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A few questions for a GTD newbie...

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  • A few questions for a GTD newbie...

    Hello,

    I recently finished reading the organizing chapter of GTD and am working on processing and organizing both at home and work. This system has already made a drastic change in my life. It is brilliant.

    I'm struggling with a few hurdles. Please let me know if there are already discussions on the questions listed below.

    1. How do you cross-reference project lists with the related data stored in your system?

    I've been writing abbreviations next to list items (such as NA or WF to indicate the project has items on the next action or waiting for lists). I feel there is something better I could be doing. I eventually plan to put the entire system into my BlackBerry so I'm looking for both paper-based and BlackBerry solutions.

    2. Do most people store shopping lists in a next action folder? How about on a BlackBerry? I'm frustrated that tasks and notes are separate. I could categorize the note with a context and category such as "errands" and "next action" but this seems convoluted. I'm open to purchasing software for the BlackBerry.

    3. How would you suggest handling a next action which follows a waiting for? What if there is a small list of things to do which follows the waiting for? I've been moving these lists back and forth between the waiting for a projects folders and neither feels right.

    4. I'm still struggling with projects. For a project which has several actions I may forget, I write the actions on a page and file it in the project folder (vertical management). I write the next action on the next action list and the project itself on the project list. I add a "V" next to the project name to indicate that it is vertically managed as well. I know some vertical management will end up requiring file folders or large three ring binders and I feel uneasy here. Any advice?

    5. I've found myself purposefully being redundant with important tasks, writing them on the next action or waiting for lists and the calendar. I think this is because half my system is on paper but my time reminders co-exist between work outlook and blackberry/home outlook (unfortunately I can not sync them all together at this time). Did anyone have similar problems?

    Thanks in advance,

    techphets

  • #2
    My project support materials either go in the same folder as the project, or near it in the filing system. I try to minimize cross referencing things. If I have to spend time reminding myself where a project stands I'm probably not working on it enough or it is not broken down to small enough parts. Less fiddling is better.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by techphets View Post
      1. How do you cross-reference project lists with the related data stored in your system?
      Cross-referencing would typically be done within your project support materials. For example, you have project X. Now, you take a manilla folder and label it "Project X" to include your project support materials. Much of this material might be stored within this folder or it may be in another folder in your A-Z reference or in your email or in an electronic document on your computer or elsewhere. What I would do with these scattered references is take a sheet of paper, one for each document, title it with the name of the document, maybe a short abstract if necessary to remind myself of the relevance of that document to the project, and a notation as to where to find it. That's how I would do it, seeing my project support folder as the central repository for all my support materials, even if it's just a pointer to data elsewhere.

      I've been writing abbreviations next to list items (such as NA or WF to indicate the project has items on the next action or waiting for lists). I feel there is something better I could be doing. I eventually plan to put the entire system into my BlackBerry so I'm looking for both paper-based and BlackBerry solutions.
      Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding you, but what I'm picturing is a list with abbreviations beside it like:

      Call Fred NA
      Email Jane RE Friday's meeting WF

      If I am understanding you correctly, you would need to turn these lists inside out, so to speak, and make them context-centered lists. For example, you would have an "@Calls" list that would have an item like "Call Fred" and a "@Waiting For" list with an item like "Jane RE Friday's meeting". Let me know if I've misunderstood you here.

      2. Do most people store shopping lists in a next action folder? How about on a BlackBerry? I'm frustrated that tasks and notes are separate. I could categorize the note with a context and category such as "errands" and "next action" but this seems convoluted. I'm open to purchasing software for the BlackBerry.
      I do have a grocery shopping list that is separate from my other lists as that is an ongoing list for me that I find works better with specialized software used on my iPhone. I don't know about the Blackberry. I've heard, though, that there is software to do GTD on the Blackberry. You should be able to find references to it on these forums and/or via Google.

      With regard to notes, you could either store your notes with your project support materials, which is what most do, or you could use one sheet of paper per NA and put the notes right on the paper. Then, the completed NA could go in with your project support materials. If you do this digitally on the Blackberry, this may be easier for you to work with as the software will like sort your actions by context for you and may or may not have a place for notes attached to the NA. I use a product called OmniFocus and it allows for project-level and task-level notes.

