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  • Examples for the REAL newbie?

    Hello Everyone!

    I am fairly new to GTD, but I am very excited and look forward to getting more organized. But I was wondering if anyone know of any place where I can read about different solutions and maybe even with pictures on the different things that are being mentioned. I dont even know what qualites a folder needs to have, its all too new, hehe.... I am still only a student, but I have so many ongoing projects in all areas of my life. Its been getting out of hand for a long time though. Reading the book left me excited but with tons of new questions:

    Like, how can I get started without actually investing anything at all? Anyone know of any templates and ways to create the 41 folders solution? and how about the filing A-Z? I am cheap I know.....

    Second, if I want to go lo-tech, is there any good way to organize subprojects? I feel that I have so many different projects that are a part of different projects, and I want to keep track of how they are all nested to stay motivated. I also feel that each and every project is connected to so much other materials, like contacts, working material, reading material, contact information etc, how do I keep everything organized with their specific project, with another A-Z list, and another 41 folders WITHIN the project? I am starting to feel dizzy.....

    what are your recommendations for the best software programs for managing this?

  • #2
    What, in your book, is the diffenrence between "going lo-tech" and choosing the "best software programs?" What is hi-tech to you? Programming your own?

    Anyways, regarding the nestet projects...

    To stay motivated, you write. In my view the best reason to go through the hassle of constructing a nested sub-projects structure...

    Just make various lists, you don't have to link sub-projects and hyper-projects together. Just make sure, that during the weekly review (which is called weekly review for a reason) you check that for every ongoing project you have at least one next action or a sub-project ready going.

    The power lies in the review. Software is nothing.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by richie View Post
      But I was wondering if anyone know of any place where I can read about different solutions and maybe even with pictures on the different things that are being mentioned.
      Here and the 43 Folders archive are the best place to go browsing (43 Folders' wiki is down at the moment, alas).

      Originally posted by richie View Post
      Like, how can I get started without actually investing anything at all? Anyone know of any templates and ways to create the 41 folders solution? and how about the filing A-Z? I am cheap I know.....
      If you've got a calendar, lists, and reference filing, that's all you need. The 43 folders are just 43 real, actual folders with numbers on 31 on them and months on the other 12. The calendar holds your date- and/or time-specific information, the A-Z reference files hold your background info, and your lists tell you what to do next (Next Actions) and what your projects are.

      Originally posted by richie View Post
      Second, if I want to go lo-tech, is there any good way to organize subprojects?
      Yes: I have a folder containing my projects list. Each project is represented by a sheet of paper with jottings on it of what's involved, a rough list of things to do (not Next Actions, just things), and anything else I need to know about it. Then the reference material for that project is in my filing cabinet in the A-Z reference files.

      So you would have a sheet of paper in your Projects folder for each project/subproject, with appropriate notes. Or you could have a mind map or something to show the relationships. Those, combined with the list of all projects you're working on, would be all you'd need.

      Originally posted by richie View Post
      I also feel that each and every project is connected to so much other materials, like contacts, working material, reading material, contact information etc, how do I keep everything organized with their specific project, with another A-Z list, and another 41 folders WITHIN the project? I am starting to feel dizzy.....
      No. The reference filing is best organised as one system, with folders arranged in alpha order. I've got my filing with two sets of labels: one standing on the edge of the leading folder of a main category (for example, Tax, or Clients), then individual labels for folders within each category (eg Mrs Premise and Mrs Conclusion, within the Clients category).

      That works best for me: something else might work better for you. But keep it simple. One filing system organised alphabetically is all you need, and one set of 43 folders, one calendar, etc. The idea of GTD is to make your life simpler, not more complicated.

      Originally posted by richie View Post
      what are your recommendations for the best software programs for managing this?
      My best recommendation is to avoid software, at least to start with. Go with paper. I'm an ex-software developer, and uber-geek, and I just love tech toys, but I've found the best way to work this, and certainly the best way to start, is paper. There's no learning curve, it's easy to manipulate and always on, and there's no cash outlay.

      After you've got your system underway and you're sure you know what you're doing, you might go with software, but start with paper if you want a better chance of making it work. Most people tinker a lot with their systems in the first year anyway, and if you do that with software you could end up spending a lot of money.

      Comment


      • #4
        If you want to get going with no cash outlay, you are in luck because GTD is perfectly suited to that kind of aproach. In fact, even if you wanted to buy all kinds of stuff for GTD, it would be hard to go very far down that road.

        The minimal implementation, which is also very close to the ideal implementation, requires little more than a $4 box of 100 manilla folders, at least a cheap plastic filing crate to hold them, a calendar which you probably already have and some paper for lists and notes. Also an inbox, which can be the box that the folders came in. Many people have some or all of this stuff on hand already.

