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  • Stuck at "Organize"

    I have tried to implement GTD many times. The first time, I wasted four hours trying to get my PDA to sync with Outlook on my computer. I never tried GTD again, even though the collect and process steps helped a lot. I sold the PDA.

    I tried again... spend several hours that time trying to figure out what kind of folder system to set up, even spent money on a labeler, the whole thing. Felt like my life, which was already overscheduled, was now focused around setting up the GTD System to archive old paperwork and future project ideas!

    Tried again. Put all future project stuff in one big folder, put all "to be archived/reference" in a big box and now have "organize archives/reference" as a project on my project list. I absolutely have to get going on current projects and my extensive To-Do list.

    I'm using Google Calender put all my single sheets of paper from my mindsweep that need to be done ASAP in a big folder. I'm still completely overwhelmed. I have no idea how to organize that folder of To-Dos....

    I'm a graduate student now, and I really want to excel, not just do the bare minimum. I also want the rest of my life under control. It's a good week if I can just get laundry done.

    Yes, I'm in the victim quadrant! How do I get from there to someplace better?

  • #2
    I'd say get the folder in an electronic system, and start learning to trust it. I'd start by looking at these three:

    Things - Mac only.
    ToodleDo - Web-based, quite popular.
    Nozbe - Web-based, similar to ToodleDo, and my personal favorite. Your mileage may vary.

    You've got things organized, now get those to-dos in order. Get them all in a system, start assigning Next Actions to the most important ones, and get to it!

    Mickey

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for your suggestion, but learning about another tool is just more time that I don't have! I usually waste endless hours playing with a new toy once I get it. I need less, not more.

      I need to *make decisions* about my long list of to-dos, not add another project. Once I know what the heck I am doing, then maybe a tool will help me streamline what I am doing.

      Make sense?

      I feel like I'm still missing the real spirit of what the "Organize" step is...

      Comment


      • #4
        What do the "To Do" items consist of? Are they fully processed Next Actions, or are they a mix of actions, ideas, possible projects, etc? (If you can't answer that question, re-read Chapter 6 in the GTD book.)

        Either way, you can't organize them until you know what you have. I'd suggest sorting the To Do folder into piles. If they are all Next Actions already, then these piles might be contexts: phone calls, emails, stuff to read, etc. If they are a mix of things, then you'll create the piles as you process them: projects, actions, someday/maybe items, etc.

        Once you've done that, you can either stick with individual sheets in folders or transfer them to lists in the list capture tool of your choice. List Capture Tool is a big, important-sounding phrase, but it could be as simple as an index card or a legal pad, or as complex as something like Life Balance. I'm a fan of paper because it's cheap and has no learning curve, but GTD itself is system-agnostic.

        Hope this helps,

        Katherine

        Comment


        • #5
          It seems you just need the Right Buckets to distribute your (still) stuff functionally. Just re-read chapter 7 in Getting Things Done: Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets and do it.

          I would avoid high tech devices, at the stage you seem to be it adds more work. Go for paper gear, no new skills to learn.

          Go for it. It pays off

          PD: I saw Katherine answer only after I posted mine. Yes, probably you need to re-read and follow chapter 6 too. Chaps 6 and 7 are closely interrelated.
          Last edited by Marcelo; 10-09-2009, 06:55 PM. Reason: add info

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with Katherine and Marcelo! go simple with paper and pen is the way to go.

            Here's my suggestions:

            - go through your piles of papers/files/folder as quickly as possible. Scan for possible 'landmines' such as time sensitive stuff, important stuff that you need to do within 1 to 3 months time, bills to pay, borrowed/rented things to be return, insurance policy...etc. Separate these items from the big piles.

            - THROW / RECYCLE whatever stuff you dont need within 6 months time. If you feel hesitated whether to throw or not to throw, FLIP A COIN. look at the flipped coin and make decision by NOTICING HOW YOU FEEL about the result.

            - place the big piles aside and label them 'stuff to be organise'. this pile will need to be deal with some time later when you have extra free time. please understand that at times, you need to make the 'extra time' yourself or make an appointment with yourself to process the piles.

            - Separate the big piles into a smaller piles to be deal with 1 at a time. or set up a 5 to 15 minutes schedule everyday to process them. there won't be worries because this piles doesn't contain anything that will 'blow up', so take your time.

            - place the separated 'landmines' piles on your table and go through them one by one and put them into your system (as next action/calendar items). File them as individual project into folders and label them respectively.

            - Start your GTD system as simple as possible. For now, I suggest you stick with pen and paper for the time being. you can play with digital gadgets later when your world is under control and you have extra free time.