      3. How would you suggest handling a next action which follows a waiting for? What if there is a small list of things to do which follows the waiting for? I've been moving these lists back and forth between the waiting for a projects folders and neither feels right.
      What I do is have that small list notated with my project notes, usually attached to the project name and description of the outcome (if appropriate). It would be the list of actions to do to get this project done as far as I can see at that moment. The first of those actions also gets copied to the appropriate context list. As I complete one action, I check it off and copy the next task to the appropriate context list. If that next task is a Waiting For, it goes on my "@Waiting For" list. Then, when what I'm waiting for has come to pass, I do the same thing--check it off and move the next to the appropriate context list. I'm never copying whole lists from place to place, just the one next actionable item on a project to its appropriate context list. The master list is in the project.

      4. I'm still struggling with projects. For a project which has several actions I may forget, I write the actions on a page and file it in the project folder (vertical management). I write the next action on the next action list and the project itself on the project list. I add a "V" next to the project name to indicate that it is vertically managed as well. I know some vertical management will end up requiring file folders or large three ring binders and I feel uneasy here. Any advice?
      For me, there are three types of pages associated with every project--a "Next Actions" page labeled with the context it is referring to, a project page with the name of the project, the outcome (if necessary) and the list of tasks as I can see them to be done at that point in time. I've already described above how I work this, moving tasks from the project page to the context lists. I don't worry about notating if there is any "vertical management" as you call it because all projects have a project page. If they didn't, I'd have to remember in my head what "Get car serviced" meant (which car, what mileage, etc.) and where in the project I was (call shop to set an appointment, waiting for appointment time, ask service tech the following questions ... , etc.). It may sound like overkill, but if I don't do every project the same way every time, I know I'll drop the ball somewhere.

      5. I've found myself purposefully being redundant with important tasks, writing them on the next action or waiting for lists and the calendar. I think this is because half my system is on paper but my time reminders co-exist between work outlook and blackberry/home outlook (unfortunately I can not sync them all together at this time). Did anyone have similar problems?
      I don't have a problem with different calendars. I might suggest you look into Google calendar and their Outlook syncing tool. You may be able to sync your work calendar and your home calendars together via Google calendar. Then sync your Blackberry at one or the other. I don't know, but that's the first thought I've got there.

      DA talks about only putting day-specific items on the calendar--only appointments or tasks that must be done on that day. He also says, though, that if a particular NA will take more than an hour to complete and you have busy schedule or it seems appropriate to your situation, to schedule those longer NAs, too. Finally, I will also put some due-dated project reminders on the calendar. For example, if today is Tuesday and you find out today that your boss needs something completed by Friday, you might put an all-day event on your Outlook calendar stretching from today (Tuesday) to Friday with the name of the project. Then, you would be reminded of its import everyday when you look at your calendar. I wouldn't put much more on the calendar, though, like daily to-do lists or the like so as not to clutter up the calendar with non-date-specific tasks.

      Take care!

      Comment


      • #4
        Cross-reference Projects & Next Actions.

        I use Outlook on my desktop and Beyond Contacts on my Palm TX. They sync perfectly. I downloaded the 36 page (Implementing David Allen's Workflow Processing Using Microsoft Outlook). The workaround that I use to cross reference all my next actions with my projects goes like this.

        Create a project: *Project (Context)
        (Camper de-winterization)

        In the notes section: (This is where I put my next actions).
        4/19/2009 (Camper de-winterization) De-tarp camper.
        4/23/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Deliver battery charger to hangar.
        4/23/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Charge battery on camper.
        4/25/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Charge spare battery.
        (Camper de-winterization) Empty camper.
        (Camper de-winterization) Take waterhoses to hangar.
        (Camper de-winterization) Clear anti-freeze from waterlines.


        In Context: @Hangar (This is where I store my camper).
        I then copy the next action from the notes section of the (Camper de-winterization) project and paste it as a next action where I can then select the appropriate context (In this example the context was @Hangar.
        (Camper de-winterization) Empty camper.

        After completing the next action I check it off and then go to the corresponding project & date the action. Then I copy the next action & repeat the process.

