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 can I get rid of this in-box bottleneck? Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • How can I get rid of this in-box bottleneck?

    Hi everyone -- I've got a serious bottleneck in my system, and would really appreciate any advice on how to deal with it. I'm an in-house lawyer. My job, primarily, is to oversee complex, high-dollar litigation for my company. I currently am responsible for overseeing about 130 cases.

    As you might imagine, I get a large number of emails and other documents related to these cases. When I first began trying to use GTD, I immediately saw that it had been a mistake to think that I could keep in my head the details about what's happened in these cases, what the current status is, and what needs to be done next. (Pat self on back: I got that part.) So I began keeping running notes to myself -- a separate Word document for each case, which is not a comprehensive summary of the case, but some notes about what documents I've received and put into the file; significant developments; reports that I've given to my superiors (and instructions that I've received from them); and "Waiting For" and "Next Action" notes. I guess you could view these as project notes. These running notes have been enormously helpful to me. Not only do they help keep me focused on what I need to do next, but they also provide a very useful (concise) overview of the history of the case -- so that if I get a call out of the blue on a case, or something blows up, I can quickly pull up my notes and remind myself what's happened, what I've done, what my goals & strategies are, and what I'm waiting for or planning to do next -- without having to dig through my entire case file.

    The problem is that these running notes take a lot of time to maintain -- thus, the bottleneck. I have all kinds of documents sitting in my in-box, waiting for me to review them and make an entry into my running notes about the new info and what, if anything, I need to do about it. As much as I love my running notes, I just don't seem to have time to keep up with them. But if I don't make the notes, then I'm not on top of my cases the way that I should be. Any suggestions?

  • #2
    You might look at alternative notetaking software. Word mostly assumes that the end product of using it is a presentation-quality document, so it isn't really optimal for grabbing bits and pieces of things, keeping a running log, etc.

    My favorite is EverNote, which lets me select anything on my screen (text, but also images, pieces of spreadsheets, etc) and send it to EverNote with a single mouseclick. Once there, I can tag it -- for instance with a client name -- sort by date, sort by tag, search, and so forth. I've found it excellent for any situation where I want to retrieve random chunks of related data that were accumulated at different times.

    Lots of notetaking alternatives exist. OneNote (Microsoft) and DevonThink (Mac platform) both have large groups of adherents. Poke around and see what you can find.

    There's also paper, which I have often considered for this kind of thing. Probably not ideal if you want to clip lots of things that come in electronically, but paper is pretty much unsurpassed for flexibility and ease of data entry.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      OneNote

      I have been using the OneNote 2007 Beta (be warned...it is a BETA!!) and it is fairly good at being able to quickly capture information. It also has some nice organization features (The application is organized into Notebooks, Tabs and sections)

      Microsoft has a demo and you can download the Beta for $1.50. It is fairly stable.

      Good Luck!!

      Comment


      • #4
        I would highly recommend the combination of OneNote and the Logitech Digital Pen.
        You can quickly take all your notes on paper, plug your pen in the dock and upload to your PC. One button click and your notes are converted to text and imported into OneNote. Easy!
        Also, Onenote 2007 and Outlook 2007 play really well together, allowing you to link notes to appointments in Outlook.

        Just a satisfied customer

        Comment


        • #5
          How can I get rid of this in-box bottleneck?

          The best way would be to add things to your notes as you are dealing with them rather than stacking them up to be added to your notes later.

          I use MindManager Pro 6 www.mindjet.com and GyroQ. GyroQ is a small program which allows you to queue MindManager entries and them add them when required. (Reviewed here by Eric Mack http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5646).

          It would be simple to set up the product to tag each entry with an 'area' which could be each of your cases. Each time you added an entry and sent the queue to your map if would be positioned below all of the other entries about that case. You would select the case from a drop down list or add a new one by typing directly into the box.

          If you would like any more info send me a personal message.

          Pixlz

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm a legal assistant, and I have a similar bottleneck. I've asked the boss if he can create an 8th day -- attorneys being god and all -- but he hasn't gotten back to me on that one.

            I've tried many methods over the years, and I am liking OneNote these days. I have a section for each client, and then within that I have tabs for docket, tasks, facts, client info, experts, and anything else I need. It's really flexible.

