View Full Version : Serious type-B (C? D?) seeks massive overhaul
01-26-2006, 09:03 AM
Hi guys - like many other beginners, I'm overwhelmed and have a lot of questions. I appreciate any insight you may have (especially you Katherine- I can't believe you started in December!).
My goal is to someday be able to provide answers to others from a place of mind like water. Until then...need help.
Okay, so I got the book on Audible and listened to it many times. However, I am coming from a very different background than most folks. I'm a waitress/actress and don't spend much time on my computer for anything other than email/internet. I have a Palm I never got comfortable with and so never used, I don't use the mail program on my mac (easier to just deal in Hotmail, now G-mail), I've never had much success with using a calendar or a datebook or a day timer, I don't balance my checkbook...in short - I have no systems for ANYTHING.
I do have a couple of file boxes that havn't been purged since the Dukakis campaign. But they aren't in any kind of order.
Here's the thing - I want to change how I opperate in the world. I'm not stupid (I have a BA from Pomona and a masters from University of San Diego) but I don't think systematically. My parents kept all their bills in a basket in a closet and fought at the end of every month. They are in their 60's and still use this method. I don't want to replicate that model.
In my attempts to start GTD, I began by using a spiral notebook. But where to put all the different lists? I made tabs for NA, for projects, for calls, for movies I want to see someday - but found that i was flipping back and forth too much - and I wanted to be able to see my NA list while looking at my projects list. So I got a loose-leaf notebook and have started lists in that - but it's too bulky to fit in my purse, so I don't take it with me when I'm out of the house. I tried a small notebook in my purse - but I wonder if I'm having too many collection areas.
As for the files - my boyfriend just built me a desk with a 2 file-drawers - but they are for hanging files, and made out of wood, so I don't quite get how I will go the no-hanging file route. I was thinking I might use them for the tickler file and perhaps project files. That's another question- does each project on your list get its own file? If not, what do you do with support materials?
I have nice hand writing - is the labler really necessary if I'm not taking the files into meetings with me?
Any thoughts for a super simple beginning would be of so much help. Thank you all so much for reading, and being a place of support (I am all in favor of a GTD support group - anyone in the Portland area?)
last question - do you think it's possible to chang eyour "type?" Has anyone else had this experience - to go from creative, disorganized child of hippy parents to detail oriented systematic organized being?
Hope so! Look forward to hearing from you!
01-26-2006, 09:35 AM
*blush* I started with GTD in December 2004, not 2005. And I was pretty organized to begin with, so my experience is probably not typical.
I found this post to someone in a similar situation:
maybe it will help you as well.
My feeling is that it makes more sense to find a system that works with you instead of trying to change yourself to fit a particular system. (See Julie Morgenstern's book, Organizing From the Inside Out, for some ideas on how to find the best system for you.)
If you like loose leaf, but don't like the bulk, you might try something like Levenger's Circa system. (http://www.levenger.com/PAGETEMPLATES/NAVIGATION/CATEGORY.ASP?Params=category=326|level=2|pageid=17 49) It has pages of all different sizes, but all punched with evenly spaced holes. So you can carry a small notebook with you, then transfer the pages to a larger master notebook. Some people swear by index cards, which are cheap, portable, and readily available.
In my system, any project that requires more than a few sheets of paper gets its own file. I ignore DAs advice re: labelers and hanging files, mostly because my existing file system was mostly working.
Hope this helps,
My file drawer at work is for hanging files also, and here's what I did. I started out with 26 hanging files, one for each letter of the alphabet. I can fit a few manilla folders in each hanging file, depending on how full they are. When my "B" hanging file gets too full, I add another one behind it. That way, I'm only doing a little rearranging of one letter's files. This works very well for me.
I think DA's suggestion about getting a labeler isn't so much about your files looking professional to other people, as it is about them looking professional to you. I have neat handwriting too, especially for things like that, but I LOVE the way my files look labeled. YMMV.
I too am still working out the rest of my system - hang in there!!
01-26-2006, 12:22 PM
Thanks clh and Katherine - I am going to get Ms. Morgenstern's book- I am coming to realize that this is a bigger committment than at first I thought - it requires a change of thinking, and aquiring new habits.
I was feeling frustrated by the time it was taking to implement the system and that I was spending more time on this and less time on actually doing anything, but I am seeing the value of putting energy into this project. Eventually I think it will make my life easier and less chaotic.
I jumped to the posts from Erin and that helped a lot too- to feel like there are other people in similar situations.
I think one thing is to just jump in. I'm off to buy some index cards and a labler.
