week keep a list of everything you need but can't find. Whatever you do you can't look in the box no matter how important it is. You can look everywhere else but you can't look in the box. Anything you still can't find goes on the list. At the end of the week look at your list and either throw out the box or process it and see if the things you are looking for are there.

      4. Go to the bank/atm and take out $100 in five $20.00 bills. Have a friend bury them in the box. When you process the box collect the cash and spend it however you want. (Not processing the box is cheating)...

      5. Re-read the danger of "Hold and Review" files and piles. p. 170 in chapter Seven.

      hope this helps...

      Comment


      • #4
        great reply, jpm

        Excellent advice, JPM. Thank you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Another trick...

          A trick I read in a great book called Clutter's Last Stand might apply here. If you've got a box full of stuff like that, tape it up, write the date on it, and stick it in your attic. If there's anything useful in there, you'll eventually have to go in to the attic and open it to retrieve it. Otherwise, if you look in your attic and that box has been up there for six months, unopened, take it to the curb. If you haven't opened it yet, you're not going to, and the items inside are likely worthless to you.

          Comment


          • #6
            15 minutes at a time

            I'm a big fan of setting a kitchen timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, simply stop and go do something else. If you do that every day, the pile (or whatever big task you're working on) will eventually get done. If you like, you can set up a recurring NA that says @Spend 15 minutes processing file pile.

            I find it much easier to tackle "just 15 minutes" than staring at something that in total will take many hours. It's amazing how quickly you can wade through big tasks with that technique. I use it when writing, reviewing, doing household chores, most anything.

            How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

            Terri

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by tbflygirl
              I'm a big fan of setting a kitchen timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, simply stop and go do something else. If you do that every day, the pile (or whatever big task you're working on) will eventually get done. If you like, you can set up a recurring NA that says @Spend 15 minutes processing file pile.

              I find it much easier to tackle "just 15 minutes" than staring at something that in total will take many hours. It's amazing how quickly you can wade through big tasks with that technique. I use it when writing, reviewing, doing household chores, most anything.

              How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

              Terri
              I think that was what Edwin Bliss called "The Salami Technique" in an older book by the same name as David's. I've used this with great success as well (although I only commit to 10 minutes). After the ten minutes, I have full permission to go do something else. However, one way that this technique really pays off is that if you find yourself in "the zone" after those then minutes, you also have permission to keep working on it. Sometimes it's worth maintaining the momentum.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thank you all for your comments, and in particular jpm's questions which have really got me thinking.

                The results of the thinking so far:

                1) the boxes are 95% reference material as for years I've tried to restrict them to non-actionable material. However I know there are a few someday/maybe's in there from the time when I didn't know about the someday/maybe idea.

                2) I access the box to retrieve reference material, like car insurance, equipment manuals, bank statements about 2 or 3 times a month. Each time I think "I really must file these so I can retrieve easily without having to go through the whole box (or three)"

                3) I've had this down as a next action for the last six months, but when I really started to think about it yesterday it's a project, because I realised I need to make space in the study to store the files neatly (first NA - move my dolls house into the attic).

                4) I also visited an office store today to review options for storage to see if I could find something to hold my ring binders so they don't all fall over as soon as I remove one from the shelf. I think I've been successful.

                5) In trying to answer the question "what's in there?" my immediate response is that I know, but then I realised I'm not actually sure apart from the stuff I do access regularly. This has unexpectedly precipitated a desire to investigate the piles further.

                6) I've been trying to choose between salami slicing and doing a mass processing for some time. I think I'll try like I did when I started out in GTD - I'll allocate a whole evening to break the back of it, and then do the rest in slices.

                7) I also think that making myself put the problem down in writing, and then trying to answer the questions others have posed, has in itself helped to overcome the "stuck" feeling.

                Thanks to all, and here goes.......

                Ruth

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by RuthMcT
                  ...
                  4) I also visited an office store today to review options for storage to see if I could find something to hold my ring binders so they don't all fall over as soon as I remove one from the shelf. I think I've been successful.
                  ...
                  Ruth
                  I'm curious. What storage solution did you find to keep the binders from falling over. I have a similar problem.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    OT, but...
                    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
                    [...]
                    I'll allocate a whole evening to break the back of it, and then do the rest in slices.
                    ... language is just the most beautiful tool of 'em all.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RuthMcT
                      5) In trying to answer the question "what's in there?" my immediate response is that I know, but then I realised I'm not actually sure apart from the stuff I do access regularly. This has unexpectedly precipitated a desire to investigate the piles further.
                      I wonder whether you'd be better using a Pile Cabinet System for your filing. Have a look at https//www.pilecabinet.com

                      The idea is amazingly simple. You don't have lots of piles, you have one and you log what you put in to it.

