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Files: Project vs Reference

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  • Files: Project vs Reference

    I read about this topic in another thread, and it seems there are two schools of thought. Some people suggest that actionable projects should be kept separate from non-actionable reference files, and others suggest that projects & reference files should be mixed in together in the A-Z file system, with the exception of open, active projects being kept out on top of the desk or someplace else more visible.

    I realize that there is no one right answer, it is more what works for that particular person. I will be setting up my GTD system and hopefully having it up and running by the end of this month, so I'm currently in the process of trying to figure out all the details of my system, not being entirely sure which will work best for me. With that in mind, I'd like to tell everybody what I'm thinking about doing and I welcome any and all feedback.

    Because I am the type of person who has tons of projects that are either in the someday/maybe phase, or inactive at the moment but somehow halfway formulated, I think it is best if I mix these files in with my reference. Particularly, because it seems like a lot of the information that's inside of the project folders would also serve as a reference to some degree.

    In order to make sure that no action steps get lost, I would put separate actionable items on the actions list, as well as making sure that each project is indexed on my project index, and I may even have one of my action items be "review this file/project for actionability".

    In essence, I am suggesting that my files remain as reference files until I decide to open them as an active project which will most likely come about when I'm reminded of them as part of the weekly review. I'm thinking that this way everything is filed succinctly in one system, but anything that I may want to pull out in the future to actually do something about will be on a separate sheet as a reminder.

    For projects that are currently active, I'd like to have separate folders that will sit on top of my desk so that they are always within reach and sight. I think this will help me to finish what I start because I'm also the type of person that gets about 75% through a project and then drops it. Hopefully this will also help my focus if I'm only looking at 1-5 active projects at a time while the other 30-50 projects are filed away for future review.

    Because I run my own business from my home, anything related to that business will get its own separate filing cabinet. Other categories that I'm thinking may make sense to break out as a separate discrete drawers or sections would be: financial, health, and hobbies.

    Any thoughts and ideas that anybody has for me are entirely welcome. Thank you for all of your input in advance.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Kap View Post
    Because I run my own business from my home, anything related to that business will get its own separate filing cabinet. Other categories that I'm thinking may make sense to break out as a separate discrete drawers or sections would be: financial, health, and hobbies.

    Any thoughts and ideas that anybody has for me are entirely welcome. Thank you for all of your input in advance.
    In general what you are doing is a lot like what I set up. I have one file cabinet drawer that has my current active project files, my tickler file, action support and folders for each major location where we need to do stuff. All else including all someday maybe and inactive project support files are mixed in my A to Z reference system.

    Only thing I do differently is that I mix both businesses and personal files in one big file system. I had them split but it got confusing because sometimes things are applicable to both businesses or to one business and personal and I couldn't always find stuff when I needed it.

    There are only 3 separate groups of files. My Genealogical database files by family Surname, and the 2 sets of files that contain information and reference material for organizations where I am an officer. I keep those separate so I can easily hand them off to someone else in future.

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    • #3
      I have found when I'm on the move a lot, I really find having quick and easy access to my active project folders important, so I keep them separate. If I can pick up those or all that I need in one quick swoop it works best.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by sdann View Post
        I have found when I'm on the move a lot, I really find having quick and easy access to my active project folders important, so I keep them separate. If I can pick up those or all that I need in one quick swoop it works best.
        A vertical file sorter on your desktop is great for active files you need to have at hand. All the rest belong in the filing cabinet.

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        • #5
          Using active verbs and outcomes as the Project Names makes them hard to find A-Z

          Even when I separate out my projects (actionable) from my reference (nonactionable), I still feel disconnected from my projects because my Projects do not jump out of their folders with names starting with File, Get, Obtain, Set Up and Unpack. Although I do have my projects listed in an index, I feel like dividing them up between areas of focus may work. I originally had them mixed with general reference and that certainly was mind numbing. But after separating them out, I felt overwhelmed with keeping 2 sets of files.. And dividing them yet further into areas of focus seems even more overwhelming.