        A simple technological enhancement to this would be to write your lists using a simple text editor (Notepad) on a computer and then print the list out and work with it in paper form. This will allow you to edit your lists easily and reprint them with minimal re-writing.

        I agree with the advice of others to keep it simple while you are getting started. That will allow you to experience the power of the system without getting wrapped up in the details of various tech options. Once you are fully established and rolling with the system, you can do a more thoughtful and deliberate job of adding technology where needed.

        Just keep in mind that any added technology will be extremely expensive in terms of the time and effort of learning about it, making the selection, acquiring it, setting it up to work, transferring data into it and generally fiddling with it. Then, if it does not meet expectations or something better is uncovered, the whole process is repeated to change over. All that time and energy could have been used to get other real tasks done.

        Comment


        • #5
          I really want to thank all of you. I was really amazed by all the answers, thanks!

          I feel that I am closing in on making this a reality for me. However, there are still questions coming up:

          If my project list contains one paper (A4) per project, that could mean that this folder with those papers contains about 20 + papers. That woould mean that I would have to browse through each of those each time I want to look at a project plan. If I would only need to do this once a week during my week review that would be ok. But how many things should I write on my action list? If I only write one thing, as soon as that is done, I have to look in my projects lists to be able to update my NA list, or how do I do this in a good way?

          My old to-do lists, always contained everything from NA things, to projects, to ideas. No structure at all, very chaotic and confusing...and when the paper was full I had to re-write everything on a new piece of paper, without the things I had crossed out. This felt very ineffective. It still seems as there will be a lot of re-writing with the GTD. When some things on the NA list is crossed out I need a new piece of paper, and will have to re-write the things that still hasnīt been done, including a few new NextActions. And as I accomplish more within a certain project, the paper for that specific project will need to be re-written aswell, as I have finished things, and as I move further into the project my brain comes up with more details and ideas concerning the project, this will lead to further need to re-write the paper for that specific project. Any suggestions on optimizing this? I know you mentioned using the computer Barry, that would help a bit. But am I missing something, are there any more things to think about?

          Do I want the manilla folders standing up or laying down? Maybe they always have the "the thing where you put the label" on the side, which would mean laying down... I just honestly dont know. Second, I have seen a picture at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:43foldersexample.jpg
          It seems like they use the folder where you label at the left and the centre. that should work. What kind of system can I use with the A-Z reference? A to the left, B to the centre, C to the right, and then D to the left again, and so on?

          "Unstuffed", you described how you separated the "leading folder" and folders within this category. Could you please expand on that, I am not sure that I understand completely. DO you mean that you dont put the label on the edge if the folder belong to a subcategory? Do you use an empty Manilla folder to separate between letters, and sub categories, that just shows the label? ( Hmmm. I feel that my questions are a bit stupid, they should teach us this in school....)


          thanks you all again
          Last edited by richie; 07-18-2007, 11:40 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by richie View Post

            If my project list contains one paper (A4) per project, that could mean that this folder with those papers contains about 20 + papers. That woould mean that I would have to browse through each of those each time I want to look at a project plan. If I would only need to do this once a week during my week review that would be ok. But how many things should I write on my action list? If I only write one thing, as soon as that is done, I have to look in my projects lists to be able to update my NA list, or how do I do this in a good way?
            Your project list could be one piece of paper with the name of each project on it. Your project support materials could be a sheet of paper for each project, a folder for some meatier projects, up to a notebook, file drawer or larger for extremely large projects (Build bridge over Grand Canyon).

            Think of the next action listed on your context lists that's associated with a project as a placeholder for that project. Once you do that item, you can continue working on that project (with your project support information in front of you as needed.) You could complete any number of tasks for the project. Once you are through working on that project or get interrupted, put the next placeholder (next action) in your context lists, or put a note in your inbox that says "Identify next action for project abc".

            Comment


            • #7
              You can rewrite your lists by hand or as discussed, you can edit them in a computer and print them out again. Or you can eliminate all the rewriting by just crossing off actions until every action on the list is crossed off and then you throw that sheet away and continue working on the next sheet until all those items are crossed off. Another alternative is to have only one action written per sheet or card and then the "list" is a folder containing all the sheets or a stack of cards. Throw each one away when complete. It doesn't really matter exactly how you do it and it doesn't have to be super tidy to work well.

              Regarding the folders, ideally they would stand up. Most people put them in a file cabinet drawer or some kind of filing crate or box or even a wire stand or rack for folders. Go to an office supply store and see what they have. To make them stand up, the back of the drawer should have a compression plate that slides forward to hold up the folders or you can put a bookend behind them. Hanging folders are also an option. A lot of this is in the book.