            - Get a capturing tool. I recommend a small cheap pocket notebook and a mini pen/pencil. Currently, I am using a small leather cover notebook (9x5cm) , with recycle paper I cut and bind with paper clips myself. I have an A6 size recycle paper notebook (also cut and bind myself with paper clip) in my bag for capturing meeting notes, lectures and drawing doddles/mindmaps. So since it is recycle scrap paper, i wont hesitate to scribble and writing anything I want. and later tear it out and toss. Please do not get expensive notebook, as you wont want to write anything down to 'spoil' and 'dirty'. go as cheap as possible for a capturing tool.

            -Recently, i purchased 2 thick transparent plastic folders and glue them together side by side with transparent tape. I insert them with white paper i cut to size. With a whiteboard marker pen, I can use it as a portable whiteboard for brainstorming or conducting a small class. If i want to keep my ideas, I just photograph and archive them.

            - set your mobile phone shortcut to launch audio recorder. this way, you can launch audio recording as quickly as you can to capture your thoughts. this is very useful especially when you are driving and doesnt have empty hands to write things down on paper. Only use this method when you need to, stick to writing on paper all the time. this will minimize your time to have to listen to ur recording again to write things down.

            - If you wanna go digital, stay simple. you can list your projects and next actions list as plain text file (.txt) or just word documents. You can refer or edit them in your mobile phone. I still highly recommend that you keep capturing with pen and paper because it is faster. and keep your reference material in digital format because it is faster to search and easy to carry around large data.

            - For reference files and project folders, get cheap manila folders. you can upgrade later when you need to in the future. right now, concentrate on getting things organize and clear. Get a simple cardboard/plastic box to hold them. if you arrange them on the rack as i do, use bookends to hold them straight in piles.

            - ACT and FINISH all 2 - 5 minutes items AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

            - always review your list regularly. especially WEEKLY REVIEW to update your list and reference.

            - break down your projects into 2 - 5 minutes next actions and ACT on them.

            - REPEAT again.

            -------------------------------------------

            Apologized to everyone for the long post. I got carried away with typing. I just cant resist typing when ideas are flowing in my head.

            Anyway, just hope that this can be helpful. Thanks for reading~!

            Comment


            • #7
              Focused on tools?

              Originally posted by adipocyte View Post
              I have tried to implement GTD many times. The first time, I wasted four hours trying to get my PDA to sync with Outlook on my computer. I never tried GTD again, even though the collect and process steps helped a lot. I sold the PDA.
              Synchronizing exercise is not a part of GTD implementation. Aren't you too focused on tools instead of methodology? Use the tools you are already familiar with.

              Comment


              • #8
                WOW!! Another GREAT post from Matsuru!!

                Thanks for typing it all out - VERY helpful!!

                Hi adipocyte! I can relate, lol!

                Put all future project stuff in one big folder, put all "to be archived/reference" in a big box and now have "organize archives/reference" as a project on my project list. I absolutely have to get going on current projects and my extensive To-Do list.
                GREAT idea!! I wish I have done this sooner, too!!

                I found that GTD sort of demanded a lot of my time too - apparently I was doing it wrong at the beginning (at least partly) and was pulled into decluttering or 'organizing' when it would be MUCH better to just put 'set up new filing system' and 'GTD up and running' as separate projects, etc.

                I was also confusing Next Actions(=immediately doable, you can visualize yourself doing it) and Projects(=outcome, that needs more than one NA) and Areas of Focus(=ongoing stuff that doesn't have a 'DONE' outcome, responsibilities, roles) etc.
                There were a lot of 'blobs' on my lists too!

                It was easier for me to know what to put into my organizer when I saw a film on YouTube showing a DIY homemade paper organizer.. And after reading and listening to some stuff here in GTD Connect. I now have NAs according to contexts, Waiting For list, Projects, Later Projects, Someday/Maybe Projects, Areas of Focus (to remind myself they are not the same as projects!), I also added Checklists/How Tos, Weekly Menu and Grattitude Journal.

                If you have too many NAs or blobs, just put projects that are 'not this week' and 'non-explodable' on 'Later'(=for me, 'not this week') or 'Someday/Maybe' lists..

                Also, maybe you can put the too-many NAs into several shorter lists according to the area of focus or priority or similar (if they are in the same context)? That's what I'm experimenting with currently.. I divide each peace of paper that is a context with many NAs into 'subdivisions' - if this makes sense? And I put 'gotta do's' on my weekly or yearly calendar.. Or the monthly wall calendar, if it pertains to other family members too.

