alphabetized general-reference system is the solution for everything?

GTDUser

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For several reasons my general reference material must be stored on multiple locations. The solution proposed by David Allen is to file them in an alphabetized general-reference system.

This system is incompatible with my outer world. For example, i have a documentation browser application that fetches and updates all material, and stores these files on disk on request. Changes in the file name and location result in broken links in my GTD system. Also, i am currently changing around many files on my system.

Edit: this has been addressed in the forum before. The solution is to treat multiple storage locations as inboxes and file all sources in a reference system. This means i have multiple workspaces dedicated for a multitude of software and one single export location which is my reference system.

I have to admit that to some degree such problems are unnecessarily caused by me so there is definitely room for improvement. Additionally, i do not trust this system because general-reference material for "someday|maybe" projects may need to be moved from there into a dedicated reference system. Or, it might be permanently removed.

I still don't have a clear understanding of what my requirements are. I wonder if this system can be trusted more than i currently do. My main concern is that i don't have a solution for broken links after purging files!
 
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mcogilvie

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For several reasons my general reference material must be stored on multiple locations. The solution proposed by David Allen is to file them in an alphabetized general-reference system.

This system is incompatible with my outer world. For example, i have a documentation browser application that fetches and updates all material, and stores these files on disk on request. Changes in the file name and location result in broken links in my GTD system. Also, i am currently changing around many files on my system.

Edit: this has been addressed in the forum before. The solution is to treat multiple storage locations as inboxes and file all sources in a reference system. This means i have multiple workspaces dedicated for a multitude of software and one single export location which is my reference system.

I have to admit that to some degree such problems are unnecessarily caused by me so there is definitely room for improvement. Additionally, i do not trust this system because general-reference material for "someday|maybe" projects may need to be moved from there into a dedicated reference system. Or, it might be permanently removed.

I still don't have a clear understanding of what my requirements are. I wonder if this system can be trusted more than i currently do. My main concern is that i don't have a solution for broken links after purging files!
What David Allen suggested was a file and folder naming convention aimed at aiding fast filing and retrieval. It’s not going to help you with issues involving multiple locations and what are likely to be platform- and software-specific issues. I can tell you how I handle my multiple-location, general reference filing. I use standard, robust solutions (Dropbox, Box and iCloud) to sync my files across multiple devices and locations. I use a simple set of conventions for how files and directories are named and where they are stored. I stay away from specialized software written by independent developers that would leave me reliant on them for the long-term utility of my files.
 

Oogiem

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Changes in the file name and location result in broken links in my GTD system. Also, i am currently changing around many files on my system.
It sounds like you're using some sort of file system software. Without details it's hard to say what will actually work.

OTOH if you are changing your file system around I'd expect things to be broken for a while until you get it settled. I'd suggest that you stop and take some time to really think through a consistent file naming system and structure for each location. Make sure you know what is located where and where to look for specific pieces. Make the locations consistent in the style and how they are created so that you ar enot expending extra mental energy in adjusting to a separte style of structure.

Additionally, i do not trust this system because general-reference material for "someday|maybe" projects may need to be moved from there into a dedicated reference system. Or, it might be permanently removed.
Why do you have someday/maybe reference separated from general reference?

Have you considered a single source for all reference material, general and someday/maybe and then a separate location for reference material related to current active projects?

When an item is deleted permanently you need tohave a system that searches for and finds all references and then deletes them or makes a notation that the information is now gone. In general though, if you delete a file you probably can delete everything that references it so a search for those items as part of a normal delete procedure should suffice.

Which brings up another suggestion: Create detailed lists of all the steps to handle new inputs from every location you normally et them, and to handle what has to happen when you move a file or group of files from one place to another and what happens when you delete a file or group of files. They can be checklists or documents but you need something so you don't miss a step. That's the source of your orphaned and broken links. You missed the step of looking for them and deciding how to handle them.

I stay away from specialized software written by independent developers that would leave me reliant on them for the long-term utility of my files.
This is really important IMO.

Unless you have a specific mandatory external file handling system due to government or work requirements DO NOT USE ONE. In my experience all they do is cause major problems later as you have to upgrade to handle new file types and as needs change. They are overhead that drags you down until all you are doing is managing the file manager not actually getting things done.

Your filing system should serve you not the other way around.
 