              As far as the tabs go, a lot of people try to get them arranged a certain way, and a lot of people just let it be random, which is easier. I use 1/3 cut folders, so there are 3 tabs across the top. These are widely available and cheap and work well. I don't pay any attention to which tab position is to be used. It's just random. It works out fine because the files are in alphabetical order and I use that to find them. I usually have to flip through them a bit to read the tabs, but that is fine. Don't get hung up too much on the details.

              And yes, they should teach this stuff in school. But that is what the GTD book and this forum are for, I guess.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by richie View Post
                If my project list contains one paper (A4) per project, that could mean that this folder with those papers contains about 20 + papers. That woould mean that I would have to browse through each of those each time I want to look at a project plan. If I would only need to do this once a week during my week review that would be ok.
                Sorry, my fault: your project list should be a list of your project names written on one sheet of paper. The "each project one page" thingie is my personal tweak to allow me to cheat when I'm coming up with Next Actions.

                Originally posted by richie View Post
                But how many things should I write on my action list? If I only write one thing, as soon as that is done, I have to look in my projects lists to be able to update my NA list, or how do I do this in a good way?
                Your Next Actions lists should contain at least one NA for every project you've got on the move. How many from each project? Piece of string question: the maximum is as many as could possibly be done now (that is, that don't depend on something else being done first), and the minimum is one (if you get overwhelmed by seeing lots of NAs on your lists).

                In practice, you might just continue working on a project, so no need to list an NA until you stop. And provided you remember what you've done and where you're up to, the daily review should pick up the choosing-Next-Action step.

                Originally posted by richie View Post
                It still seems as there will be a lot of re-writing with the GTD. When some things on the NA list is crossed out I need a new piece of paper, and will have to re-write the things that still hasnīt been done, including a few new NextActions. And as I accomplish more within a certain project, the paper for that specific project will need to be re-written aswell, as I have finished things, and as I move further into the project my brain comes up with more details and ideas concerning the project, this will lead to further need to re-write the paper for that specific project. Any suggestions on optimizing this?
                This is a yes-and-no response. That is, yes, there is a certain amount of writing and re-writing. But it's worth that little extra to keep things out of your head. And you may well find that having just a couple of NAs left on your list motivates you to get those done so you don't have to rewrite them.

                Remember that NAs are usually short, and mostly straightforward: cranking widgets rather than learning quantum physics.

                I keep my NA lists on index cards. They're small enough that I have a chance of doing them all in a day or two, easy to carry around, and don't hold so many NAs that I get overwhelmed.

                Also, if you're constantly rewriting the same things, it's a warning sign that you're avoiding those things. It might be because they're really projects and not Next Actions, so it helps you refine your system.

                Originally posted by richie View Post
                It seems like they use the folder where you label at the left and the centre. that should work. What kind of system can I use with the A-Z reference? A to the left, B to the centre, C to the right, and then D to the left again, and so on?
                "However you like" is the answer here. I order my files alphabetically, but my labels are full names, not letters (more on this below). I put category labels in the centre (standing) and sub-category on the right (flat), but YMMV.

                Originally posted by richie View Post
                "Unstuffed", you described how you separated the "leading folder" and folders within this category. Could you please expand on that, I am not sure that I understand completely. DO you mean that you dont put the label on the edge if the folder belong to a subcategory? Do you use an empty Manilla folder to separate between letters, and sub categories, that just shows the label? ( Hmmm. I feel that my questions are a bit stupid, they should teach us this in school....)
                Not stupid at all. Okay, my system: I use just manila folders, no hanging files, and I stick labels directly on the folders. Each folder has a label which names it completely. So I'll have labels like "Mrs Entity", who I know is a client and who therefore belongs in the Client section; "Service and repair" which I know belongs in my Car section; "Latest Tax Guidelines" which I know belongs in my Tax section. Each label is stuck flat on the folder.

                Then, since I need to mark the beginning of my Clients section, say, I'll use one of those standy-up labels on the front folder to say "Clients". Oh, the standy-up labels are also (more generally) called adhesive index tabs.

                No, I don't use an empty manila folder between categories. Note that I label categories, not letters: I know my alphabet, and I know that I don't want to group things as "A things", "B things", "C things" etc, but rather as "Business startup info","Car", "Clients" etc.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks again guys!

                  Iīve spent the last few days cleaning and throwing away clutter to get a fresh start. feels great. A few more questions though:

                  What would be your best tips on what to do and what not to do during the "weekly review"? What is your NA on the weekly review? and how does it develope?

