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  • Getting to grips with a real system... GTD!

    Hi,

    I've read through several articles on implementing GTD in my
    professional and personal life.

    I've been using TODO lists for several years and although I know the
    disadvantages to using this archaic (in GTD terms) system, I've
    become accustomed to it.

    I work in a very faced paced organization supporting end-users in an
    IT Support capacity.

    What's the most effective way in implementing this system if my main
    tool is my computer for completing my work?

    What physical and virtual filing method should I be using to support
    my practices on a day-by-day basis?

    I've tried many times to create a new standard for my virtual file
    organization but every time it fails as I seem to change the system. I
    also have a hard time finding what's current so I rely on my memory
    (physic RAM) and this has caused some relationships to become
    'stretched' over time.

    I work with many users resolving issues on day-by-day basis. I'm also
    involved on projects which can impact the business if not completed by
    a specific mandate.

    I would also like to keep tracks of all my requests that come to me
    either via email/phone/walk-in/IT Help logging system so I can have a
    bearing on my complete workload.

    I use Outlook 2007 as my main organization tool. I currently use my
    inbox as where my current tasks reside until they are completed. Once
    completed, I then move it to the DONE basket. My problem here is that
    when I email somebody to complete a task, I will sometimes forget as
    I'm busy with other tasks and then it ends up blowing me in the face
    when the users are complaining why this task wasn't completed on-time.

    I'll list several tasks here and then try to use the system and with
    your help confirm that I'm doing it correctly.

    Task - Walk-in - User needs account details changed in the system
    Inbox - Outlook - New Email Delivery System needs implemented
    Inbox - Outlook - Write Documentation on Product X for end-users
    Inbox - Outlook - Plan deployment for software package across organization
    Inbox - Outlook - Call user regarding an issue
    Voicemail - Call user regarding an issue
    Voicemail - Call user to return their phone call
    Inbox - Outlook - Server maintenance to alleviate disk space issues
    Inbox - Outlook - Meeting scheduled for the 10th of February 2008.
    Inbox - Outlook - Colleagues Birthday on the 1st of February.
    Inbox - Outlook - FYI on a specific system
    Inbox - Outlook - FYI on a specific system outage
    Inbox - Outlook - Direct Line Manager needs research task completed.
    Last edited by SpirosGyrosAU; 11-07-2007, 04:00 AM. Reason: I couldn't post this entry initially...

  • #2
    (cont.)


    ATPhone
    Call User 1 for software package update requirements across organization
    Call User 2 regarding an issue
    Call user 3 who left a message on voice mail regarding an issue.
    Call User 4 to return phone call

    Filing Reference System
    My Documents 26 folders A-Z)
    File FYI on specific system under appropriate letter
    File FYI system outage under O in My Documents

    So then I basically review each one of these lists on a regular basis?
    How can I keep track on previous NA's so my work can always be
    accounted for over the long term?

    I would basically only use the calendar for meetings, personal
    engagements and set aside action (or TODO entries) that relate to a
    specific day which can only be accomplished on that day.

    I also have a tenancy to bookmark every website I visit for future
    reference (even though I'll never revisit them again - strange sense of security). I know this isn't the way to go so what system do you
    recommend for keeping track of website links?

    Is there an easy methodology I could use to record everything I do in the office i.e. answering emails, completing tasks, etc)

    I have many bad habits that I'd like to stop so I can get on with my life.

    In regards, to a A-Z My Documents structure, would you recommend to create sub folders for every topic.. ie under M have Microsoft KnowledgeBase Articles, Microsoft Server 2003 Documents to keep it as simple as possible?

    I would like to simplify my life very much. Please help me in
    restoring some very needed balance into my disorganized life.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ross.

    Comment


    • #3
      Lots of issues there, Ross. I'll tackle just a few.

      Firstly, your Inbox: try to avoid using it as the holding pen for your stuff. Instead, have specific times of day when you process your Inbox, and during these times, go through everything in your Inbox, one at a time, and decide the Next Action. If you can deal with it in less than 2 minutes, do so, otherwise add the NA to the appropriate list and move on. Once you've finished processing, you can shift the whole lot en masse to an archive or Pending folder.

