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How to improve speed of processing? Reduce fatigue?

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  • How to improve speed of processing? Reduce fatigue?

    I am working through large stacks of heterogeneous paper, processing it through the GTD flow chart. Thankfully much is trash, but a lot gets filed and has a corresponding project entry or a simple NA. While I am making progress, it is slow, my usual speed being 7 items in 15 minutes (I have a click counter as I have had to count people at events). Some things I am doing to move faster: calendar entries now go on a month-at-time calendar so I am not thumbing through planner as each date generating item appears before me, possible projects go on index cards so that I can sort them later into active vs SDMB, and do some linking and developing of subprojects, simple NAs go on index cards (I will put them in contexts later. Using the cards keeps me from reading through abut 100 projects I already have on paper to see if the item at hand is related to one in the system yet. The priority is moving the stuff through the system and when I am done I will review the projects on the cards, subdividing or integrating or eliminating, etc. I feel that I should be a point where I can process the giant IN box faster than before but in fact I have more files to walk my fingers through before finding the right one (I am up to four bankers boxes). I have subdivided the comprehensive file system so that financial and vital personal papers are in one box, house remodeling and redecorating are in another, and I am thinking about making family and friends a separate box too. I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions. I am finding all this filing exhausting. Otherwise, it is going really quite well! Any suggestions on increasing speed and reducing fatigue appreciated.

  • #2

    With any filing system, it’s always worth doing a periodic purge. Its amazing how many things accumulate in files. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to immediately bin a lot of stuff and make those files more manageable.

    In your case, although you are still only creating your filing system, a purge session may be useful.

    Your ideas as to what your files should hold have been evolving as you go through your big clean out. I bet that at this stage your thinking is well advanced: if you now go through all the files you have created so far, you will probably find that you filed stuff at the beginning that you now know you can do without.

    Also, if you are setting up a tickler file system, perhaps some of the stuff needs a little time to “ripen”: maybe you will be in a better position to decide on outcomes and next actions a few months down the line. Rather than feeling you have to open a new file for some items, maybe you could shoot them down the line for future consideration. Chances hare, half of the will have become trashcan fillers by then.

    You could also re-read David’s chapter in GTD on processing. I say this became every time I re-read it. I come away with a better understating of the whole thinking behind it. You never know what you will pick up, but I often spot a tip I missed on previous re-reads that helps me with the processing.

    Finally, pace yourself and take plenty of breaks. GTD requires us to do the thinking up front. That’s what stops the task going round and round in our heads. Thinking, and especially the intensity of thinking demanded by GTD, can be exhausting. When you are not used to GTD, it can tire you out very quickly – you will be only a short way into your session when you find your brain getting sticky and sluggish. Try to do it at your best times of the day (for most people that’s the fist half of the day after a good breakfast).

    The brain functions on glucose. Whenever I have a big meeting, interview, or decision to deal with, I eat a handful of fruit gums about half an hour beforehand. I can literally feel my brain going up through the gears. Clarity of thinking and decision making are the result.

    For the steady pace of in-box processing, make sure you have eaten well, and “graze” during the process: fruit is fine, or wholemeal bread. Well ok, chocolate and cake works great too: just don’t let your energy levels drop. Whenever I find myself becoming tired or frustrated with my work, I generally find out later that it is became I tried to work through my fatigue, which always drags down the quality.

    Hope that helps



    • #3
      To supplement Busydave's post, I have found that making time for a lunch break each day can be very beneficial. I typically brown bag my lunch and after eating, weather permitting, I take a brisk 30 minute walk outside. After this walk, my energy level really gets a boost and carries me through the rest of the day. Healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, also help maintain your stamina and energy level.


      • #4
        Thank you for the suggestions and your understanding of the challenges. I'll keep you updated.


        • #5
          Another thought occurred to me: make sure your files are all action oriented. Ask yourself: what is the project here? What is the outcome associated with this file? In active GTD, the only function of a file is that it is part of achieving something.

          In the family/friends context, it is very easy to stray into storage issues. For example, correspondence that you hang on to is unlikely to be tied into a project, except for the latest letter that needs a reply.

          See if any of your files could be classified as storage folders. If they are, then take them out of your GTD system. What they need is a good filing cabinet.

          Even if the documents are very important, they only merit a place in your GTD system if there is a commitment or an open loop associated with them. (Update my will; revalue house contents for next year's insurance renewal etc). Maybe the only open loop associated with a lot of your stuff is “How can I store this in such a way that it is easily retrievable?”

          I’m betting that a lot of your files as they stand at present do not represent individual projects.