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Can I implement GTD here if I am the only one doing it?

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  • Can I implement GTD here if I am the only one doing it?

    I volunteer with a group that does 1-10 building projects a year. I am a secretary in a mobile office and we manage the database of volunteers involved --currently around 1300 volunteers divided into approximately 30 departments based on job description.....Masons, Electrical, Food, etc. A person will fill out an application of job skills, this goes through a verification & personal interview process which is attached to my department but above my head, and I ,or another secretary, will recieve the application to imput into the database and then file & track.

    In the mobile office in which I work are generally 2 secretaries (previously of a 4 person pool, but that has recently expanded though none of the new people have been trained to do more than understand the filing. Therefore, they are taking up space but not doing much). The head &/or assistant of the Personnel Dept is on-site working with us, and the 5 person committee who oversee the entire building project (10-15 depts each come under each committee member). Because our trailer is the core of the on-site decision makers, it's hopping a lot of the time.

    We are basically a support department and our function is to keep the department heads informed of building projects and make sure their volunteer records are accurate. In between projects, we keep all the department heads informed on where and when the next one will take place. We send them updated records on volunteers in their department, as well as letters to the volunteers to let them know where they have been assigned or re-assigned with contact information for their department head. Department heads decide how many and which of their list of volunteers to invite to a particular project and inform them of dates and times.

    At a project site, information and distractions come at a fast and furious pace. Phones ringing, Department heads needing to update information on their volunteers, adding volunteers, deleting volunteers who've moved away or are not interested in volunteering any longer, we make all copies needed on site generally for various department heads, we are the location for all badges that have to be worn on site (those who come regularly are assigned a badge and are responsible for bringing it, but there are always new people needing badges or temporary ones needed for people only helping on one project.) There is also paperwork needing to be filled out for various departments and warranty information to compile which all is our responsibility.

    Our department head has changed and he's inexperienced in this department and we're all getting used to changes. He's asking for imput from those of us who've been there (3 of us have been working in Personnel for 15 years) longer which I think is great, but at the end of the day we're all having to get used to changes. For example, we arrive over the weekend to find that the program which houses our records has been upgraded to the 2007 version. None of us were familiar with it (other than the committee member who oversees our department) so we probably lost several hours over the course of the 4 days just looking though changed menus for the information we needed. VERY FRUSTRATING and I'll solve that problem before the next project in November by getting the new version myself and boning up on it, but it always seems to be something.

    Another change that was made is that we had a form that a department head or assistant had to fill out to make changes within his department or to request a volunteer from another department. These have been done away with and all our previous records were shredded between the last project and this one. We secretaries used these forms extensively to explain a change made on a project 4 months ago which no one can remember at this point--especially if the other department head can't remember why he lost a volunteer or especially if he didn't get one he wanted. These notes were made on the adjustment forms and are now all gone. We had several questions come up this weekend of that sort, and we had no paperwork to go to that would have explained it.

    We all have day jobs and this is just something extra we do to help out. I love what I do and the people that I work with & think it's important, but the projects are often infrequent enough that I can't remember exactly why something was done & I hate being questioned on it or reconciling computer records with the hard copy files of volunteers and not knowing which is correct in the case of a discrepancy. Ultimately, people above us are responsible for it, but since we made the changes and have been in there the longest we're the ones expected to actually know within our department.

    I tried keeping my own log this past weekend of changes I made and why, but it just wasn't practical to try to keep this log while doing all the things flying at me. And FORGET the 2 minute rule, a lot of things have to be done immediately because a committee member getting ready to go into a meeting asks for information or agendas copied, and it is an urgent need regardless of what you are doing. I know I am going to start bringing a folder to the build to have on-site of any work I have "In progress" over the weekend, because we were all basically working out of piles. There is kind of a general InBox, and To Be Mailed File, etc; but as far as a specific place for the things I am working on and the notes I've made about what I'm doing--I've never had a good place for this.

    One good change made this weekend, is that new "secretaries" to train were brought in for 2 hours at a time to help with a specific thing; otherwise they were assigned to an outside tent where they took care of non-computer functions like taking care of the badges, etc. That kept the number of people in the trailer down, but I call them "secretaries" because they want to be in this department (often because their husbands are on the oversight committee, but they're afraid of the computer work & only want to do the filing and so on). I think there is no use for that & have never seen anything good out of having that many people who don't really know what they are doing handling the files.

    So I guess my question is, how can I track what goes on in the office in a way to be able to refer back to it months to a year later, that will also be quick in the middle of a chaotic environment. I've tried before and can't seem to get it done. I keep my hastily scratched notes frequently, but a year later I likely don't know what it was about, and writing everything down comprehensively didn't work this past weekend.

    As far as real changes to the department, I can make suggestions but most of them are made at a level above my head. I just work with what I am given as I am basically just support to the support dept.

    Any suggestions?

  • #2
    No recordkeeping system will help if the records are destroyed. (Obviously.) So my first priority would be to find out (hopefully while keeping my temper under control) who authorized the shredding, what that person thinks the record retention policy should be going forward, and whether that person understands the importance of institutional memory. Without the support of that person, no organization-wide recordkeeping will work.

