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please advise, practices for back logs?

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  • please advise, practices for back logs?

    Processing backlogs is cognitively and organizationally challenging, at least for me. Fortunately much gets discarded, but I need help with some of what remains and would be greatful for suggestions.

    These are problems that I have encountered in processing one 2 foot stack. I ask for your ideas on how to make this go faster. I have many more stacks to go.

    Filing:

    13 items to file require hunting in my file boxes and cabinet because I know I have related items in folders but I can't remember exactly what the file heads are.

    7 items I know or suspect belong to files in another pile somewhere , or in some part of my system that needs serious, serious overhauling.

    Project relationships (very vexxing):

    17 items pertain to Active Projects, but with a time frame that I had not realized or had failed to record.

    12 items pertain to projects but I didn't realize were projects before, in that they have several actions to complete.

    20 items refer to sub-projects of projects, (Active, SDMB, or as yet in my mind only) and I can't recall without looking in physical folders or notes on my Palm where I have definitions of projects) if I have defined either the subs or the parent or what I have named it.

    For 14 items, I know each involves a basic project, but I can't remember if I have defined the project and put it on my list yet.

    So, I think this boils down to determining which of the following actions seem feasible at the time of processing? If they are not to be done at the time of processing, how do I make a note of them and follow up?

    Look through project lists and see if project exists?

    Define a project?

    Re-define a project to include an associated sub-project?

    Put a deadline and lead time on the calendar? Correct any discrepanies with other calendars, note any conflicts or need to renegotiation needed?

    I have some other project related difficulties that arise when the next apparent action involves other people, but I will post them in a thread by themselves.

    Thank you for any suggestions (or corrections in my thinking).

    I am still a relative Ludite, using Palm handheld and desk top, but am migrating to LifeBalance and Siral consistency (or a physical chart or index card tickler for recurring tasks) this summer, unless I find something better in the interim.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
    So, I think this boils down to determining which of the following actions seem feasible at the time of processing? If they are not to be done at the time of processing, how do I make a note of them and follow up?

    Look through project lists and see if project exists?

    Define a project?

    Re-define a project to include an associated sub-project?

    Put a deadline and lead time on the calendar? Correct any discrepanies with other calendars, note any conflicts or need to renegotiation needed?
    The short answer: do any or all of the above that apply.

    When you are processing your inbox, you can use the 2-minute rule to determine which actions you can do NOW.

    All the rest go on your lists. And you should definitely be referencing your lists and project plans as you go through your inbox. That's the only way you'll be able to remember where you're at in a given project--or whether an action or project is already on your list.

    If you have a new, incoming project and you're short on time, you can put the project on your projects list and then add something like "sketch out plan for project x" on your actions list.

    If you only get through 1/4 of the pile, then add an action to your list, process rest of inbox. Or, if it helps, you can process the inbox in incremental chunks (provided that there are no hidden crises in the inbox).

    Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
    I have some other project related difficulties that arise when the next apparent action involves other people, but I will post them in a thread by themselves.
    These things generally go on a Waiting For or Agendas list.
    Last edited by madalu; 05-02-2007, 01:37 PM.

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    • #3
      It sounds as though a major part of your problem is insufficient acquaintance with existing project names and files. Before trying to fit new items in, when you're not sure you're putting them in the right place, your newest project or next action could be to give them all a quick overview, so you'll know what's already in place (and possibly what you need to combine, eliminate, or rename).

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      • #4
        When things are moving fast and my system becomes a bit scattered, I schedule time to get all my "stuff" into my system. I don't worry about duplicates, etc. but just get it all in there so I have it all in one place. I then take out my Weekly Review card I got at Roadmap and do a thorough Weekly Review.

        It's amazing how quickly I can get back to a state of rest when I implement the basic GTD best practices.

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        • #5
          You may want to quickly run through your existing files. It may be worthwhile to create a quick list of the names of your existing files.