                      I've just started using it, together with the GTD processes that I've managed to get into my routine, and I'm beginning to see some of the benefits. I cleared an unlogged pile in about half an hour this afternoon. Now my filing trays are empty of paper, and I know where it is, and how to find what I want!!

                      Anybody want to buy a filing cabinet?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
                        I'm curious. What storage solution did you find to keep the binders from falling over. I have a similar problem.
                        It turned out to be very low tech! A storage cube from an office supplies store which is exactly deep enough to take an A4 ring binder - the open top being 365mm by 360mm. I turn it on it's side so the opening faces forwards, and there's then enough room to get my fingers in at the top to pull a binder out. It holds 9 binders when full. Sorry, the online shop doesn't have a picture I can show you.

                        This particular model is designed when placed the normal way up to take hanging files, so it has a metal rod on each side near the opening. With the box on its side the metal rods are on the top and bottom edges - this means the binder tilts away from me slightly so it's less likely to fall out. I think the reason nothing falls over is because it all has limited space in which to do so.

                        I wonder whether you'd be better using a Pile Cabinet System for your filing. Have a look at https//www.pilecabinet.com
                        Hmm, not sure about a site which forces you to register with an e-mail address before you are even allowed to look at their information. I suspect though that using a logging and search system would be even less effective for me!

                        Ruth

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          break it down

                          Hi Ruth, I'm brand new and this is my first post on the forum. I haven't even worked my way through GTD book yet so I can't comment on that but I know all about lurking boxes because my life is full of them! Actually my real downfall is carrier bags - I put all sorts of random things in them and then they get slung in cupboards in 'tidying' episodes without ever being emptied. My partner is bad for that, he'll just sling a load of bags into my cupboard without telling me, then I'll spend ages looking for things knowing that they're in a bag somewhere. I've lost important things for years this way, so I can't recommend the "put it in the trash without looking through it" suggestion because I would have thrown out loads of stuff I needed if I did that. I can't say that I recommend carrier bags as a filing system!

                          What I've found works well is to break the task down into much smaller chunks. Make yourself a cup of tea, take a handful of stuff from the box and sit down and sort it. If you have a recycling box, put it next to you and work straight into that. Otherwise put stuff straight into a bin. Or, if the material is sensitive have a shedder to hand. I sometimes do a first sort through to weed out the obvious rubbish - I've been doing this as I collect everything into my in-box for GTD.

                          The crucial thing to do is to tell yourself "this is only going to take ten minutes and when I've done this handful then I'm going to stop". I often find that I do keep going but telling myself that is what gets me started on what can easily seem like an overwhelming task.

                          Kirsty

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Bookends

                            Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
                            I'm curious. What storage solution did you find to keep the binders from falling over. I have a similar problem.
                            At the office I use L-shaped steely bookends made by our hospital locksmith, and at home I have similar bookends that I bought at a home improvement store.

                            Rainer

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Bookends & Boxes

                              Originally posted by RuthMcT
                              It turned out to be very low tech! A storage cube from an office supplies store which is exactly deep enough to take an A4 ring binder - the open top being 365mm by 360mm. I turn it on it's side so the opening faces forwards, and there's then enough room to get my fingers in at the top to pull a binder out. It holds 9 binders when full. Sorry, the online shop doesn't have a picture I can show you.
                              Ruth,

                              No need for a picture. Your description was clear enough. I had a feeling that the solution would be either:
                              1. a box that would hold binders - similar to the way magazine files hold magazines.
                              2. a system for hanging binders on a rack, which would present problems to someone like yours truly who puts things in binder pockets.

                              Thanks.

                              Originally posted by Rainer Burmeister
                              At the office I use L-shaped steely bookends made by our hospital locksmith, and at home I have similar bookends that I bought at a home improvement store.

                              Rainer
                              Rainer,

                              I use large bookends myself. It works pretty well, except for a problem I have when the binders are not very full. Sliding the bookend under them tends to press the binders into a wedge. Not exactly a fate worse than death, but if there's a better mouse trap out there....

                              Comment

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