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How do you all manage your project support materials?

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  • How do you all manage your project support materials?

    I have a great resistance to separating my project support materials from my GTD/MS Outlook system because I'd like those support materials to be portable, accessible, contained, editable, and somewhat catagorized. By support materials I mean the Word docs, PDF's, excel files, mindmaps, weblinks, and simple text I've pirated (I mean borrowed) from the internet. Outlook is good at combining all of these items into one page for housing all notes for a project. I'm not yet using any add-ins by the way.
    My separation anxiety is probably a trust issue stemming from occasionally losing data due to broken organizational systems in my past, as well as other "psychological obstacles" [A term I learned from Julie Morgenstern - Man, I just love Julie]

    Anyway, I'm not exactly "on the road" but I do toggle between a home office and a shared work office and, therefore, two different PC's - until I determine which laptop to go for Because of this I prefer to have my digital reference files at hand, and some hardcopies/workbooks of most current projects. Dragging 4-drawer file cabinets to work and back isn't really an option - what with the price of gas these days.

    I keep Outlook with me in both environments by updating to Briefcase and putting it onto a jump drive. Currently, all of my "Project Support Materials" go with me in one shot - contained within Outlook, but separated from the rest of GTD by use of a task item based folder which I call "Project Support".
    I've ingeniously utilized different fields and views [rubs hands together and shifts beady little eyes back and forth] so's not to confuse the next actions catagories segment of my regular tasks folder - I kept those as suggested; (@Computer, @Phone, @Waiting for, @Machine shop, @Crack house…) Wish I could show you a screenshot. Maybe I'll try to work that out.

    And, as you can imagine I am giving in to the temptation to use this "Project Support Materials" list in collapsed view as a simple projects list.
    My concern is that it may become too confusing or overwhelming during the weekly review, and or, not specific enough during the higher elevated views of quarterly and such - and make me go blind, as they say.

    This quote from Ellabograne on one of the previous threads on this forum says it so eloquently.
    Regardless of the complexity of the project, your GTD system should contain only the outcome on your Projects list and the very next actions that you can take in your context lists. Project plans (including milestones and sub-projects) belong with your project support materials, which you review once a week (during the weekly review) or as often as you need to generate new next actions to keep the project moving forward. I strongly suggest (with some exceptions) that you avoid adding sub-projects related to master projects on your Projects list because it causes the Projects list to become cluttered. You want to keep that list clean and uncluttered otherwise you won't want to look at it and you'll resist implementing the most important habit in GTD: The Weekly Review.

    So far it's ok but I'm new and haven't quite gotten around to 30K ft level and up yet. And I'm really only a month or so into utilizing GTD.

    How do you all manage and maintain support files?

    Crankin up my overcomplication machine,

  • #2
    GTD is completely agnostic about filing systems for project support materials. Your system is fine. So is a stack of index cards written in crayon. Does it work for you?

    Personally, I wouldn't use "Outlook" and "trusted system" in the same sentence, but that's just me. It seems to work just fine for many many people.



    • #3

      First, let me begin by complimenting you on your user name. It's creative and catchy.

      Second, I see you're a Julie Morgenstern fan; I've benefited from her work as well. I own her book "Organizing from the Inside Out" and use it extensively (if not effectively) in my quest to organize my home. It's a fantastic book, though I've had some difficulty implementing parts of it myself, I think there's great advice in there.

      Third, like you I have also built my GTD system on top of Microsoft Outlook, mostly because I like having my e-mail integrated into my personal management system. I know that Outlook isn't the most efficient and clean piece of software but it has certain capabilities that are beneficial enough for me to keep using it. I also like having my e-mail and my personal management systems integrated and Outlook does the job well enough for me.

      Finally, I'll answer your question. My project support materials take different forms and mediums based on the type and amount of support material that I need to manage it. I sometimes have electronic and paper-based support material for a single project, other times it's one or the other. In my system, paper-based project support material goes in a labeled manilla folder that is stored either on my desktop in a vertical file sorter or in my general reference files. My digital support material for a project may be stored in several places based on the nature of the artifacts. I'll describe how I manage them in detail, but regardless of the software or location, I do not set up digital folders for a project until I encounter something that needs to be filed.

      Digital project support notes: If I want to keep some loose digital notes, a basic vertical checklist-style plan of the project, or URLs to project-related web sites, I'll type that information into the "Notes" field of the task item in Outlook that holds the project. It synchronizes onto my PDA and I can access it anywhere.

      Outlook E-mail: When I receive an e-mail that I want to file with project support material in Outlook, I create a "mail message" folder under the Inbox folder and name it in the same manner as I would a paper-based support file. For example, if my project is "Buy a new printer" I would name the e-mail folder "Printer Purchase Support" and move it to that folder. However, I don't file it there if it is action I need to take on it. I only file it there once it is pure reference material.

      Microsoft Office Documents and other non-Outlook digital files: In the "My Documents" folder, I create a folder and name it in the same manner as I would a paper-based support file. Any electronic articles related to the project that cannot be stored within Outlook are placed here. Again, it must be pure reference material before it ends up here. If it's actionable (say a Word document that needs completed), I store it in a folder called "Action Support" under "My Documents" and add "Edit document x" to my @Computer list.

      Regarding the Notes field of a task or appointment item in Outlook, did you know that it's possible to attach Outlook items (tasks, calendar appointments, e-mails, etc) as well as files from your file system? Just use the "Insert, Item" menu while your cursor is on the Notes field. There's a lot of potential power in that feature. For example, I have several recurring calendar entries that contain task attachments for routine items like changing my furnace filter monthly to checking the air pressure in my tires weekly. I review these calendar entries when they shows up and drag the relevant tasks to the tasks folder to automatically add them to my lists. It works great.

      I hope that helps. Best of luck to you!


      • #4
        How about OneNote?

        How about OneNote? Powerful, flexible and designed to play nice with Outlook.


        • #5
          I would have to say that it depends on the project, for me anyway.
          If my project is purely electronic I create a folder in "My Documents" with the project title, and everything goes in there.
          On the other hand, if there will be a lot of physical paperwork to do, I will create a physical paper folder, and keep everything in there. If I have an electronic document associated, I print it.
          If a project is paper, it is ONLY paper, if it is electronic, it is ONLY electronic.
          That is how I work anyway, and it works for me.
          Hope this helps.
          Scott STEPHEN
          O&A Coaching


          • #6
            I agree with others that you should use whatever works for you.

            To answer the question:

            For paper items, I use A-Z manila file folders in filing cabinets.

            For electronic items, I create an appropriate folder in my home directory (which is subdivided into folders for programming projects, writing projects, etc.). If it's a small project, I'll just create a file in my "Miscellaneous" folder.