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Project support materials

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  • Project support materials

    Managing project support materials is one area of the GTD system that I've never gotten comfortable with - in particular, the paper support materials. I follow the "plan B" method for managing them from the book - I separate them from my reference files and keep them close by. It works great when the project is active - it's when the project is closed, or worse, when it's a someday/maybe that I struggle.

    When projects are completed, I typically mark the folder Inactive and move it to an archive file drawer. The problem with that approach is the number of files the accumulate over time. Eventually, retrieval becomes a problem.

    If a document comes across my desk that I might want to hold for a future project, I create a new project folder then struggle with what drawer to put it in. In the past, I've:

    1) activated a project, although I have no intention of working on it, just to keep the paperwork at hand to start the project up;
    2) hidden it in the back of the drawer behind the project support documents; and
    3) filed it with the other inactive projects.

    I'm curious as to how others are handling this issue...

  • #2
    Project Support vs. Project Reference

    Jim -

    For me personally - it has always been a clear distinction. Either I'm not getting it (lol) or it's one of David's simple, subtle, "zen like" profound truths.

    Project Support = Active

    Reference = Inactive.

    I've actually just completed a "process deck" for my department that draws this distinction.

    Here's an outtake:

    The Project Support Materials: They are the Tools needed by any member of the Project Team to successfully complete the Next Action listed on the Job Schedule. These Tools ensure the Project reaches its outcome successfully. The Project Support Materials are still living, breathing information that is vital to the job. If there is something that either needs action done to it, or supports an action then it is Project Support.

    The Project Reference Materials: The materials that represent the history of the job are the Project Reference Materials. If there is something that requires no action – it is reference. The Project Reference Materials are static. They represent a “mark in time” for the job; but once changes have been made, are not relevant to the job currently. These are passive REFERENCE Material – not Active Support Material.

    As the project moves through time – materials shift from being “Support” to “Reference.” and should be filed apart from each other.

    Hope that helped.

    As far as completed projects go, that can be defined by either company policy, or your "gut level intuition" about the needs of the client. Many companies (mine included) use off-site storage facilities that specialize in business records.

    Another thing that helped clarify this for me was what David called one of his "Five-Travelling Folders." He has one labelled "Action Support" and it is used for random, one of a kind actions. Actions that are not random, and that have a common thread holding them together, should go in a Project (Action) Support file.

    For your "Someday/Maybe's" - here is my spin....

    It's not being acted on currently, so then if it is "passive" it is "reference."

    In an attempt to "Keep It Simple" with as few "collection buckets" as possible; I would file these materials in your "General Reference" A - Z system.

    I would tie them together on your "Someday/Maybe" Project List. On the Task/Page that you have devoted to that "Someday Project" - quickly list the names of the files that would support it.

    When you decide to make it an "Active Project" instead of a "Passive" one - then you can pull all of those materials together into one "Project Support" file.

    If you decide NOT to do the project.....before deleting your Task/Page, go through your reference filing system, and PURGE all the filee that you had been collecting for it. Obviously, if you need them for something else, keep them.

    And, once again, all of that is my interpretation of the GTD system - which itself can be like one of those Zen Koans sometimes....


    • #3
      Project Support Materials

      Wow. Thanks Rich for your input on the project/reference distinction. I too had difficulty in the beginning making those decisions on where to file the Someday/Maybe "support materials". Your explanation was quite helpful.


      • #4
        Re: Project support materials

        Tohill: what do you mean by

        Originally posted by tohill
        ...the problem with that approach is the number of files the accumulate over time. Eventually, retrieval becomes a problem...
        Do you mean that you have so many files that you can't find a file when you need it? (this is a Filing Issue)

        Or do you mean that you forget that the file was marked Inactive and so you don't know where to look? (this is a Workflow Issue)

        If it's a Filing Issue, I think this thread has some useful tips:

        Especially whkratz's post on using Powermarks


        • #5
          Rich -

          Thanks for the input. I really like your idea of referencing the files on the my Project list, and I'm planning on giving it a shot.

          Remyc88 -

          The answer is both. As the number of inactive projects has grown, it has become harder to find files and part of the issue is knowing whether such a file even exists. After a couple of years, I can't remember whether I had a project on something, let alone whether I archived a support folder on it.

          On the one hand, I think I should be reviewing these folders and integrating whatever I need to retain into my A-Z general files. On the other hand, it sounds like a lot of work

          With respect to Powermarks and whkratz's suggestions, I've got the software, and am using it for filing, but I don't like the idea of going to numbered files. That would force me to go to the Powermarks index to retrieve documents from any file - and I also agree with reyes' comments on the fragmented files. I'm more of a GTD purist in that regard and use text labels so I can pull a file without turning my PC on. (I'm trying to cheat and to get the best of both worlds with Powermarks).