            I was always afraid of losing tasks if I entered information in a client section only, but OneNote allows you to flag entries, and then you can pull a report of all your flags, so that's working well for me.

            I think entering the info as you go is the best way, unless you can save it for your review and enter it all then. I have my chronological notes in a regular old steno notebook, and I go through those and enter info into OneNote from there as well. If you keep daily notes, you could make an entry in there and then type those in during your review.

            Now if we can just get that 8th day.....

            Comment


            • #7
              Outlook journaling may help you too - you didn't mention if that was your email app but it does some of that tracking and grouping. I don't use it much because I don't have a need, but it's an option.

              I do use OneNote and like it a lot, I agree with the others that it could be useful for you.

              Mainly, remember the two minute rule and determine if your updates fit into that, or if you need to defer them to a scheduled time on your hard landscape. Do/Defer/Delegate...

              Comment


              • #8
                Bottleneck System vs Trusted System

                Hi Dallas et al.:
                > I've got a serious bottleneck in my system...
                Welcome aboard, counsel.
                > I'm an in-house lawyer.
                Cool.

                You may well then be in a position to have your company buy some time with Mr Allen's very own productivity tech guru, the aforementioned Mr. Eric Mack. Or get a response to your email, at the very least. In all earnestness, why would David Allen not use the best bottleneck-breaking techno-productivity system, since that's his business and his brand.

                Probably your company's as well - though perhaps not quite so explicitly nor exclusively.

                As a solo lawyer in a formerly -- and hopefully soon again -- high volume (let's not discuss margins) practice, I might consider breaking any number of Commandments if I had on staff a full time IT guy/gal or better, an IT Team , or perhaps best: the backing or wherewithal to make arrangements with Mr. Mack or a similarly stratospherically priced (and worth every kopeck of it) consultant who could analyze my work flow -- and potential work flow -- and design a personally customized "mind-like-water" ACT 2007 or Lotus Notes (the Mack Way) bottleneck-breaker, along with a thick volume of cheat sheets ultra-lucidly laid out according to the highest information design standards as evangelized by the great Edward Tufte, fully comprehensible to even the thickest techno-lughead. (If sheer brilliance of conception alone set the standard for tech manuals and cheat sheets, then Bill Kratz's set of "Obelisks-on-the-Moon" screen shots and instructions would have saved many a cooked goose.

                Back to reality:
                > As you might imagine, I get a large number of emails
                > and other documents related to these cases. When I
                > first began trying to use GTD, I immediately saw that
                > it had been a mistake to think that I could keep in my
                > head the details about what's happened in these cases,
                > what the current status is, and what needs to be done
                > next.
                Don't know where the mental RAM went... but I am aware that my law practice become crazily complex in the last few years, with many more steps and twists in the road... and emails and ageements and time estimates... and constant demands to agree upon do-by dates, scores of messages and conversations to log, thoughts and ideas constantly bubbling up, windows of opportunity closing fast, risks zooming in, drop-dead dates just around the corner... and where's that TRUSTED SYSTEM, the part of GTD that strikes me as the least emphasized yet far and away the most important.

                To categorize the sort of Trusted System that some of need as but "collection system" like noticing that a puddle and the Pacific are both bodies of water. True... and so?

                Okay -- the issue:
                > As much as I love my running notes, I just don't seem to have
                > time to keep up with them. But if I don't make the notes, then
                > I'm not on top of my cases the way that I should be. Any
                > suggestions?
                This, to me, is really the elephant that's been sitting ever-so-politely in the GTD Forum since I first peered in two years ago.

                Hey, no problemo if you can hire Mr. Mack, or if you can follow the inarguably accurate concepts and designs of Mr. Kratz, or if you work for a sufficiently large institution that clothes your database back-end and leaves you with the relatively insubstantial problem of organizing your tasks and projects the GTD way.

                This fire-breathing Collection-System Godzilla that some of us face... this is what makes the game interesting... does it not?

                Or is it what burns us out?

                Evernote:

                I've downloaded the program and am printing out the 140+ page PDF User's Manual; and crossing my fingers.

                * * * * *

                What seems to me to be the obvious, preferred, & relatively low cost solution for a relatively small biz is FileMaker Pro 8.5. Works on both Doze and Macs.