                  David Allen talk about the importance of keeping the different steps of being organised separate. But I am having trouble of understanding his definition of the difference between "processing" and "organizing". How do you guys separate these?

                  How do I know if a project should go into the someday/maybe list? Am I right if I say that the difference between a project and a someday/maybe thing is that a project should have a NA decided, whereas the things on the Sunday/maybe list dont have. For an example, i think it would be nice if I knew some Spanish in about a year when I go travelling. However at the moment I dont feel that its THAAT imprortant. What do I do with these type of things? Put them in the tickler file, or someday/maybe? Suggestions?

                  Where do I put notes and creative ideas when I process them? I mean, if I feel that they belong to a certain project I file them with the project, but when I feel that they dont, then what do I do? Or am I thinking wrong here, would this perhaps be an indication that I need to create a project in this area? I mean, the note might be some self development thought, or affirmation, or just a nice book title that would be nice to write someday.

                  David Allen talks about reminding himself of "having fun", surprising the peopel he likes, etc. a "creative check list". What are your thoughts on this? IS this just a list which he looks at during his weekly review, or how can this be organized?

                  The best way to learn is to try to teach others. So... what do I say when I try to "coach" my mom about time management, when she simply says that everything is out of her hands due to the rest of the people in the family?

                  Unstuffed: Do you mean that you have the name of the folder on the left of the file, and then another label in the middle that names the category, or if its a subcategory you put this label to the right? Do you do this on all folders?
                  Second: what does YMMV mean?

                  thanks for all the help! Really appreciate it

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Easy question first: YMMV means Your Mileage May Vary.

                    The GTD book has a chapter (chapter 8 ) on the Weekly Review. If you haven't read it already, you might want to do so. Beyond that, it's "whatever you need to do to get your head empty again."

                    Once you have a system up and running, processing and organizing will blend together a bit because you'll have a place to put the results of the processing. Until then, the point is that you don't want to get sidetracked into organizing until you've been through your existing system (or mess) and know what you're dealing with.

                    There are lots of threads on managing the Someday/Maybe list. For me, it contains anything that I don't plan to work on within a reasonable period of time (usually a few weeks). The Tickler and Someday/Maybe list overlap in this area, so you could use either (or both).

                    Notes and creative ideas that haven't yet evolved into actionable stuff aren't really addressed by GTD. I treat them as reference materials, and am constantly experimenting with ways to make sure they appear when needed. However, I've also found that capturing every single idea isn't necessarily useful. The really good ones will come back.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm just setting up my reference files along GTD lines, and, being a geek/systems type, want the physical system to reflect a hierarchical structure. I found this thread, which has been very helpful, but I'm afraid I still don't quite get what the system looks like for Unstuffed. Is there a chance I could get a picture or two from you of your system?

                      Specifically, I'm trying to find a fast system that will support creating folders for multiple levels, such as Insurance -> Medical, Insurance -> House, Insurance -> Car -> VW, and Insurance -> Car -> Ford.

                      I'm trying to do this using some combination of manila folders (I have the 1/3 tab type) and/or hanging folders. The manila folder tabs aren't wide enough to easily get three levels of hierarchy on them, and trying to create a visual distinction between hierarchy levels (when searching, I'd really only want to see the top-level folders) I haven't quite figured out.

                      If I go with a manila-only system (no hanging folders), I can see that I'd want to see top-level items easily, with sub-level items more subdued. However, I haven't found manila folders with "extra height" tabs, nor easy labels to increase the height of existing labels. The link for "Adhesive Index Tabs" looked close, but not quite; tabs I found at Avery looked too narrow and didn't raise the tab height.

                      An alternative I'm exploring is to use hanging folders for all top-level subjects, then use manila folders within the hanging folders for sub-levels. The labels on the manila folder tabs don't stick out of the hanging folders, so I would only see the top-level subjects when looking for something. Unfortunately, the hanging folders are about twelve times the cost of the manila folders, and having both doesn't seem like a very clean solution.

                      Any suggestions for a solution are appreciated.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Good luck with your GTD implementation.

                        In GTD, David Allen strongly recommends that your physical reference filing system be a simple A to Z system rather than something complicated. If you can't file an item in less than 60 seconds, you are unlikely to use the system and it will become a drag on your productivity.

                        Here is my recommendation. Clear your mind of all thoughts about your system and take a deep breath. Have a stack of file folders handy and some items to be filed. (And a nice labeller if you have one). Pick up the first item.