Thanks much (and I'll keep you posted)
01-26-2006, 01:13 PM
Good luck Eleanor!
I also think you'll like Morgenstern's book. She recommends starting with the areas that you use most frequently. You might try implementing just a few things at a time, starting perhaps with having a system for paying bills and keeping track of your auditions. And maybe a tickler file...
I found the section on filing in GTD made a huge difference right away, even though I've still never been fully on board with every detail.
p.s. I never got a labeler, and I don't think I've missed anything. One less thing to take up space or break, and I just don't care for the look of labeled files. (When they're mine anyway. If someone else had to access my stuff, I'd probably feel differently.)
01-26-2006, 09:58 PM
1. Do not read more books - GTD book & Julie Morgenstern's "Organizing..." book are sufficient to successfully organize your life.
2. Do not buy labeller if you do not feel the need - it is just an esthetic preference of David Allen and some other people.
3. Don't use computer or Palm for GTD if you do not like these devices - use paper instead - look at HipsterPDA http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/03/introducing-the-hipster-pda/ and http://www.diyplanner.com/templates/official/hpda - you may like this approach.
4. Tickler file and A-Z reference file are important. Organize and maintain them to be able to easily find anything you put there. Use David Allen suggestions.
01-27-2006, 10:45 AM
For the scenario you describe, I can second the recommendation for Levenger's Circa--the pages are really easy to remove & spread out when you want to, and replace when you want to tidy up. It's a bit pricey, but hey, even the leather-covered one is cheaper than a PDA!
01-30-2006, 06:36 AM
For your lists and data capture, I recommend the small semi-softsided notebooks that you can get almost anywhere that carries office supplies. I think they are from Mead. Grocery stores, pharmacies, WalMart, even Office Supply stores, etc. carry both the notebooks and the refill pages. The smaller one will fit in a shirt pocket. If the larger one will fit in your purse, I would use the larger one. You can buy blank tabs that will fit on the sides of pages to label the different sections per DA's recommended scheme.
Also, if space is really at a premium, I think it was someone on this board, that provided this link. http://www.pocketmod.com/app/index.html
This lets you create an 8 page leaflet that you fold up from an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet (or you can customize to other sizes) sheet of paper. You can customize the page, choosing from plain lists to calendar pages. Folded up I think it's about 2 x 2.5. If you don't have a lot of items to track and don't have to carry many from week to week, this could work for you. Or it can work as the list of errand related items.
01-30-2006, 06:45 AM
For filing, I have an older filing cabinet that's designed to work with manilla folders only without hanging files. I hate it. The reasons I hate it are probably the same reasons filing cabinets were designed with hanging files. The files slide down. To keep the files snug enough to stay in place, it's hard to add something to an existing file or add a file. It's easy to accidently file one folder inside another one.
I've bought a newer legal size hanging file cabinet and use legal size hanging folders and standard size manilla folders. It would probably work just as well in the standard size. I have other legal size cabinets, so I didn't have to switch hanging folders back and forth if I move between cabinets.
I use one manilla folder per hanging folder.
I label the manilla folder only.
I use third-cut folders. When I insert a new one, I just try to use the cut that's different than the one before or after it. For example, If I have a center cut before it and a right cut after it, I'll insert a left cut.
I bought a labeler for home and one for work. They make the files look nice, but it is an extra step to create the label and stick it on. I think you're fine hand labeling the tabs. You may want to use a sharpie to have nice dark labels that stand out. Do designate something and keep it with/in your file drawer or box of manilla folders so it's easy to grab when you want to label something.
01-30-2006, 07:04 AM
To keep track of bills, I have a Multi-pocket folder I keep in my briefcase. That makes it available at home or at work. Why at work? To refer to if I need to make a phone call. To have at hand at lunch to pay bills. To have if I need it to run an errand.
The pockets are labeled:
Bills go from the mail to In until they have been Processed. If I have time while I am sorting mail, then they are handled as below.
Supplies has stamps, envelopes, return address labels. (I also have a few stamps in my wallet at any given time.)
Bills has processed bills. See monthly accounts
Monthly accounts has one sheet of paper per month. I have created these on the computer before, and before personal computers, I created them with a ruler and a photocopier. Currently they're just handwritten on either printer paper or school notebook paper. When I am processing the first bill for the next month I create the sheet as follows.
Upper right hand corner, I write month and year.
Page is in four columns Due Date, Vendor, Amount Due, Date paid
At the beginning of the month, I list just the vendors in the approximate order their bills are due. How do I know what bills are in what order? I look back at the previous month(s) bills and due dates.