GTDUser

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Have you considered a single source for all reference material, general and someday/maybe and then a separate location for reference material related to current active projects?
I thought of using a single source and concluded that i don't want to risk polluting my reusable reference material with unusable references. By reference material related to current active projects, are you referring to project support material? For active projects i have no problem in doing this due to planned / controlled research (collecting references). For inactive projects, especially project that haven't been activated even once i have some doubts, read on.

Why do you have someday/maybe reference separated from general reference?
To avoid broken links. General references are not trash. Someday projects may become trash in the future, same with someday references. They are not project support material because they have no next action. Also, no next action is not a warranty for never actionable.

Example:

- someday: make dreamA come true
- next action: decide dreamA vs dreamB
- dependencies: qualification received


Since we dream big and never know what we truly want in depth research is needed to specify which goal to target. Then, i collect non actionable reference material for dreamA (randomly, by chance). This is before next action has started. After next action is concluded the reference may be trash, actionable (project support) or general reference.

When an item is deleted permanently you need to have a system that searches for and finds all references and then deletes them or makes a notation that the information is now gone. In general though, if you delete a file you probably can delete everything that references it so a search for those items as part of a normal delete procedure should suffice.
I was scratching my head around this one but eventually came to the same conclusion.

Which brings up another suggestion: Create detailed lists of all the steps to handle new inputs from every location you normally get them, and to handle what has to happen when you move a file or group of files from one place to another and what happens when you delete a file or group of files. They can be checklists or documents but you need something so you don't miss a step. That's the source of your orphaned and broken links. You missed the step of looking for them and deciding how to handle them.
This is very important!

I stay away from specialized software written by independent developers that would leave me reliant on them for the long-term utility of my files.
My problem is not with the file format itself but the vendor specific storage solution. Due to the large bandwidth of daily updates it becomes impossible to convert their file and folder naming convention into my own conventions.


A big mistake i made is that i didn't see many opportunities to remove dependencies to storage locations. For example, if you move the folder labeled "A-D" from the left side of your room to the right your files can still be found under "A".


disclaimer: i am new to GTD, my understanding is put under test here...
 

mcogilvie

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I’m very sorry, but I find myself mostly unsure of what exact issues you are having. For example;

My problem is not with the file format itself but the vendor specific storage solution. Due to the large bandwidth of daily updates it becomes impossible to convert their file and folder naming convention into my own conventions.
I think you are saying that you are using some particular software that takes digital data in in one or more forms and stores it using its own file name conventions, which you would change manually, but the volume is too high. I don’t think this is a problem with GTD, nor is the problem with broken links. It might help if you told us what hardware and software you are using, and what you are using it for, but I can’t guarantee that.
 

Gardener

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It sounds like a large part of your problem is coming from trashing material. But is it necessary to trash it? Is the need to trash it based on who owns the information, on confidentiality, on storage volume, on searching ability or capacity, something else...?

While I realize that it's not ideal to have information in your system that you will never use again, I can think of many situations where it also wouldn't have any significant harmful consequences.

I am befuddled about the "large bandwidth of daily updates". It appears that this material comes from somewhere else. Is it not possible to refer to it at its source?
 

DaveInMilwaukee

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You note that “For several reasons my general reference material must be stored on multiple locations.” I faced the same situation a number of years ago when my primary job was in Milwaukee but I was chairing a Board of Directors in Washington DC. Invariably when I was in DC, I needed a Milwaukee file...and vice versa. My briefcase was also heavy with project files.

That’s when I went digital and began using Evernote. Because all of my files were now in the cloud I had access to theme wherever I was. Plus, because each file has an link, I was able to put direct links to project files which I kept in Nirvana.

This system has worked well for me
 

mcogilvie

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I'm curious: what about security and privacy policies of the companies that use the cloud storage for important documents? @Oogiem
Dropbox and Box can be used for HIPAA-compliant file storage (This is the US law regulating the privacy of medical records). As far as I know, every well-known cloud storage provider will comply with a legal subpoena for data, even Apple. Of course, government entities can seize your personal devices too. Clean living is the only answer.
 

DaveInMilwaukee

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I'm curious: what about security and privacy policies of the companies that use the cloud storage for important documents? @Oogiem
I’m not an online security expert but I believe that Evernote has taken reasonable precautions to protect my data. Having said that, I do not store social security numbers or any super sensitive data in the cloud on any service. I keep files like this as hard copies under lock and key with off-site backups.

