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  • Please advise re: basics of processing/organizing

    Working through a big stack if stuff since I am under a deadline to clean up my many office surfaces, and I want to make my processing/organizing time a good investment in my productivity. Total height is now down to 4' from 8' but it took me all weekend thus far.

    These are the problems I am having.

    In general, as I accumulate "Next Actions". such as calls, adjenda items, additions to project plans, errands, address to enter (it takes me 10 minutes on these, since I usally try to get everything complete at the time) etc., should I be building lists, or should I be wrting these on slips of paper and then review them?


    Here are some more specific problems I am encountering:

    1. Bits and pieces that cue me to an action, such as a call or an adgenda item, an item for the calendars (personal and /or group), or something to be scheduled. I note action on a slop of paper. After the big sort, I will sort out these slips into piles by context. As to the original, some will be filed, some I will just record the information (2 minutes or less) and discard, some will be passed on to others (please see below for problems with this).

    Here's my question--We are using paper calendars, how should I keep track of what I have added to the calendar? I hate to meet with people and read through both old and new entries (although it does help to correct errors).


    2. Stuff to GIVE to other people but for which I remain accountable: I put it in folders with their names on them, or if it is a whole folder, clip it to existing. I make a note on a little paper to add to my list to deliver or mail it.

    But, I don't want to send this off without first making a list for myself of what I have sent and when (and even why).

    Some of these are part of a project (or routine activites) and I need to note to whome and when that I gave the stuff to some one in the project plan or support materials. Do I put this on a slip and then put itin the folder or what?

    I need to cue myself to give the stuuf (not on calendar) and contact for follow-up. Such as, a note on my calendar to call on 11/12 and say "I gave you your itinerary on November 10th, and as I am rending you that I need to know by the 11/14 if there are any unresolved aspects". Or, if I am asked "Where is the llicense for this product?" I need to be able to say, "I put copy in your In Box on 11/10".

    So what is the next action on this type of stuff?


    3. Stuff to DISCUSS with other people: Either it pertains to an active or SDMB project or a routine function but I can't just pass it to them because I need to meet with them to get them to review it and go over the stuff, not let it out of my sight and not let them postpone meeting indefinitely. Although, "Schedule Meeting with ____ Re:____" is a necessary action, I need to wait until I have finished processing so I know how many items to meet about and I have related materials at hand. But, I don't want to postpone scheduling the meeting forever.

    Any suggestions and encouragement welcome!

    And I have filled a big institional sized waster basket!

  • #2
    re: Getting Things Under Control

    As I accumulate "Next Actions". such as calls, agenda items, additions to project plans, errands, address to enter (it takes me 10 minutes on these, since I usally try to get everything complete at the time) etc., should I be building lists, or should I be writing these on slips of paper and then review them?
    You should be building lists based on what each item is:
    Actionable? More than one step? --> Projects List
    Actionable? One step --> Next action with context "@ Office: Next action"
    Non-Actionable? Trash, Defer (to Tickler or Someday/Maybe), File away

    The only things you should be 'completing' during the processing of your stuff is anything you can complete in under two minutes. Otherwise 'doing' and 'processing' should be two separate things. You should focus first on processing all of your stuff to define it and get it in the appropriate location. After that you can focus on 'doing'.

    Bits and pieces that cue me to an action
    Keep a blank sheet of papers under your inbox (or near it). As you think of new things, write one new thing per each sheet of paper and put into your inbox after you're done processing so you can process them later (don't try to advance think them too much - just capture and put into inbox for later).

    Here's my question--We are using paper calendars, how should I keep track of what I have added to the calendar? I hate to meet with people and read through both old and new entries (although it does help to correct errors).
    Get everyone to sign up for a free gmail account and start using the google calendar. It's free, easy and you can setup group calendars very easily. Paper for group calendaring is no good given the resources available now.


    Stuff to GIVE to other people but for which I remain accountable
    Put a post-it note that says "Waiting for John Doe to get back to me on this (discussed with John 11/30/0" on whatever documents related to that you have and put it into your Waiting For folder. And always put a date on your waiting fors so you remember when you last followed that item up.

    You can keep your Waiting For 'list' at the front of a stack of documents related to the things you are waiting for in your Waiting For folder.