      Outlook also allows you to generate tasks straight from the email, so you might use that facility. I use a Mac, but I've got a similar system using MailTags and MailActOn.

      Bookmarking: my best advice is to just give it up. I've moved computers a few times over the last few years, and I've never looked again at the vast majority of sites I bookmarked. There just isn't time, and you have to be realistic about that. If it's something incredibly useful, bookmark it or have it in your menu bar or whatever, but most things you'll never look at again. And if you do, google can find just about anything (which is often how you found it in the first place).

      Filing: don't make a whole bunch of sub-folders. That way madness lies. Keep your filing system as flat as possible, and work with whatever naming system is meaningful to you. Remember that you can use the list format, rather than the icon format, for viewing folders, so it's easy to find stuff alphabetically.

      Sounds like you're also distracted a lot. Do whatever you can to reduce this, so that when you do a task, you complete it (which means not moving on to something else until you've emailed the client and archived the relevant emails, or whatever).

      If you're effectively always on call, so must always interrupt what you're doing to respond to the phone, walk-ins or online help calls, then try this trick. Just keep a pen and A5 notebook next to you, and quickly write down where you were up to on the current task before you respond. That way, once you're finished responding, you can resume that task and work on it until you finish (or you're interrupted again).

      Finally, don't try to multi-task: your efficiency drops by about 40% when you try to, so it's a mug's game.

      Comment


      • #4
        The rest of the story

        Originally posted by SpirosGyrosAU View Post

        I use Outlook 2007 as my main organization tool. I currently use my
        inbox as where my current tasks reside until they are completed. Once
        completed, I then move it to the DONE basket. My problem here is that
        when I email somebody to complete a task, I will sometimes forget as
        I'm busy with other tasks and then it ends up blowing me in the face
        when the users are complaining why this task wasn't completed on-time.

        I'll list several tasks here and then try to use the system and with
        your help confirm that I'm doing it correctly.

        Task - Walk-in - User needs account details changed in the system
        Inbox - Outlook - New Email Delivery System needs implemented
        Inbox - Outlook - Write Documentation on Product X for end-users
        Inbox - Outlook - Plan deployment for software package across organization
        Inbox - Outlook - Call user regarding an issue
        Voicemail - Call user regarding an issue
        Voicemail - Call user to return their phone call
        Inbox - Outlook - Server maintenance to alleviate disk space issues
        Inbox - Outlook - Meeting scheduled for the 10th of February 2008.
        Inbox - Outlook - Colleagues Birthday on the 1st of February.
        Inbox - Outlook - FYI on a specific system
        Inbox - Outlook - FYI on a specific system outage
        Inbox - Outlook - Direct Line Manager needs research task completed.
        I saw where you handled reference information and @Calls but I didn't see what you did with the rest of the stuff above. Here are some recommendations.
        User needs account details changed in the system. Don't know if this is something you need to do while they're standing there or if you can collect the information and then batch several similar requests. So either treat it as a two-minute item or collect the information and have a calendared time when you'll respond.

        Projects List - (Just a list of your projects, the Next Action for each needs to be on a Context List)
        Implement new email delivery system (Target date)
        Write documentation on Product X for users (Due date)
        Write deployment plan for software package across organization (date)
        Research ____ for Direct Manager ( )

        Calendar
        Perform server maintenance to alleviate disk space issues (This assumes this is a routine thing that can be scheduled. If it's a project requiring planning, it goes on the list above. The actual execution of the maintenance will probably still end up on the calendar.)
        1st of February birthday (all day event)
        10th of February Meeting

        Tickler file
        One week before the server maintenance (or based on your processes) "Send communication to people impacted by server maintenance outage"
        January - reminder to buy a birthday card or schedule a luncheon or whatever's appropriate for the 1st of February birthday. Put it in the January folder. In late December you will put it in the 25th folder. After you act on it, move it back to the January folder for next year.

