Questions Regarding Reference

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by ElleExtreme, Jul 30, 2019.

  1. ElleExtreme

    ElleExtreme Registered

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    I'm trying to work on my General Reference System and am facing some problems...
    Just for background, I run a digitally centered system, and want to minimize physical material as much as possible. The limited referencing of physical material that I have to do is causing me problems, however.

    What I am wondering basically is how you guys approach physical things that *aren't* documents or similar. Like, I've searched the book for a mention of this, since I might have missed it when I first read the book, but I have failed to find anything. Which maybe wouldn't be surprising considering the book is still very obviously mainly meant for business execs. and the like, but, if it is in fact neglected it seems like quite a severe oversight.

    So in the book David himself gives the example of capturing a flashlight that needs having its batteries replaced. Say, for example, that you don't have the right kind of batteries at home. Then you obviously need create a (minor) project, basically;
    • When @Store, buy batteries
    • When @Home, replace batteries
    So, what I'd like to do is put the Flashlight in Project Support. Which I'm a bit dubious about, but I can't interpret the book any other way; say, to provide an additional example, that I am to fill in a form. Before doing that, however, I need to talk to my brother about it. So I put the form in Project Support for the project in question. Hence, my first question is; is this way of handling actionable items that are waiting for other NAs within the same project to be completed, i.e. putting them in ProSup until relevant, what one is supposed to do? Or have I misunderstood something?

    And my second question is implied above; Where do you even put stuff like the Flashlight in question? Like, I guess you wouldn't mash it into a folder in your A-Z reference. For me, these kind of physical items just get put on my desk, awaiting action. Which definitely doesn't seem to be in the spirit of GTD. What I'd need, I think, is a system of boxes. Boxes of all kinds of sizes, with internal dividers as well, to be able to handle the quite massive size difference that exists for things that aren't too large to reasonably be integrated into my system in question (those kinds of items I'd just have to make a physical note of, and then put the note in the system, I suppose).

    I'd just like to elaborate on how I'm thinking this system would look.
    • I'd have a General Reference system for nonactionable yet somewhat bulky objects, that complements the physical A-Z filing system. These objects do not fit appropriately into some kind of organization I already have in the house (this is of course consistent with what David says of the GenRef; that it simply applies to that which doesn't fit elsewhere. I'd be a bit crazy to put my socks in the GenRef instead of in the wardrobe)
    • I'd have Project Support for these kinds of bulky things
    • Finally I'd have what I'd like to call "Next Action Artifacts". In my above example, that would be the Flashlight itself, once the preceding actions of the project have been completed. I keep all my NAs in Todoist. Hence, I don't subscribe to Davids philosophy of having things represent actions in and of themselves (I think there are a couple of problems with this). So I will have a digital task relating to a physical object. These Next Action Artifacts would probably be a kind of separate system from the GenRef and ProSup, where objects become promoted when they become NAs, and where they are more readily available.
    So my third and final question is; Do you see any problems with this approach?

    I'd be very thankful for some help from you veterans out there!

    Best Regards-
    ElleExtreme
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2019
  2. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    @DavidAllen doesn't capture a flashlight and put it in the Project Support file to buy batteries. He captures the information about batteries for the flashlight. If you see a flashlight you write down "Buy AAA batteries" on your @errands list. Let the flashlight stay where you expect it to be found.

    And socks... Read about "Physical Gathering" in chapter 5 of the GT2015 book (page 107): "Here are the four categories of things that can remain where they are...".
     
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  3. OF user

    OF user Registered

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    David Allen gave an example once regarding a tape recorder he used for dictation (similar to your flashlight). In this case he placed the tape recorder (your flashlight) in his intray as a reminder to"buy new batteries". If your support tray is large enough, you could put the flashlight there while waiting to buy batteries but as TesTeq mentioned it is not necessary. The flashlight can go back to its storage location.