    I need to cue myself to give the stuff (not on calendar) and contact for follow-up.
    For things you need advanced warning on, say you need to remind yourself in two weeks to do something, put that on your calendar or use a Tickler file and be sure to review that Tickler file each day.

    For the rest of things you are tracking, you should be able to just check your Waiting For list to know what things need to be followed up. In terms of things you've given to other people, those will be on your Waiting For list so you will know to track them and you'll be able to respond appropriately when asked. (e.g. "I sent you an email one week ago and have been waiting for you to respond")

    Stuff to DISCUSS with other people
    Keep a separate folder for "Agendas". Any documents related to that person, slap a post-it note on the front with the next action you need to accomplish with them. Keep your Agendas and Waiting For folders handy so whenever you are with those people you can pull those out and follow up with them.

    It sounds like the key thing to focus on is the Waiting For. If you can work on that, it should plug some of the leaks in the system.

    Hope that helps.

    Comment


    • #3
      Congratulations on your progress! You've made big strides in getting everything under control.

      I agree completely with Todd V. At a higher level: You need a good Waiting For list. You may need to refer to it more than once a week, since your job appears to involve a lot of waiting on other people.

      Usually, when I'm processing a big pile of stuff, I immediately record the Next Action, new Project, or whatever on its appropriate list. This may be more appropriate for you once your system runs more smoothly.

      Does that help?

      Comment


      • #4
        thanks and very helpful

        Thanks for reading my very long post and putting up with my odd errors in spelling (I just do not detect even when I proofread).

        I do indeed see the practicality of the running list. But, I am finding as I keep a running list during "binge processing" that I am encumbered by:

        1) having to switch papers or flip dividers to get to the right context (phone, adgenda, waiting). @Adgenda and @Waiting get especially complicated because I then need to have lists for key people for whom I accumulate a lot of items or else I have a big heterogenous list that I have to re-review and re-write to classify by person.

        2) Also, as I put something on a list, I am tempted to re-read the whole list to make sure I didn't put it there already.

        3) I start to see the "projectness" of an action and go down a planning path to see what the next action really is.

        The big down side on using separate slips is taking all the slips of paper and sorting them into their contexts, etc., just isn;t fun at that point.

        I guess there is no right answer. But please keep sharing your "best practices" .

        I am going to start with goggle calendar.

        Comment


        • #5
          In this situation I would have a single list, and I'd just scribble or type things into it quickly, irrespective of context. I wouldn't worry about whether they were already there, or what context they belong in, I'd just write action after action after action.

          Then when all the extraneous paper is gone, I'd rewrite or retype that one list into several context lists. This would eliminate the flipping, because I'd go down the list finding all the Phone items and running a line through them as I rewrite them. Then the next context, then the next context.

          Gardener

          Comment


          • #6
            I suspect you want maximum efficiency. You won't find it this side of heaven, unfortunately.

            Just get things done.

            (That said, this is why I keep my NAs on a whiteboard; easy updating.)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
              1) having to switch papers or flip dividers to get to the right context (phone, adgenda, waiting). @Adgenda and @Waiting get especially complicated because I then need to have lists for key people for whom I accumulate a lot of items or else I have a big heterogenous list that I have to re-review and re-write to classify by person.

              2) Also, as I put something on a list, I am tempted to re-read the whole list to make sure I didn't put it there already.

              3) I start to see the "projectness" of an action and go down a planning path to see what the next action really is.

              The big down side on using separate slips is taking all the slips of paper and sorting them into their contexts, etc., just isn;t fun at that point.
              Re 1) What may help for your @waiting list is to put the person's name at the start. For example, I always use "John: 11/10 review notes for draft 2 by 11/17". I will have also made certain I am tickled for the 17th. When I have John on the phone, I can quickly go down the @waiting list, searching by the first word (name), and address anything that should be addressed. You could do the same for @agenda, if you are not using a separate folder or list for that person or group.

              Re 2) I would not worry about putting a duplicate item on a list. I think you could save yourself some time, if you just did that after processing. You'll quickly see what you need to delete. Plus, it is always better to see something more often than not at all.

              If you want to presort your slips of paper by context before processing, then you may want to quickly note the context on each slip, as you are recording your thought.

              Comment

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