        @ calls (in addition to the items already identified)
        Call Direct Manager for timeframe research results are needed. (Depending on how much detail you got in an email, also dig for what information he/she really needs.)

        HTH

        Karen

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by SpirosGyrosAU View Post

          In regards, to a A-Z My Documents structure, would you recommend to create sub folders for every topic.. ie under M have Microsoft KnowledgeBase Articles, Microsoft Server 2003 Documents to keep it as simple as possible?
          Hi Ross,

          I used to file everything under a separate topic but have since found for me that it's a waste of my time. The Windows Desktop search which you'll have with Office 2007 can find things quicker overall than the cost of me filing everything individually. Most of my documents are email based so I dump them into a single "In Storage" file within outlook.

          That said, I'm just getting back into use of PersonalBrain (www.thebrain.com). One advantage of PB is that it can be used to link to folders, files and other information in the same place. That is, I can bring files from multiple sources and disk folders together if they are related on a single project.

          The other thing that struck me with your comments was the complete lack of a weekly review. When you start regular weekly reviews you lose the fear of what you've forgotten during the week. There are great GTD Connect podcasts on the topic.

          David

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi,

            Thanks for the great advise all round!

            I'll definitely take it all on-board. My one issue is how do I link my project list, NA list, and weekly reviews all together so they can work seamlessly?

            I'll provide an example shortly with all the tips I've received so you can see if I understand it correctly

            Thanks in advance,

            Ross.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by SpirosGyrosAU View Post
              I'll definitely take it all on-board. My one issue is how do I link my project list, NA list, and weekly reviews all together so they can work seamlessly?
              A small tip Ross to clarify your thinking. Project and NA lists are lists (things). The weekly review is a process which reviews the things.

              David

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi Ross,

                In response to your last question, here is a system that works for me (I too spend my days at a keyboard).

                I have two files (projects and nextActions). Both are Word files. Both are flat.

                I look at projects once a week. In projects I have:
                current projects at the top of the file
                someday/maybe next
                action items associated with a project at the bottom

                I look at nextActions all day. In nextActions I have all my contexts and next actions. My action items are prefaced with context then with project. Because I sort the list and I want the work context at the top, I use 'aa' for work.

                So, my next action list looks like this:

                aa SharingFAQs modify tags
                aa UserGuide create tar kit
                aa UserGuide create TOC
                calls dentist 555-222-6545
                errands dog food
                home DeClutter assemble shelves
                home PrepWinter insulate door

                To sort these, select them and do table->sort

                as you complete an action item, put an x in front of it. doing a sort will then drop it to the bottom of the list.

                at your weekly review, in your project list, move projects from current to someday/maybe or vice versa. In your nextAction list, if you have incomplete items belonging to a project that you just moved to someday/maybe, cut these and paste them at the bottom of the project file, where they become someday/maybe next actions.

                Because of the prefixes (context project) and sorting, all similar things wind up together.

                Because all projects are in a single file, and because all contexts are in a single file, you can search easily and can rapidly cut, paste, and add items.

                because all lists are flat, you can see big picture (projects) without the clutter of action items, and you can see the detail (action items) in the context of the project they support because of the project prefixes.

                Hope this is useful.
                Arc

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SpirosGyrosAU View Post
                  My one issue is how do I link my project list, NA list, and weekly reviews all together so they can work seamlessly?
                  It may be best if they not work together seamlessly. But I may be wrong; please post your example.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi,

                    I'm still in the process of working on my system.

                    I'd like to ask if you recommend a system where i can keep track of my productivity in the office i.e. replied to an email, completed a task, etc?

                    I'll post an update very shortly.

                    Regards,

                    Ross

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have some good news and bad news....

                      The good news is that my filing has improved to a more centralised manner. Folders named A-Z and then I place a sub folder relating to the subject/topic.

                      The bad new is that Im having a difficult time implementing my initial system.
                      I've gathered all my notes which contain all my TODO items but I'm having a hard time seperating them into the various categories.