    Think of it this way. If your action was to "Paint the kitchen wall", you can't put the wall into a support tray. It is assumed that when you complete actions to get ready to paint you will know where to find the wall. Same with the flashlight.
     
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  4. ElleExtreme

    ElleExtreme Registered

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    Thank you for your answers!

    However, thus far I think that you only have highlighted criticisms of my envisioned systems that I was already aware of.
    To clarify, I agree that for things that have a natural and obvious place within a separate organizational system within my home (such as the wardrobe is for clothing items), then the things go there and stay there until relevant. But I would still argue that there are lots of things that do not apply and that need a separate system. But your comments have made me more wary about the fact that I might be over-complicating things, so I will reconsider my intentions more thoroughly.

    Of course, it's up to each to implement his system as is most suitable according to their personal situation. But having a place to bounce ideas of is very useful!
     
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  5. OF user

    OF user Registered

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    Project support tends to refer to how and why you will get things done. It does not cover the "what" you are doing it to. Even in the what is a paper you are writing, that could be handle in your files apart from any GTD buckets. As far as complicated goes, make your system complicated enough to get things off your mind.
     
  6. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    Sounds like you've got the first edition of the book. I'd suggest picking up the second edition and giving it a read. DA included a lot more examples of how GTD can apply to any aspect of anyone's life -- including our personal lives. GTD is as relevant to a stay-at-home parent as it is to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

    I wouldn't go to the kinds of lengths you're describing to organize and categorize physical stuff. Like @TesTeq said, if something is where I expect to find it that's good enough. If there's a chance I could mislocate something, I'll stage it and maybe even put a note about where to find it in my GTD system. But that's about as far as I go.

    It's your life to organize as you choose, and I wouldn't criticize someone for trying something unorthodox. After all, just because an approach is unusual doesn't mean it's "wrong." GTD flies in the face of what most people consider "conventional wisdom."

    Since you asked for opinions, though, I do wonder if you've come up with a solution in search of a problem. Ask yourself this: are you really having so much trouble finding physical objects related to your actions and projects that you need to spend the time and effort to organize them the way you've described? If the answer's "no," I'd suggest not bothering.

    Whatever path you choose is up to you, of course. I wish you the best of luck with whatever direction you take.
     
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  7. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Assorted thoughts:

    - Where possible, I'd say do create a place in your home for objects--ideally, places that have function for multiple projects.

    For example, if I have a small project, "Replace missing button on white shirt" I know that the white shirt should be in the drawer where I stuff clothing waiting for repairs. It occurs to me that I should also be throwing the "parts"--those envelopes of buttons that sometimes come with a garment, the button or frog or whatever that I bought for the repair--in that drawer.

    That could apply to your flashlight issue--you could have a shelf or drawer for things that are waiting for service.

    As a side note, the existence of that drawer also allows me to change the nature of the project--I could have a repeater, "Fix something from clothing repair drawer" rather than having specific projects for each item. This converts an ad hoc project to something more like a habit, and saves me some thinking and tracking and weekly review time.

    - I also have a "take to garden" list and a "coming home from garden" list in Reminders. (My main garden is three blocks away from my house.) So I have a digital representation of physical objects that I expect to need for the upcoming work. Actually, I also have a physical representation, because I throw that stuff into a specific backpack.

    - I have toolboxes in the garden, and snap-top boxes in the sewing closet, each one with hand tools and supplies for a specific category of tasks. (Everyday weeding and maintenance, versus setting up new beds, versus setting up new irrigation or making large irrigation repairs. Pattern alteration and cutting out, versus sewing after a project is cut out, versus beading.)

    - Sometimes, however, I will create a container for a project. For example, even though I have places where my garden seeds live, I did make a container for planting my cutting garden this spring, because that was a fairly elaborate planting plan (for me). I measured seeds into labeled envelopes with the right amount of seed and the seed depth and spacing, created associated in-ground labels, scrawled a drawing of the positioning of the seed, and threw it all into a larger envelope.