          However, I would prioritize cleaning up the project items higher than filing.

          17 items pertaining to active projects with time frames not recorded. I would get these projects updated with this information.

          12 items you now realize are projects - Add them to your projects lists as appropriate.

          20 subprojects but not sure the projects are on list. Quickly scan the project lists. If you're not sure, add them to the project list your think is appropriate.

          14 projects you don't know if they are on the list. If a quick scan doesn't answer the question, add them to the list. It's better to have it on there twice than not at all.

          Now before moving on the the filing, review each project list. Because of the new date information on some of the projects, do you need to renegotiate delivery dates with yourself of someone else? Put that on the appropriate action list. Read through each list looking for duplicates and clean them up as you go.

          Now you can work on the filing. If this isn't the time to do the massive overhaul on your filing, create folders for these items. Make a place in your filing system, or even a fresh start, for your reference files. Then as you clean out your exisiting files, you can file them into your newly started area. For your current project files, again, treat it as a new start. As you need to pull existing material into them, just add it in as if it were new. Also while the new materials are fresh in your mind, you can flip through existing files and recognize and pull out related materials to file with the new materials.

          Comment


          • #6
            You mention that you can't rember if a project is already on your projects list or not. That is actually a good thing. The point of the list is so that you don't have to keep it all in your head. However, a list should be easy to scan to see if a particular project is there. If you can't scan the list to see if a project is there, then you nead a better way to manage your list. You mention that you are using Palm and transitioning to something else. Maybe the technology and/or the transition is part of the problem. Try printing the list out. Now you have something that you can work with. In your case, your project listing should include all subprojects so you can scan those items at the same time and then you will know if they are there or not. There should be little or no need to remember if something is on a list.

            If you can't find things in your files, then you need to organize your files or start a new file system from scratch and incorporate the old files into it one by one. Go through them and spend some time thinking about how to label things and of course get them alphabetic. You don't have to rememer what all the file titles are, they just have to make sense and be in alphabetic order. Consolidate multiple files where appropriate or split files containing more than one kind of information. If you can't find things in your files, fixing that is your next action. For example, when I organized my files, I had things in there relating to our family cars in various folders with labels like "maintenance" "car stuff" "Toyota Repair Records" "Sienna Maintenance" "Titles" "Insurance" "Honda Maintenance" "Taxes" "Auto Receipts" "Barry's Car" etc. Some of it was for cars long since traded. It was ridiculous. The source of the chaos was a merging of my files with my wife's files and several different efforts to get organized. The car files were not even all together and none of it was alphabetic. The car stuff is just an example, we had smaller messes in other categories. I gathered up all the car stuff and decided on a logical way to organize it. Now, everything for the Sienna is alphatized together in folders that each start with "Sienna." They have titles like "Sienna Maintenance Records" and "Sienna Title" etc. There are only about 3 or 4 now. This keeps all that together, and also seperate from our other car. And I can finally find what I need. And when I need to make a new file, I do not begin the label with "car" or "auto" because that is not specific enough for my needs and not consistent with my current files. And when I am looking for something for our minivan, I might forget if I filed it under "Toyota" or "Sienna" but it only takes a few seconds to look in those two places. The GTD book stresses the importance of a functional reference file system as a foundation for this system and an area where most people can make a big improvement. If you can't find your files, then I think that this is your core problem and should be addressed before you do any other processing.

            And as for getting through a backlog, I recommend compartmentalizing it, making it a project or next action on your list and getting to it at an appropriate time. Meanwhile, make sure that all new input into your system is processed and not added to the backlog. Don't make the problem worse by adding new input to the backlog stack. Then, when it is time to work on the backlog, just pick up one item off of the top of the stack and process it. Don't worry if it belongs to another file in another pile. You will get to that item in due course and add that to the one already processed. Process that one top item and move on to the next. Don't think of the pile as one big, complex problem. Just focus on the one top item at at time.

            Good luck!

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