                      I work for a software company and administer all their IT systems and provide IT support. I work on many facets of the organisation (all relating to IT).

                      Is there anyone from Australia who can help me in defining/building my system so I have the courage to move on?

                      Yours in union,

                      Ross

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Categories? I'm surprised by that term. GTD doesn't use categories per se.

                        Can you give us specific examples? That is, can you literally post what's written on one of these TODOs that you can't categorize?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Focus on the Workflow Diagram

                          One thing I would suggest is keeping this stuff REALLY clear and simple. I don't work in IT but I should be able to read your Projects list and Next Actions lists and be able to understand what you're trying to accomplish.

                          For example, "User needs account details changed in the system"

                          I don't know how long this will take so I'll call it a project:"Change User Account Details"

                          Next I would take out a sheet of paper and write down as much as I know:
                          - Who is the user?
                          - What account details do they need changed?
                          - How long would this take?
                          - Do I need permissions or help from any other source?

                          If this whole process takes two minutes or less then just change the details (two minute rule). Otherwise, don't start working on it because we are processing not doing.

                          Here's the tricky next action part. When you decide to sit down and start working toward completion what's the VERY first thing to do? That might take a moment to figure out. Is it a call or an e-mail or log-in to a system?

                          Write it down as a next action. Let's say you need some information from the user. The next action might be, "E-mail user re: account details"

                          Organizing these next actions by context sounds more complicated than it is. If the computers are down and electricity's out then you can't send e-mail or do things on the web. But, I can start a mind map. There are things I can only do at home so there's no point of having reminders when I'm at work.

                          Sounds obvious and simple but there's actually a little bit of work involved. The good news is the habits will come quickly.

                          Good luck!

                          Mark

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SpirosGyrosAU View Post
                            The good news is that my filing has improved to a more centralised manner. Folders named A-Z and then I place a sub folder relating to the subject/topic.
                            That's good, although don't go deeper than folders and sub-folders. Given the sophistication of searching these days, you could even just shove everything into one huge folder and search (although I generally don't recommend that for most people).

                            The bad new is that Im having a difficult time implementing my initial system.
                            I've gathered all my notes which contain all my TODO items but I'm having a hard time seperating them into the various categories.
                            I'm with the others on this: not sure what you mean. Can you give a couple of examples?

                            I work for a software company and administer all their IT systems and provide IT support. I work on many facets of the organisation (all relating to IT).
                            I suspect (and correct me if I'm wrong) that you're asking how to categorise your tasks as part of some larger, over-arching framework. In that case, in GTD terms, you're looking at 20-30,000 foot level, I think.

                            If that's the case, you don't really need to assign your tasks to a category, unless you want to analyse your workload in terms of how much time you spend on each area of work. If you want to do that, the easiest thing might be to make up a spreadsheet template, with columns for various attributes, and carry-over totals, and just enter the stuff as you do it.

                            By the way, you said that you sometimes forget to email clients when you've done the work. Do you use email templates? Because that would make it super-fast and almost unforgettable: you just bang their name into the appropriate template ("I fixed your login details, X, so you're good to go") and it's done.

                            Is there anyone from Australia who can help me in defining/building my system so I have the courage to move on?
                            I'm an Aussie, Ross. And just from the information you've given, I suspect there are a couple of aspects of your system that aren't getting enough of a workout. Let me know if I'm wrong.

                            It sounds like you're working reactively rather than proactively: is that correct? That is, do you start the day with a plan, which you vary according to what comes in? Or do you simply front up to work and start working on something, then get distracted by the next shiny (or shouty) thing, and the next, and the next, and never get back to the original thing?

                            If so, then you need to do some (a) planning and (b) reviewing. They'll give you some idea of what you'd like to get done each day, and how much of it you actually completed. And they're extremely helpful in dealing with the feeling of overwhelm, and in stopping things falling through the cracks.

                            I think that's enough for one post: let me know whether I'm on the right track or not!

                            Cheers,
                            Alison

                            Comment

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