                        It is something about your auto insurance from State Farm. Quickly ask yourself Am I more likely to look under Auto - Insurance, Insurance - Auto, Insurance-State Farm, or State Farm for this? (I think insurance is one of the worst examples, most things will not have more that one or two places they could be.) For me I would file it under State Farm because I have my car and home insurance together and I get stuff that relates to both from the one company.

                        Don't worry about finding it again. If it's frequent use, you might have to look a couple of times but you will quickly remember where you put it. If you put it in a place that make sense to you, even for infrequent use files you won't have much trouble remembering.

                        OK, now it is some information from Visa. Resist the temptation to try to make this Credit Card - Mary - Amazon Visa and just put it under Visa! Stick that folder behind the first folder. Next item is information on where to get information during a hurricane. Make a folder that says Hurricane information. Put it at the front (depending on what you called the first folder) or where it goes in alpha order.

                        I completely understand the appeal of using the more complex method and I have set up complicated filing systems in the past, and ended up doing all my filing right before tax time, and hours and hours searching for things in between. Using this method, you could probably get most of your filing done and off your mind faster than you can make the decisions on how to set up the complex system. Also, you will avoid having to worry about making outer folders and inner folders and top level folders etc etc.....making a new file will be a quick painless action rather than its own project!

                        Remember, the complex system is not just more difficult to set up. It will be more difficult to use every time you add a folder, and every time you look for something. If you go with the simple A-Z I don't think you'll regret it!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Does anybody know if manila file folders are available in the Netherlands?
                          I can't find any

                          and indeed hanging files are pretty expensive.

                          Maybe ordering via Amazon.com?
                          Does anybody in Europe (pref: Netherlands) have any experience?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jrallen View Post
                            I'm just setting up my reference files along GTD lines, and, being a geek/systems type, want the physical system to reflect a hierarchical structure. I found this thread, which has been very helpful, but I'm afraid I still don't quite get what the system looks like for Unstuffed. Is there a chance I could get a picture or two from you of your system?

                            Specifically, I'm trying to find a fast system that will support creating folders for multiple levels, such as Insurance -> Medical, Insurance -> House, Insurance -> Car -> VW, and Insurance -> Car -> Ford.

                            I'm trying to do this using some combination of manila folders (I have the 1/3 tab type) and/or hanging folders. The manila folder tabs aren't wide enough to easily get three levels of hierarchy on them, and trying to create a visual distinction between hierarchy levels (when searching, I'd really only want to see the top-level folders) I haven't quite figured out.

                            If I go with a manila-only system (no hanging folders), I can see that I'd want to see top-level items easily, with sub-level items more subdued. However, I haven't found manila folders with "extra height" tabs, nor easy labels to increase the height of existing labels. The link for "Adhesive Index Tabs" looked close, but not quite; tabs I found at Avery looked too narrow and didn't raise the tab height.

                            An alternative I'm exploring is to use hanging folders for all top-level subjects, then use manila folders within the hanging folders for sub-levels. The labels on the manila folder tabs don't stick out of the hanging folders, so I would only see the top-level subjects when looking for something. Unfortunately, the hanging folders are about twelve times the cost of the manila folders, and having both doesn't seem like a very clean solution.

                            Any suggestions for a solution are appreciated.
                            Just a friendly word of advice: you are probably going overboard here.

                            How much paper do you have to store? If the answer is not too much, then any reasonable folder-naming convention will work. Furthermore, one level of hierarchy is sufficient in most cases. "Insurance:Car:VW" is redundant, because you know your VW is a car. It's also likely that the VW and the Ford are insured on the same policy, so "Insurance:Car" is adequate. Finally, if you do have a lot of reference material, you should store as much as possible digitally.

                            Having said all that, there are folders in which the "tab" runs all the way across, which allow very long labels, at the cost of hiding other files somewhat.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              larearnett and mcogilvie,

                              Thanks for the advice. Keeping with the insurance theme, if I made a folder called "State Farm," I'd be adding historical policy and premium and claim information for two houses, 4 cars, and 4 motorcycles, making a folder that's at least 6" thick!

                              If I can twist my brain to a flattened hierarchy, I certainly see the simplicity in maintaining it, but with the amount of reference material I will end up with, I don't yet see how it's going to be fitting into manila folders.

                              Perhaps I need to purge and organize before piling 30+ boxes of paperwork into my inbox, but, according to GTD, the amount of reference material is not a problem as long as it's organized.

                              One thought that occurs to me is that I'll need two systems: one that contains recent and quickly available information, and a mirror archive of historical information, stored outside the office, with a periodic purge and transfer.

                              So, as I gather my Insurance info into a folder, if it ends up being really thick, I could just make two folders, putting recent stuff in one and historical stuff in the other, and file them in separate file cabinets.

                              Thoughts?

                              Comment

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