Here is the way Evernote explains their policies https://evernote.com/security
 

Janet-in-Oz

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Dropbox and Box can be used for HIPAA-compliant file storage (This is the US law regulating the privacy of medical records). As far as I know, every well-known cloud storage provider will comply with a legal subpoena for data, even Apple. Of course, government entities can seize your personal devices too. Clean living is the only answer.
you could use something like veracrypt to create an encrypted storage space and put the file that is created by that - into drop box. Then if drop box gets legally required to hand over stuff - they hand over your encrypted file.

I mostly only use it to store stuff that is already publicly available but in a format I can find and search it.
 

mcogilvie

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you could use something like veracrypt to create an encrypted storage space and put the file that is created by that - into drop box. Then if drop box gets legally required to hand over stuff - they hand over your encrypted file.

I mostly only use it to store stuff that is already publicly available but in a format I can find and search it.
Yes, that’s what apps like 1Password do. They can generally store a lot more than just passwords.
 

Janet-in-Oz

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I use a program called keepass for my passwords. I even taught my 70+ yo mum how to use it. And I sometimes store other stuff in it but only small scale. I didn't know 1Password did more than passwords - will have to check it out. What I don't like about some of the online password databases is the same problem I have with google and facebook and etc - I have less control over what is happening with my data.

The nice thing about things like veracrypt is the capacity for really big storage. And I set up the encryption.

Meanwhile about filing stuff - if it's random reference stuff I don't mind filing it in alphabetical order but if it belongs to a segment of a life wheel, eg finances, hobbies, projects, family - I like to file it with its friends in theme because when I have three potential names for one file - I pick one name and then later - I look for the other name... erm. Still not sure what to do about overlaps.

With photos - I want them arranged geographically but also by subject and also by when I took them - so I can get all the flower pictures or see all the pictures I took in this place... The answer is a nice database that stores objects or links to them. But I still haven't figured out a durable system to do this. I'm thinking the database in plain text with the objects co-located eg xml and ordinary file management systems so when the whole database system is no longer supported - and I've been in IT long enough to see many births and deaths of generations of database systems - the old stuff becomes very difficult to retrieve... (business opportunity anyone?). But if you're trying to organise historical stuff - this is annoying.

Open to ideas. But I'm thinking I won't be able to start out with straight alphabet - I tend to organise by purpose / project / theme then maybe alphabetically...

The other thing about do lists - I want to create lists from the "done" stuff to make check lists for when I need to do that project again. Which happens quite a bit - especially when organising annual event / functions. But is even more important for things I do not need to do often so I don't remember what needs doing and a list is very helpful - eg travel packing lists (different lists depending on travel mode).

I've read the GTD books more than once but I am still not doing enough reviews and sorting.

I also have way too many things in "next actions" and would like to group those into themes but I get the feeling that it is better to group them into contexts (what I need to get them done). I wonder if this is because David Allen has a support team that he can delegate to and he never has to do the housework or worry about what's for dinner, as well as all the projects he's working on. I get overwhelmed and then paralysed if there is too much stuff on the next action list. It's better if there are three things that must be done today, and the rest are back in their project boxes with context tags or something.
 

GTDengineer

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Strictly speaking, your next actions list only needs to include the single next action for each project. If you have listed several sequential steps from each project in your next actions lists, then you may have too many “next actions” which cannot actually be performed next.

Also, you can move actions which you know you are not going to perform in the next week or so to your someday/maybe list. Review it on a weekly basis and move those deferred actions into the next actions list when appropriate.
 

Gardener

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Strictly speaking, your next actions list only needs to include the single next action for each project. If you have listed several sequential steps from each project in your next actions lists, then you may have too many “next actions” which cannot actually be performed next.
Yep. Early in doing GTD, I spent a great deal of time adjusting lists of actions that had been overcome by events and needed to be edited. The top action in many, many projects tended to be "Clean this up" with a Context of "Meta".
 

Janet-in-Oz

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My next actions are more like when you pour a bucket of water out on paving - many actions in all directions that do not necessarily have to be done in any particular order.
 

Oogiem

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what about security and privacy policies of the companies that use the cloud storage for important documents? @Oogiem
It varies. There is the law about what shuld be protected and then there is the reality about significant and detrimental data loss due to overt hacking, inside leaks, user erros and more. Access policies and decent encryption are no panacea. All you have to do is have been a victim of identity theft, been denied insurance because of health data, been embroiled in lawsuits with various entities or worse, for you to never trust that any data is secure. Even the most protected data, here in the US typically health data, are subject to aggregation and use by the entities that collect it in spite of HIPAA. Hence my severe and ongoing total dislike of all things cloud unless there is a compelling and urgent reason why I should or have to use it.
 
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