                So it boggles the mind that FileMaker has not generated more discussion on this forum.

                Regrettably, sudden cash flow issues now make going the FileMaker route not quite feasible, for the time being, given program's cost (a couple of hundred) and I'd guess several hundred to a thousand (?) to hire someone to tweak it just enough to make it useful for an attorney's limited purposes in logging all that that we really need logged - more than the non-lawyers in the peanut gallery might imagine. (This, of course, is an outright freebie compared to whipping into usable shape Access + (My)SQL.

                Conclusion:

                Dallas. what on earth are you waiting for?

                Plan A: Get Eric Mack out to your company ASAP.

                Plan B: Get the in-house techies to customize Act 2007 to you exact needs.

                Plan C: Go with FileMaker -- google for consultants -- unless the CTO insists you use his/her SQL/Access system.

                Plan D: See ya in the EverNote forum next week!

                BUT... I could be all wet about all the above. If, kind someone, do please explain!

                And theories & speculations as to why the powerful & apparently fairly simple DBase App of FileMaker gets such short shrift around here would be most welcome.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Two thoughts from me, a GTD wannabe.

                  One, delegate: Can someone else deal with the incoming stuff and update your running notes to the effect "Received blah blah blah document today. It confirms your theory" or whatever. The document then goes in the case file, Action folder, or wherever else the 'project' is filed. Your NA or WF is already set, so when you get to it you'll see you PAs/secretary's note about the document.

                  Two, DIY: Do the same yourself. During your daily/regular inbox-to-zero, you should get all these things in the system. When you see the blah blah blah document, you decide whether it's a less-than-two-minute action (including the time to write it on your running note) or whether it's something to go in the Action folder. If it's the latter (and it won't take long), put it in Action and make a quick note about the document in the running note. Your previously set NA or WF flag will bring you back to that case at the appropriate time.

                  Sometimes though, we have to admit to having too much work to deal with ourselves, then it's time to delegate.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tinkling Cymbal
                    So it boggles the mind that FileMaker has not generated more discussion on this forum.

                    Regrettably, sudden cash flow issues now make going the FileMaker route not quite feasible, for the time being, given program's cost (a couple of hundred) and I'd guess several hundred to a thousand (?) to hire someone to tweak it just enough to make it useful for an attorney's limited purposes in logging all that that we really need logged - more than the non-lawyers in the peanut gallery might imagine. (This, of course, is an outright freebie compared to whipping into usable shape Access + (My)SQL.
                    You answered your own question. Ain't no way I'm plunking that kind of money for a notetaking system. And if it doesn't work out of the box, it's way too complex to be a ubiquitous capture tool.

                    I'm sure it's a fine program for anyone who needs a full-fledged relational database. But the nature of such beasts is, in my experience, that they are "filing systems," not "capture tools." Filing methods lie outside the scope of GTD, which is probably why they aren't discussed in nearly as much detail here.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I don't have any real answers for you. It's just a fact of life that 130 cases = a 90 hour work week.

                      I do have a couple of stopgap ideas though.

                      Any chance that some of those emails have something in common that you could create a filter or rule to dump them straight into a folder for each case? I'm assuming that it would be easier to concentrate on one case for awhile than to go thru each email and jump from case to case in your mind as you deal with them. I'm not advocating 130 email folders for you, but to get things sorted from your general inbox quickly.

                      Another idea is to have one of your paralegals go thru your inbox and do the same kind of sorting. If you need to look inside the email to figure out which case they are talking about, it might pay to have someone else doing that for you. They can create a summary of what's arrived, or who has sent something to you, that's separate for each of your cases. If you have a Waiting For list, leave a copy of it out, then they can mark it up when things arrive so you don't have to deal with each and every thing right then.

                      It's hard! Good luck!

                      Elena

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Oh, sure -- get the paralegal to do it. After you've done your review and delegated everything down to them, we know they're sitting around eating bon-bons and playing online poker anyway, right? It's all I can do to read MY email, much less try to keep up with the boss'.

                        I've never understood the concept of saving email to a folder, because you will have to open each one to read it every time you need something, and that seems terribly time consuming to me.

