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help with 'buckets' and the in to empty

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  • help with 'buckets' and the in to empty


    I run my own consulting business from home - trying to operate within school hours for another couple of years -two children 11 and 8 - some clients come here, usually I visit them - it's going well but I've been in a sea of disorganisation for years despite covey et al.

    I've been a GTD 'groupie' since discovering by chance DA's website about 6 weeks ago. I've read the book once, then keep going back to it (couldn't get it very easily here in Australia I have to say) plus I have the outlook addin.

    Have a nice tickler file set up but I don't seem to be using it yet to its full advantage - I think I am still nervous of 'losing' paper in it even though I have worked out that if I have a na with paper support in the tickler i just put t2602 next to it to remind me that is where the stuff is should I need it earlier or should I miss the boat.

    I've got most of my historic 'in' away and dealt with - and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself - however I"m not that busy right now with clients - I"m using the time to do some planning and development regarding new directions etc plus catching up on my tax ... so I feel I should be totally one hundred percent in control!! Problem is I think the way I'm handling 'in'..... it leads me to tiny moments of confusion and despair when I STILL lose something!!!!!! I would anticipate that I am soon going to be very busy with a lot more time 'away' creating 'in' so I'd like to get this bucket idea completely mastered.

    DA says to get the stuff from the tickler and put it in your in tray each day. I do that but unfortunately if I've had a late night researching or whatever I might not have cleared the in to empty so there is 'stuff' underneath the days business. If a big influx of paper came in all of a sudden from client meetings to process plus a pile of stuff from school and if I don't 'process' I would find myself during the day having to go back to the in tray to find something. I am a bit confused because I thought the 'in' tray was just a catching spot where all pieces of paper were kept until they could be addressed. Problem is that stuff gets buried very quickly I guess so what there needs to be is a daily time set aside to reduce it to zero - is that what should happen? I've got a 'pending' tray underneath 'in' where I"ve started to put the most critical pieces of paper that need NA - that helps - it means I 'know' that what is in there requires a next action. I"m getting there.... just perhaps need some peoples ideas on how/when they do the processing of in to empty. I find that I could spend too long doing it if I have just a short time at home then I"m not getting to the existing NA's.....

    The other thing is regarding the 2 minute rule. If a piece of paper hits my desk or even email that matter as soon as i see it should i apply the 2 minute rule and do it - i thought that would count as an interruption .... and should leave it in the 'in' tray until this undefined 'processing' time.... what are your thoughts on this?

    Finally... email..... I get really annoyed that I HAVE to look at my email as soon as I hear the 'new mail' sound.... is this a bad thing.... to go and quicly 'see' what has been sent... should I try to be really disciplined and just do that in my 'processing' time? I find I get so easily distracted from my next actions.... it could be the REAL causative factor in my creative/chaotic tendencies (which I must say have improved immensely since DA).....

    Looking forward to your input but not sure if I should allocate a time to check for responses or just read them as they fly by!


  • #2
    Hi Helen:
    Here are my thoughts on your questions:

    1) On the CD of the seminar, DA speaks of "working from zero-base", meaning he gets "in" to empty as often as possible, usually every 24-48 hours. The reason he gives is that there may be a surprise coming (such as your massive influx of client notes) and he doesn't want to have to worry about what else is in "in" at those times. You might try setting aside a regular time to process "in" at least once a day until you get it under control. (BTW, I'm not sure I undertand the functional difference between your "in" tray and your "pending" tray).

    2) As I understand it, the 2-min. rule applies to the processing stage. If you give attention to each e-mail or paper (or phone call for that matter) as they come in, you are essentially disengaging from your current action to collect and process the new input. As you get better and faster at processing (i.e. "what's the successful outcome", "what's the next action", and organizing the results of that), this will become less of a distraction.

    3) I think that the question of when and how often you check your e-mail is all personal preference. If by not checking you just end up worried about what's in there, especially as your hear each new chime for each new e-mail then go ahead and check them. However, you don't have to commit to fully processing and organizing at that time; you're simply checking for landmines.


    • #3
      You could configure Outlook (and other mail clients) to check mail at intervals (long intervals) and turn off the "new mail" sound and other notifications and look at the email Inbox when you choose to.