        I've tried multiple applications, Nozbe, Next Action, A Blackberry App (don't recall the name) but Outlook seems to work the best for me. I use a moleskin as my capture device (alot faster at entering projects, next actions) & then at the end of the day I copy them over to Outlook & sync them to my Palm TX.

        Works for me.

        Comment


        • #5
          Here are my answers to your questions:

          Originally posted by techphets View Post

          1. How do you cross-reference project lists with the related data stored in your system?

          I've been writing abbreviations next to list items (such as NA or WF to indicate the project has items on the next action or waiting for lists). I feel there is something better I could be doing. I eventually plan to put the entire system into my BlackBerry so I'm looking for both paper-based and BlackBerry solutions.
          You let your mind do this part. Your mind can easily connect the dots, but it doesn't do a good job remembering the dots. That's what your system does for you.

          For any project you really need only three things: an entry on the Projects list, the VERY next physical action you can take on your action lists (not future actions that you can't do right now), and a place or places to store project support and reference material.

          Originally posted by techphets View Post
          2. Do most people store shopping lists in a next action folder? How about on a BlackBerry? I'm frustrated that tasks and notes are separate. I could categorize the note with a context and category such as "errands" and "next action" but this seems convoluted. I'm open to purchasing software for the BlackBerry.
          A shopping list falls under "reference lists". It's just an ad-hoc list that you create to support your next shopping trip to the store. I use HandyShopper on the Palm for this. If you put an action on your action lists it would likely be "Go grocery shopping" on your @Errands list.

          Originally posted by techphets View Post
          3. How would you suggest handling a next action which follows a waiting for? What if there is a small list of things to do which follows the waiting for? I've been moving these lists back and forth between the waiting for a projects folders and neither feels right.
          If it's not a current action that you can take, it does not belong on your action lists. Remove it. The appropriate place to track these items (if necessary) is your project support materials.

          I found after a few years of doing this that tracking future next actions isn't necessary because what you think the next action will be may not be what the next action truly is. The person you've delegated the work to might derail you with a situation you didn't expect. But, if the action is on your mind, your support material is the place to track it until you can move on it.


          Originally posted by techphets View Post
          4. I'm still struggling with projects. For a project which has several actions I may forget, I write the actions on a page and file it in the project folder (vertical management). I write the next action on the next action list and the project itself on the project list. I add a "V" next to the project name to indicate that it is vertically managed as well. I know some vertical management will end up requiring file folders or large three ring binders and I feel uneasy here. Any advice?
          Once again, use project support files to track things like action sequences and loose plans. You can either use the "notes" field of the task on your Blackberry or create a reference folder with the title of the project and keep lists and loose notes in there. Use it during the weekly review to generate new actions.

          Originally posted by techphets View Post
          5. I've found myself purposefully being redundant with important tasks, writing them on the next action or waiting for lists and the calendar. I think this is because half my system is on paper but my time reminders co-exist between work outlook and blackberry/home outlook (unfortunately I can not sync them all together at this time). Did anyone have similar problems?
          Yes, I've used two separate systems in the past; one for work and one for home, until I figured out a way to consolidate them (I use Outlook at work and home). However, I think the problem here is related to how you're using your action lists.

          Use your calendar for day-specific (it has to happen SOMETIME on that day or it dies), time-specific actions (appointments), and day-specific reminders ("Ready to decide about x?", "Project XYZ due next Thursday"). NOTHING ELSE. Anything else that's not tied to a day or time belongs on an action list.

          I sometimes put a reminder on my calendar about something on my action lists if conditions are going to be favorable on a particular day for me to do it (weather dependant projects like outdoor painting, planting, etc). That's okay; it's a day-specific reminder. However, if I don't get it done that day, the task doesn't die; I just have to wait for another window of opportunity. So the action remains on my action lists. I just watch for it and move the reminder on my calendar around until I get it done.

          If I'm faced with something that has to be done by a particular date (it dies after that date), I assign a due date to the task in Outlook. An alternative (or extra safety net) would be to put the due date on the calendar as an all-day reminder. ("Task ABC due")

          If something has to happen on a particular day (can't do it before that day and I can't do it after), then the action goes on my calendar and not on my action lists.

          I hope that clarifies some for you. Welcome to GTD and best of luck!

          Luke

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