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Current Hot Projects same as rest?

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  • Current Hot Projects same as rest?

    As I file materials, I find some that relate to 'hot' projects that I work on every day. Should these be filed with everything else, purely alphabetically? Or should 'current' and 'hot' things be kept on the desktop, or in a briefcase, or in some other distinct location?

    I can think of projects at home where I left my tools at the 'worksite', ready for me when I resume -- and, days later, the original project incomplete, I can't put my hands right on the tools I need for some other project. So, I am leaning towards filing EVERYTHING in the one common alphabetical filing system. But, there is a part of me that says 'Hey -- I'm going to need those in a couple of hours -- don't file them'. But, if you have a dozen projects like that ...

    How have you handled this? What do you recommend?

  • #2
    I think DA distinguishes between project support materials and reference materials. I certainly do. In my system, current projects go in a file drawer next to my desk. Everything else goes in the file cabinet in my closet.

    Materials that you are likely to need for several different projects are another animal, though. Those I would file either in a separate "ready reference" file, or in the main alphabetical system. If you file them with a particular project, you're vulnerable to exactly the problem you describe.



    • #3
      Thanks Katherine,

      When you finish your current project, I imagine you go through the materials, throw out some, and file selected others in reference? Or perhaps it is good to just file the whole project, and after a period of time when you don't have to look at how it was done, toss the whole project?
      Or perhaps when it is done it is done and you toss all materials immediately?


      • #4
        And one other thought -- if I keep my current project support material in my most accessible drawer, I can imagine I might actually use hanging folders so as to group materials by project. That is, each project might have quite a few manila folders in it, each neatly labeled, but sorted by project, not alphabetically.

        What has been your experience?


        • #5
          Most people would keep active stuff on the desk. If you have too much stuff that is active, then the desk gets cluttered. In that case, I generally recognize that I have too much in process and try to do one or both of the following:
          1) I work some of the items to completion so they can be put away.
          2) I put away some of the materials recognizing that I can't work on everything at once anyway. If your file system is close at hand as it should be, this should not be too inconvenient.


          • #6
            I keep completed projects for a year. As soon as the project is done, I just throw everything in a pre-labeled folder for that month and week. A year later when that month comes up again, I refile anything I need for long term reference and recycle everything else.

            Yes, I use hanging files to group by project when the situation warrants. But then I'm a heretic who doesn't share DA's distaste for hanging files.



            • #7
              My MBOs are quarterly. I am thinking that 'current projects' are my commitments for the quarter -- that is, I have three months worth of stuff to deliver. Because there are a lot of iterations and dependencies on other people, these projects can stay open for a long time, and they keep shifting from background mode to foreground mode and back again. I suppose I could put them away when they go to background mode -- but, if I get a phone call from somebody getting back to me, it would be nice if all the info were at hand.

              The projects themselves still fall into the category of 'projects' -- that is, they are only a few weeks worth of total time. But, because they are collaborative and back and forth, they stretch out much longer.

              Maybe I could put them on the desktop in one of those file racks, or even in neat piles.


              • #8
                Great questions. Here are a few thoughts:

                o I see a lot of those upright wire folder holders in people's offices. Often they're used for three things: Action reminding, current projects, and old/outdated projects. I usually recommend getting rid of these holders (they're a temptation to old, less effective habits), but using them for current projects is OK, as long as they're not used to remind you of action. We use a centralized actions list for this. Personally I use the bottom shelf of my stacking shelves for current projects, with the top being "IN" (so you can pile it up), and the second being "Action Support." But remember, if you have set up a fully functional filing system (A-Z, no hanging folders, etc.) it should take you less than a minute to retrieve files. If it's taking longer, you should analyze the problem - it's holding you back.

                o You'll want to carry the project folders to meetings, or between offices, so don't forget to pull them when transitioning (you might enjoy this post).

                o I find it's no problem mixing project and general reference folders in one drawer (or set of drawers). It's A-Z, which makes it fast to find folders, regardless of type. The exception is if you have a very large project, in which case you can prefix folder names with the project, and add the appropriate suffix. For example I had a consulting gig, and I broke the project folders into: "KSC 2007-08 contract", "KSC 2007-08 plans" "KSC 2007-08 travel". What's nice is they all sort together in the drawer. Also, if the project is very large, it might need an entire drawer (or cabinet) dedicated to it. No problem, just use a separate set of A-Z index dividers/tabs for it.

                o Cull your project folders when you finish the project, or wait until you have only 2" of empty drawer space and cull then to make some room.

                o When you start working on an action related to the project, retrieve the folder (desktop or file drawer), pop it open, and get as messy as you like - spread papers out, group thoughts, whatever. However, when you're done, make sure you close up the folder and file it. This lets you use your desk as the way it's designed to be used: As a tool for working with one project at a time. (Merson suggests you keep a "clear 180" for project work at your desk - see Some thoughts on the book "The Instant Productivity Toolkit")

                Hope that helps!