    While you try to resolve all of that, yes of course you can implement GTD for yourself personally, by focusing on *your* commitments. What do you need to do? What support resources (people, information) do you need? What's the Next Action toward accomplishing that?

    One of the things I like about GTD is that it helps me draw a bright line between my stuff and things that I don't actually control. The more my stuff is under control, the more time I have to nudge others along.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Good to keep in mind

      One of the things I like about GTD is that it helps me draw a bright line between my stuff and things that I don't actually control. The more my stuff is under control, the more time I have to nudge others along.
      Thanks for the response and it's a good thing to keep in mind. I do keep stressing about things which are ultimately someone else's decision and where I do not have the control.

      I am extremely upset about the shredding, and we discussed it this weekend. The higher ups are adamant that that form is gone. I have not yet found out how much of the previous work was shredded as none of it was on-site. It can be 100% gone or it could still be in the process.

      I think if there is no form for me to go back to when I am interrupted, I need to have some type of paperwork for myself to let me know what I have to be doing. This isn't necessary if it is a 10 minute interruption, but I had a day and a half interruption over the weekend, and then it is hard to get back to what I was doing!

      I like the idea of the line between my "stuff" and other peoples because even with the best record keeping in the world, I may have no idea what the other secretary on-site is up to and I definitely won't know what a secretary there a weekend that I am not on-site has done.

      It is just very frustrating! Even to figure out how to track my own stuff in this chaotic environment.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Aspen View Post
        So I guess my question is, how can I track what goes on in the office in a way to be able to refer back to it months to a year later, that will also be quick in the middle of a chaotic environment.
        Sounds like GTD is exactly what you need!

        GTD gives you a couple of major lists:
        • Someday/Maybe -- Projects that you want to work on in the future, but you aren't doing right now ("Wouldn't it be nice if....")
        • Projects -- Real-world, practical outcomes and goals that you're working right now to accomplish
        • Next Actions -- The very next thing you have to do in each Project, as a reminder and prompt so you can glance at this list and get going. You may have several Next Actions lists, one for each physical context you work in (@Desk, @Lab, etc.).

        You don't need to write down everything; just future goals, current goals, and Next Actions. You'll also have plenty of "Project support materials," which you can file in a filing cabinet (David Allen recommends a simple set of file folders, labeled and kept alphabetically, with the Project name as the label).

        Urgent work is perfectly fine; go ahead and do work that absolutely has to be done right at that moment. However, if you write down and track your committed work, you'll find yourself much better able to handle your work.

        Does that help?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Aspen View Post
          I think if there is no form for me to go back to when I am interrupted, I need to have some type of paperwork for myself to let me know what I have to be doing. This isn't necessary if it is a 10 minute interruption, but I had a day and a half interruption over the weekend, and then it is hard to get back to what I was doing!
          Take notes. In your previous post you mentioned "hastily scratched notes," so it sounds like you have the notetaking habit already but the issue is that your rough notes aren't comprehensible weeks or months later.

          One way to handle the problem might be simple post-processing. In quiet moments once or twice a day, take your rough notes from that day and add whatever context you need: project name, people involved, references to other documents, whatever. Decide whether the information is only relevant to that project, or whether it reflects more general "best practices," and file accordingly. If you're really motivated, you could create an electronic version by scanning or transcribing. It's not strictly necessary, but electronic files *are* easier to protect from overly aggressive shredding.

          (If you're super-motivated, you and the other experienced people in the office could create a best practices Wiki, too.)

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms View Post
            Take notes.
            Agreed. Note-taking is the key.

            Given that you are in a position where anything filed outside your personal control might be destroyed by someone else, and given that you are probably still expected to have access to this information whether destroyed or not, I suggest you keep your own notebook.

            A couple of further suggestions:

            When you buy your notebook, buy a good-quality one. Think Moleskine. A little expensive, yes; but others will be less likely to rip pages out of it, or "borrow" it, or set their nasty, dripping coffee mug on top of it.

            Immediately after purchase, put page numbers on the top of every page (or at a minimum, every other page).

            Take notes chronologically. Do not skip pages. Write the date at the top of each page. Start a new page each day if you like, but I usually just skip a few lines and write the date to indicate a new day. If you absolutely must have a blank page somewhere, draw a giant X through the page so you know you did it on purpose.

            After a day or two of note-taking, go to the very last page of the notebook, and start an index. Each entry should contain the page number, and enough information for you to find what you need later. For example:

            1. Watson Project - Request for new assistant
            2 - 5. Watson Project - Notes from zoning meeting
            6. (Blank Page)
            7. Microsoft Word - Locations of form templates and passwords
            8. Watson Project - boss commits to giving me a promotion when done
            ...
            ...

            When you get to the bottom of the last page, continue the index on the second-to-last page.

            Do not keep personal notes in here. If you need to, keep a separate personal notebook and reference items between the notes. For example, you might write a note like this:

            Today, Mr. Boss promised me a raise at the conclusion of this project [specifics of raise in personal notebook, page 72].

            This will give you the flexibility to leave the notebook to your successor when you leave.

            I started doing this a year ago, and it has made a world of difference.

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