          I am curious how people organize their Project Files. Do you file them A-Z by Active Verbs since you would most likely name the project starting with an active verb? For me I do not get motivated by this at all and I certainly can not find a project file unless I look at my index. I have not really seen a question like this, but did not know how to start my own post so added it on here.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by AVBernard View Post
            Even when I separate out my projects (actionable) from my reference (nonactionable), I still feel disconnected from my projects because my Projects do not jump out of their folders with names starting with File, Get, Obtain, Set Up and Unpack. Although I do have my projects listed in an index, I feel like dividing them up between areas of focus may work. I originally had them mixed with general reference and that certainly was mind numbing. But after separating them out, I felt overwhelmed with keeping 2 sets of files.. And dividing them yet further into areas of focus seems even more overwhelming.

            I am curious how people organize their Project Files. Do you file them A-Z by Active Verbs since you would most likely name the project starting with an active verb? For me I do not get motivated by this at all and I certainly can not find a project file unless I look at my index. I have not really seen a question like this, but did not know how to start my own post so added it on here.
            You could always create active project folders that have the names of your projects. Then once you are done, you can file whatever documents in however way in your reference file, discarding/recycling the project folder.

            I keep my actve project folders separately and arms length. Personally, I don't start my projects with the verbs. It'll most likely be "client proposal x" or "refrigerator replacement"

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            • #7
              Originally posted by AVBernard View Post
              I am curious how people organize their Project Files. Do you file them A-Z by Active Verbs since you would most likely name the project starting with an active verb?
              Next actions begin with active verbs (Call, Write, Brainstorm, Remind).

              A project very likely begins with a noun or adjective (Annual convention, Switzerland trip, Holiday party). Or, if one has several clients or contacts or people to manage, the name of the organization or person.

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              • #8
                A-Z except a few I am actively working on

                Originally posted by AVBernard View Post
                I am curious how people organize their Project Files. Do you file them A-Z by Active Verbs since you would most likely name the project starting with an active verb?
                I don't name projects that way so I file them A-Z by project.

                My projects are named things like Sheep AI Experiment, Red Barn Door, Sheep EPDs, Localfarmsfirst.org, New Brat sign for Revolution, Sheep Armor, Burn Brush piles, Dog vet work, Farm Blog, Daily Shoot, Omnifocus Tune-up.

                My physical files for the above are Sheep AI 2009, Red Barn, Sheep EPDs, Web Site, and Omnifocus. I don't have folders of physical stuff for the other projects listed.

                When I do have projects that are named differently like Learn Yojimbo, Make Reading Area, Clean up Office Supplies I make my physical files how I would think to look for the stuff so they would be labeled Yojimbo and Office Supplies from the above examples.

                And that points out another thing. I don't always have a file for every project and I have some files that contain info on multiple projects even occasionally inactive ones. The Red Barn folder for example has all the support material on all the projects that are either active or someday/maybe that are related to the Red Barn. There are I think 10 pieces of paper in that file so not a big deal to sort them when I need to refer to it. I keep the paper on what I am doing next at the front of the folder. In the Red Barn case it's the paint chip for the green paint that we need more of to re-paint the doors where the sheep and geese rubbed the paint off. That is actually a someday project as I can't paint until it's warmer and I need to buy paint first when I activate it. It's winter so all of that is sitting in the Red Barn folder. I'll catch it on weekly review sometime in spring after lambing and hopefully activate it and repaint the doors.

                Lastly, I keep a few very active files in front of my tickler file in the most accessible file drawer I have. Right now the Sheep AI 2009 file is there as I am constantly getting info from it or adding to it as the experiment progresses.

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                • #9
                  Thank you for the input on how project files are organized

                  Thanks for the ideas.

                  I actually decided to just add a code to my projects P1, P2, P88 etc. And I list the code after the next action if applicable. And I then file all the projects under "P" in my general reference A-Z system. I am doing the same for Someday/maybe's under "S". Since P# comes before anything else in the P section, they are all in the front. I feel more at ease with everything together now. This works for me because I like starting my Project Names with Action Verbs. It keeps me brainstorming. But without some type of order for the projects I was not looking at all of them inclusively. Now the project code gives me that relief that I have them all under one roof.

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