                There is some stuff about this in GTD Connect, you can sign up for a free 2-week trial at first.. I'm currently working on how to make NA lists more attractive, which words to choose etc (important: verbs! Every project or NA needs a verb, if I remember it right!))

                The beauty of GTD is it all can seem very SIMPLE... The thing is what you DO with what you got - which categories you have and what you assign where and what you do about it.. Good luck!

                Comment


                • #9
                  i would suggest alot less focus on tools but how u plan ur stuff and DO IT.

                  alot spend eternity looking for solutions but i feel best way is to start doing it, reference the GTD book and find the best way.

                  some pointers:

                  locational contexts and schedules are important. you gotta fix schedules to do the freaking thing.If you dun schedule time to expand and do it, your stuff is just gonna keep piling up.

                  just take ur pile of shxt and see if they are actionable. if they are not, i suggest you use Evernote to store them (if they are not sensitive). If your school has an easily assessible scanner scan all ur freaking bills. that way you can archive them in folders instead of keeping papers.

                  if they are actionable find out whether they are projects or if they are existing projects then put them under projects and what context constraint u can do it.

                  lastly, u can't focus on only 1 aspect of GTD. They all work together. neglecting one and your system fails.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by adipocyte View Post
                    I feel like I'm still missing the real spirit of what the "Organize" step is...
                    The spirit of Organize is about preparing yourself so that you can make the best decision about what to actually do at any given moment.

                    To that end, it consists of some categorization so that you can easily filter your list down to a useful length.

                    It's sort of hard to talk about this without getting into the earlier Processing step too, so I'll be jumping around a bit.

                    This sort of thing sometimes works better when driven by example, so I'll pick one we've probably all had in our Inbox at some point: "Do Laundry."

                    So, there it is. The first question: "What is it?" Well, it's laundry. Relatively straightforward. So that's good.

                    The next question: "Is it actionable?" Could someone do something about it? The answer might be No -- but let's decide for this one that it's a Yes.

                    Then it's getting to be time to think about whether it's a project or not. I found it easier when starting out to break down things into very small steps, so I'll recommend that here. More than one step means it's a project for us.

                    We don't really need to do much planning for this (although it could probably benefit from more planning than you think it needs -- but project planning is a big subject and I've already tangented away from Organizing a bit.) So we'll brainstorm some project steps and actions. Gotta put my clothes in the washing machine. But I'd better separate the colours and the whites first. And I'll need some change for the machine. And I think I've got some detergent around here somewhere. Did Bob ever give me back my ironing board?

                    So we've got that big blobby brainstormed list, and we can massage that into something like a logical sequence of steps. So what are the Next Actions?

                    * Separate dirty clothes into whites and colours
                    * Get some quarters from corner store
                    * Check on detergent levels; maybe buy more from corner store?
                    * Call Bob about ironing board -- 555-1234

                    These are all Next Actions for this project because they can all occur independently and in any order. (That's not quite true -- you probably want to check on the detergent before going to the store for quarters to save yourself the trip, but stay with me here.)

                    The action of actually putting your clothes in the machine isn't even on the list yet, because all these other things need to happen first. So it just sits there in your Project Reference folder/document.

                    So now you've got some next actions. Can you do any of them in 2 minutes or less? Sure, you can check on the detergent right now. So you run off and it turns out, yay, you've got lots, so you can cross that right off your list. Can you delegate any of the tasks? You wish you could, but it's not really feasible (but it makes you think about whether a maid service might be a sensible option, so you jot down Maid Service? on a piece of paper and throw it in your Inbox.) So the other tasks are getting deferred.

                    Do any of them need to go onto your calendar? No, although you notice that you've got a hot date on Saturday so you'd really like to be done before that. You might make this annotation on your Project Reference.

                    So the rest are Next Actions. They get contexts:

                    @Home: Separate dirty clothes into whites and colours
                    @Errands: Get some quarters from corner store
                    @Phone: Call Bob about ironing board -- 555-1234


                    All of that process is about getting down to this moment:

                    "Alright, it's Wednesday morning, I've got 5 minutes before my next class. I've got my cell phone with me. I'll check my @Phone list... oh yeah, I should call Bob." And then you call Bob, and you're getting things done. You didn't even see your @Home actions because you're not at home and there's literally nothing you could do about them right now.

                    In contrast, the way I used to live for years and years was "Oh man I need to get my laundry done before Saturday uhg it's all in a big pile I need to separate it No wait I need quarters too Hmmm I probably don't even have detergent Oh screw it this is too complicated."

                    Hope that helps.


                    Cheers,
                    Roger

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Wow, thanks for all the great suggestions!