    When I was actively sewing, I pretty much always had a container for a sewing project. In addition to saving me from searching for that spool of thread, it could also limit work in progress--if I have a specific number of project boxes, and a specific amount of shelf space to put them on, that limits the number of projects I can start.

    Re: "I'd have a General Reference system for nonactionable yet somewhat bulky objects, that complements the physical A-Z filing system. These objects do not fit appropriately into some kind of organization I already have in the house"

    This is the part that I may or may not be understanding. IMO, these objects should fit into some kind of organization already in the house. (Or office or garden shed or car or wherever.) Do you have more examples?
    .
     
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  8. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    That's also how I see it. For instance, I draw comics as a hobby (with hopes of turning that activity into a career). All of my drawing supplies are staged so they're where I need them (which is within an arm's reach of my drafting table) and organized so I know what's where.

    I have an action item to "clean rapidograph pens." I don't need to place the pens or the cleaner in a special "GTD box." I know where both are. That's good enough for me.

    What you and I are describing is a variation of what DA refers to in the book as the "put it in front of the door" trick. Put something where you know you can find it (like the way you put gardening stuff in a specific backpack).

    Obviously we have to allow for the possibility that the OP has some kind of requirements neither of us understands at the moment (and I think your follow-up question indicates you agree). But my own bias has been to make my organizational systems as simple as is consistent with getting the job done (and no simpler).
     
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  9. Jared Caron

    Jared Caron Registered

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    Hi there,

    First of all - great questions! The fact you are even asking them is actually a sign that you "get it." So don't get discouraged. David often says it takes 2 full years to develop a degree of competency with GTD, and it is a lifelong journey of mastery.

    Question 1:
    • Yes. That is one way to handle project related items which are actionable, but not quite yet. Project support could be appropriate. However, there is rarely one universal answer.
    • A lot depends on what it is, the nature of the project, and the time-frame you're dealing with.
    • A physical tickler file like David describes in the book is useful for things with a longer time-frame, or where the next action is less clear.
    • As you note, the folder-based solutions are pretty much limited to paper-based items; the method of using a paper-based reminder or representation of the physical object (like writing where the flashlight is) can apply here as a workaround for things that don't fit in folders; which leads well into your second question.
    Question 2:
    • Remember that the Processing/Clarifying chart and various buckets are not necessarily for everything.
    • David uses a rule called "All but the REDS"
    • REDS stands for
      • Reference (in other words - the places where you keep your reference material -bookshelves, file cabinets, binders, card files, etc.)
      • Equipment
      • Decoration
      • Supplies
    • You will typically have some form of organization system for each of these things
    • Generally when collecting and clarifying, these things don't go into the "Inbox" unless they don't belong where they are.
    • I would say a flashlight, or socks, for instance would be described as either Equipment or Supplies.
    • If you're not sure where to put your flashlight or socks, you might have a new project or next action called "find a place to store flashlights" or "reorganize junk drawer in kitchen" or "reorganize wardrobe".
    • If you simply don't have a trusted place to store a flashlight, make one.
    Bottom line is, have a place to put those things, and use your system as the breadcrumbs to get you to go to those places. There is no one specific DA way to store a flashlight, but the principles of having a place that matches its meaning to you is universal.
     
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  10. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    Great explanation, and this part in particular is really, really, really well said.
     
  11. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Iv'e got LOTS of bulky physical items that are project support. They can range from a ram marking harness or missing gate in the irrigation gated pipe to a broken tractor implement. I've struggled as well with a consistent place to put those things. My list manager is Omnifocus and what I now do is in the notes for the action items that have large physical things I add where the actual item is.

    So if the Project is "Get service dates for ewes" and the Action item is "put a cold weather marking crayon in the ram harness" the context is Hay barn and the note says, harness on halter rack in garage.

    Or if the project is "Irrigation pipes fixed", and the action is "Replace the broken gate" with context of Little House Pasture the notes may have things like new gates and gaskets in blue bucket in red barn.