      I find constantly arriving emails to be a major distraction, especially when you work in a corporate environment where mail is always "on" and email pops into your Inbox just after it is sent. And people, because they know that and become accusomed to that environment, expect a speedy response.

      I set my mail to check once an hour and then treat my email Inbox like any other and process it when I have the time (I do scan the list for emergencies - but that's it) - and not just stop working on my current task. Constant small interruptions kill productivity.



      • #4
        Dear Max - that is a good idea - should have thought of it myself - it will stop the 'dribble' of interruptions and make it easier to deal with.

        Esquire - thanks also for your comments - I think I still need clarification on the functionality of the in tray however.

        I work with a pda so am trying to put as many NA items on the task lists. I try to minimise paper. However where does the 'support' for the next items 'sit' until I can do it? If it is in the 'in tray' it will get buried by the avalanche - hence I tried the 'pending' tray to keep it separate - the pending was containing stuff that needed action - the in tray just a holding box before processing (which every 24 hours should be a minimum I think...).

        I did try setting up folders for 'calls' , 'errands', 'office' and 'home' to carry this paper for the next actions but i found i wasn't going into them enough... bad move...

        Hope I'm not being too confusing...... regards Helen


        • #5
          support materials for the next action --where to put

          I think that the idea is to keep the support materials in your A to Z file until you are acting on the item or planning on being in the context(s) that allows you to act on the item. Your lists are then link or an index to these files. This is a real up-grade for me because other systems suggest naming files (I am talking about paper files) with the action such as "reply". "pending", "to file", etc. I have found that a lot of things get put in these "action" files and forgotten about--or things were separated from their "siblings" --e.g. "call" might have a bill in it but the prior bills were in another file and once called about the one in question never made it back to be with is brothers and sisters. When action files did work for me they were named by place and action together--I was working in three or four different offices in a week and carried a lot of stuff between places both bec. of time constraints in one location or needing to discuss it with someone at another--so there was "to file--Southern Office" and "to bring home from Northern office and return". and "confer with Ellen Eastern Office", there were a lot of non-participatory meetings at the Eastern office, so I had "busy work to do at Eastern Office". At that time, not all the offices had copy machines, fax or even long distance calling so that was pretty complex. I had to also put on my day-planner to reference these files. Now here woud be a problem--let's say. Ellen calls me and says, I am going to work with you now on the Cats project (previously had a different collaborator) and I want to support it with materials from the Dogs project that I know you are amidst. I will not remember which action file has either project unless I can remember what action I was doing with it and where. But, if I have the Dog and the Cat projects in their own files with their own names on it and have just been using a list of next actions I can locate the files, I can put in related materials quickly, and I can refer to projects and know where the project stands--well, I hope,..I don't have the project system down to a practice yet.


          • #6
            I see I've gone round in a bit of a circle now after your input and a bit more reading. I had I guess these 'action support' files set up -as discussed by Jason
            but they were hanging files in my 'tickler' box and slightly out of reach so perhaps that was the problem - they were in the wrong LOCATION!

            Secondly there were quite a few meaningless things in them, that were not on my 'lists'..... grrrrrr...... so i've cleaned those things out and put the folders in a vertical file holder right close to my computer and I think I'm back in business!!!

            If only the gtd add in would behave itself - it keeps disappearing but I'm WAITING FOR an answer from gtd support regarding that.

            Nice to meet you all, thanks for your help.

            Great board , great 'product'......

            regards Helen


            • #7

              Now I see the distinction between your "in" box and your "pending" box. Personally, I use a drawer in my desk for that. The desk drawer to my immediate left is one of those deep ones. In it I keep my tickler file. I use 1 - 31 tabbed manila dividers (rather than an accordian file). Behind that I have A - Z lettered tabbed manila dividers. When I come across a piece of paper that gives rise to a project and which I'll need for one or more of the NA's on that project, I create a folder for the project, labelled with the project name and place that physical paper into it, then file it alphabetically in the drawer.

              This is not part of my office's general reference filing. And if I worked at home, I think I would still try to keep it separate from my home general reference filing.

              As an alternative, if the NA on the item is fairly self-evident, and I know exactly when I want to deal with it, I just toss it into the tickler section and deal with it on the appropriate day.