                        I still print everything the old fashioned way, and I group the emails by task in numbered folders, so when I need info on that particular topic, I just pull the folder and it's all there.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The capture of the current status should be doable in less than 2 minutes per case. I would use OneNote. Maybe EverNote but I fear that unless you spend some time with the program first you're going to lose time on how to do stuff the right way.

                          The status you want to capture is not a full update. It's just a short impression about what is going on.

                          Which project it is is clear from the heading, the title.

                          What the project is about is right under there where you define the outcome.

                          Where we are is in the shorthand notes under it:

                          @waiting John re copyright (completed)
                          @email John says it's a fair use case

                          Each of these can link to their individual item.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "Log capture" FAR from falling-off-a-Log easy

                            Ruud,

                            Thank you for the response.

                            A couple of questions and remarks based on your posting:
                            Originally posted by Ruud

                            The capture of the current status should be doable in less than 2 minutes per case. I would use OneNote. Maybe EverNote but I fear that unless you spend some time with the program first you're going to lose time on how to do stuff the right way.

                            The status you want to capture is not a full update. It's just a short impression about what is going on.

                            Which project it is is clear from the heading, the title.

                            What the project is about is right under there where you define the outcome.

                            Where we are is in the shorthand notes under it:

                            @waiting John re copyright (completed)
                            @email John says it's a fair use case

                            Each of these can link to their individual item.
                            Question 1:

                            My "understanding" of the "@" convention is that it's used to signify contexts for N/As.

                            In one of your examples, however...

                            "@email John says it's a fair use case"
                            ...the "@" appears to be used not in the orthodox GTD manner as a context symbol marking the specific context of a one-step task that's "immediately actionable" and "without dependencies." Rather, it seems to indicate a "reformed" approach to GTD "symbolism." Perfectly fine by me (No matter the color of the cat so long as it catches the rat!), but I don't quite understand the approach. Probably obvious, but please explain to us slow pokes in the back row.

                            Now the whole enchilada, as far as I'm concerned, is precisely the issue you address of fast logging of communications (the summary approach you describe makes great sense) PLUS real fast access to those logs of past communications. That two-part capability is absolutely necessary to effective communication and an essential prerequisite to remaining competitive in the professional service sector. [No news to you, quite obviously; but it bears repeating... and repeating... and repeating.]

                            Such communication data logging is by no means, as perhaps (?) Kewm implied, a database "reference system" (relational or otherwise) that might possibly be deemed somewhat peripheral to GTD's central mission. Plainly there are many essential "trusted systems" that are not integral to the GTD Way (as I understand it). QuickBooks; or a factory inventory DB app; or data systems to sort, filter & generate sales reports twenty different ways; or an address mail-merge database; etc., etc.; are probably outside the scope of GTD's core competence.

                            But I do not see how there can be ANY "trusted system" more central to GTD -- and more essential to conserving one's limited stores of mental RAM -- than a system that provides fast access to the hundreds of "bits" of vital verbiage given & taken in one's professional activities everyday. This is info that one's clientele EXPECTS & TRUSTS a professional to have at her or his fingertips. Moreover, a true professional will indeed have a "trusted system" in place to assure that her or his clients' trust is well placed and expectations are, one hopes, met if not exceeded. Otherwise -- I don't know about you -- but I'll be selling apples on a street corner -- or I guess the 21st century equivalent -- flipping burgers @ McD's... if I'm so lucky.

                            /rant off.

                            Question 2:

                            Why your preference for OneNote?

                            Gates & Co. are not known for their user-gentle wares... except to those of Kratz or Mack... or D. Allen level techno-cool.

                            No disagreement, though: nominally free shareware EverNote does seem to be an awfully expensive "solution" in terms of sunk time=$, at least for some of us of the Smith-Corona generation.

                            TIA

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tinkling Cymbal
                              No disagreement, though: nominally free shareware EverNote does seem to be an awfully expensive "solution" in terms of sunk time=$, at least for some of us of the Smith-Corona generation.
                              Out of curiousity, why do you think so? And why would it involve anymore sunk time than OneNote (which admittedly I've never used)? I ask because I chose EverNote precisely because of its shallow learning curve.

                              Katherine

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X