    Or if the project is " Repair the broken marker" and the Action is "Buy a new bolt and nut for marker" with a context of the city where the tractor part store is I have several notes. In the project note I have a comment Additional project support in DT Active_Projects/Repair Marker. In that folder in DEVONThink I might have the manual for the marker, a picture or 2 of the broken part and where it goes. I also have a note like, 3 bottom marker for orchard that's parked next to the blue tractor because we actually have 2 marker implements for different purposes. If the bolt is small enough I may have a note Broken bolt in my purse. (Which BTW is why women's purses are so large and often heavy, they are additional project support. :) )

    The goal is my digital system has links into where the physical things are that it references.

    edited to separate the 3 examples
     
  12. ElleExtreme

    ElleExtreme Registered

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    Thank you very much for all the detailed replies! It's really nice to have such a helpful community to turn to :)
    I'm sorry that I haven't been able to reply yet, I went away for a couple of days. That's also why my original post maybe was a bit rushed and not clear enough, so I'll try an clarify the points you've made and also the explicit questions.

    Many of you discussed more or less the same thing in different ways, so I'll try and clarify it;

    So this is one of the things I definitely should have mentioned. I'm intending to establish a separate system for most of my things. I try to minimize keeping objects that I don't use, so I'll organize stuff in "organizational subsystems" according to general purpose, topic and category, and then list these subsystems down down. I'll regularly review the list to try and purge things that no longer really fit in my life. For example I'd have one system referring to "(Making) Music" in general, with sub-categories for handling sheet music, my instruments etc.
    In practice, of course, much of the organization is already established, so it's mainly a matter of formalizing it.

    Obviously most REDS apply here as well.

    However, I still see a complementary purpose with a kind of PhysGenRef/PhysProSup. My creativity is failing me but I will try to provide an example; Say that I got a small pendant lamp as a gift. To be able to give this its proper place in my living room might require a not insignificant amount of work if I first had to draw a new circuit (or whatever, bear with me). And I might be way to busy to handle all this at the moment, so instead of the lamp just lying around wherever, it would become part of some kind of system for Project Support.
    So that's basically this;

    However, I don't want the lamp to stay in my Physical In (in the best case, or just, you know, on the floor) while doing that.

    In a similar vein, I could capture something that's potentially valuable, but not applicable for any of my established organizational "subsystems". That would go in the PhysGenRef, which, I suppose, is just a kind of "Miscellaneous" category for my general organization. Although I personally still see some value in having it formalized as part of GTD. Just one advantage could be that I'd force myself to purge it regularly.

    My impression is that most of you are already doing this, although you might have phrased it differently than I (i.e., you maybe wouldn't necessarily have considered it part of GTD), which gives me confidence to move ahead.

    One decision I'll have to make, and that you've given me clarity on, is whether things that already are appropriately organized outside the PhysGenRef go into a PhysProSup. I'm leaning towards just letting them be where they are, e.g. as described by Oogiem, since I as mentioned want organize stuff by category, which should make it more or less unambiguous where something I need is. This is naturally especially advantageous for objects of more significant size. However, there can be a practical benefit to having all the ProSup in one place in the sense that it minimizes prep. time for just doing anything related to the project.

    Once again, thank you very much for the input! It has certainly clarified my thinking and given me the confidence to move ahead and establish my system.

    Best Regards
    ElleExtreme
     
  13. Jared Caron

    Jared Caron Registered

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    No problem, Elle

    Your issue is one I think we've all faced in various ways. Obviously, it has your attention, which makes it relevant. One more suggestion if you tend to have projects that have a lot of physical collateral:

    perhaps use bins/boxes labelled for the project? Might be an investment, but its a similar concept to the folders. And if you have a dedicated spot for this form of "project support" - perhaps one indoors, one outdoors; it might do the trick.

    Just thoughts.
     
  14. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Yes! First PURGE then ORGANIZE! I sometimes try to organize things that I don't need anymore. That's wrong!
     

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