                      As I said in my original post, my experience with new devices were so bad, I only wanted paper-and-pencil suggestions. And most of you gave me plenty of ideas. (Some of you seemed to think I needed to be told to stick to paper, but ah, I figured that out already )

                      I'm really doing just fine with Collect, Process, and doing all the 2-minute tasks during Process. It's the organization of my Next Actions that is so overwhelming.

                      I understand the concept of context-based to-do lists, but I think that is the sticking point for me, because the question is now WHEN. WHEN will I do errands, WHEN will I use the phone (we all have phones all the time!) WHEN will I do laundry vs homework, grocery shop vs clean house, exercise vs prepare a report, and so on.

                      I did my first Weekly Review this Sunday, and it was far less painful than I had anticipated. I found that my to-do list had shrunk quite a bit, and the reason I have so many "Maybe/Somedays" is because I have a huge list of "Next Actions" and "Current Projects," not because I'm slacking!

                      I think timing is probably my next big hurdle.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        adipocyte,

                        Glad that our ideas and suggestions do inspires you.

                        Hopefully you can sort out your problems and share with us your process of GTD in the near future. We all could benefit from your experience.

                        Good luck!

                        --------------
                        oh! I just look at my calendar and my list and decide on the spot what should I do at that moment.
                        Use your feeling. Use the force! :P
                        Last edited by matsuru; 10-14-2009, 02:33 AM. Reason: spelling mistakes

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          adipocyte:

                          OK, now is more clear what you see as the problem: allocating time to each action. I know that worry...

                          The GTD approach: besides appointments and things you must do on a certain date, don't allocate time.

                          Pick one of your next actions that you can do now considering the time and energy at hand (laundry?, grocery? a phone call?), and do it. Mark it off in your list. Then pick another one, and so on.

                          Remain flowing from action to action in the present moment. You can only act now anyway.

                          I my experience, you will feel better with each tick in your NA lists.

                          During your weekly review next weekend, see how you've been doing. If you still feel there is far too much, consider then if there are things you can move to your Some Day/May Be list, or delegate.

                          I'd like to know how is it going next week

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by adipocyte View Post
                            I think timing is probably my next big hurdle.
                            For me GTD contexts has nothing to do with timing but everything to do with required tools. As to when, unless it's a context I am avoiding, (where I will schedule time to deal with it in my calendar) I get a quick overview of all actions in all contexts as I look at my calendar, the weather, my full next action list and see how I feel. I do this quick mini-review with my coffee at breakfast.

                            For me a lot is weather dependent. We have solar hot water, so laundry has to wait till mid afternoon of a sunny day. That also means we have to have enough clothes to get through an extended cloudy spell or be willing to pay the cost for the propane to heat the water if we really need stuff. I'm aware of the requirements for specific tasks and can choose to do them or not based on external factors.

                            I don't really allocate times to stuff other than broad categories. Vaccinations for new lambs has to happen within a specific window of ages and then a certain number of weeks after the first one. But within the window which day we do it is often weather dependent or animal attitude dependent. You can't vaccinate wet sheep, so can't be done during rainy times. You can't easily move sheep who are not hungry, so just after filling hay feeder is a bad time to decide to vaccinate. It takes a lot of personal energy, so I better be well rested and eat a big breakfast, I need help so if hubby has other scheduled things we can't do it and so on.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                              Vaccinations for new lambs has to happen within a specific window of ages and then a certain number of weeks after the first one. But within the window which day we do it is often weather dependent or animal attitude dependent. You can't vaccinate wet sheep, so can't be done during rainy times. You can't easily move sheep who are not hungry, so just after filling hay feeder is a bad time to decide to vaccinate. It takes a lot of personal energy, so I better be well rested and eat a big breakfast, I need help so if hubby has other scheduled things we can't do it and so on.
                              I find your occupation very challenging from the point of view of management. GTD seems to me to be too simple for you. You cannot categorize actions just by contexts - you need several conditions to be present in order to perform certain actions (a context is nothing more than a condition), as can be seen in the example of vaccination. So vaccination must be done at a certain time in the year due to the age of sheep, that can be scheduled, but then in that window many other conditions must be present: weather, animal attitude, presence of hubby (or extra working force), your own level of energy... a real juggling of variables. People in the city have it easier, at least we are not so weather dependant... although on a second thought we are more dependant on people, lots of, and these are more unpredictable than weather... mmm I am starting to think that GTD is an advance as compared to previous approaches which did not consider contexts, but it is still too simplistic to adequately cover work situations which are not unipersonal.
                              Last edited by Marcelo; 10-14-2009, 10:12 AM.

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