So for example I may have
As soon as I write the list I know my mortgage payment is due the first and I know how much it is so I write them in. The coupon booklet and envelopes are in the Bills Pocket.
When I process each bill I open it, make sure it looks reasonable. I check to see if payments have been credited if that's applicable (C $150). I also note if a payment hasn't been credited (NC $150). I then add in the date it's due and the amount due. I do this even for payments I am going to make electronically. If I have a phone call or followup as a result of the item, I add that to my appropriate action item list. The bill goes into the Bills Pocket. (This can be with or without the envelope it came in.) If it is a credit card that I won't be paying in full, I'll note, $minimum payment due/Balance. Sometimes, I'll also note how much I've charged in the month and the amount of interest charged if any.
When I pay the bills, I note the amount paid, if different than the amount due, or if the amount was up to my discretion, and the date I paid it. Since I pay out of more than one checking account, I'll also note the account and the check number. OR the account number and the confirmation number for an electronic payment. (I make sure I note the electronic payment in the appropriate checkbook and the confirmation # also). The bill stub now goes in the "Regular" pocket, if it is a routine payment.
I will continue in another response so I don't time out.
01-30-2006, 07:11 AM
If an item or bill is not routine, I file the stub under Special. This may include notes from phone calls I've made, letters I've sent, Special bills, Prepaid medical or other receipts, etc.
Obviously anything deductible goes under IRS. I'm more likely to make a quick note of a cash donation or even check donation if a place to file it is right at hand. Also as I'm going through mail in January, it's easy to pop the items that come in the mail for my return into the right spot.
The last pocket Support, is for action support items. For example when I had an 8 month dispute with the Cellular carrier, and was calling multiple times a month and spending an hour on the phone each time, all of my notes & copies of bills were on a running list in this section. When I finally got the bill where it was ALL straightened out, I filed it under Special.
Some of these pockets match file folders in my filing system. Each year I create three folders
As I clear out my pocket folder each month or so, anything in Regular, Special or IRS moves to the matching filing cabinet folder.
I rarely have to go back to the regular folder to find anything. The information I might need, is in the monthly sheets I keep. I keep 1-2 years of the monthly sheets in the pocket folder. Then I move them to a folder in the cabinet. This gives me years of reference information on what things cost me and payment history, etc. without having to do details, vendor by vendor filing.
01-30-2006, 11:01 AM
Major type-b here. I've had some similar experience with trying to set up my system. I got really tired of flipping pages, but I like the portability of the paper planner. I couldn't bring myself to invest in the labeller, it just seemed like more steps and expense that I didn't really need. I have very neat handwriting so I just handwrite my labels. I also tried the manilla files, but they're just...blah. I think I'm going back to hanging files and maybe some colorful non-hanging files for travelling project support files. I've found that if my tools aren't visually appealing I tend not to use them, because I tuck them away out of sight.
01-30-2006, 07:36 PM
I am happy to hear that you have made the decision to get organized. I am in the process of cleaning out my mothers house (her system was even more haphazard than your parents & she was the worst packrat) and I cannot stress how important simplifying and organizing your life is. I really believe that creating systems is the key to success.
Although I am a big believer in technology I think that starting your systems with pen & paper is the best (cheapest) way to go. The palm and computer are great tools and you should try them again after you have worked out your filing and task/time tracking system.
I also highly recommend setting up your Mac Mail or have someone do it for you. Once it works it really makes it easy to read and organize your incoming email.
01-31-2006, 05:39 AM
I find that I have a tendency to switch back and forth between paper and PDA. My solution (at least for the last month) has been to use both. My PDA is my portable reference files and calendar, and my notebook is my lists.
As part of my weekly review, I look over my someday/ maybe list (on my PDA) and decide what is important for me to do in the next two weeks. I use this window because it seems long enough to get some of my projects completed without overwhelming my sense of time available. (My items are usually personal, since my work life is pretty linear I only have one next action at the end of the day to keep track of for my job) Some of the items I pick are already next actions, some are projects, some are in between. In my notebook, I open the front and use one page for each of my contexts- @ home, @work, @errands, @somebody etc. I open the back of the notebook and use one page for any projects that I need to brainstorm, or lists I need to make (grocery lists, packing lists, etc.)
Once I have completed this, I look at my very long list of things to accomplish that week and put any simple actions on the context lists (i.e. buy toothbrush on @errands). Then I try to come up with a project plan for the bigger projects and subprojects and put a few next actions on my list for each of the larger projects. I usually limit myself to two or three "large" projects (projects with lots of next actions, or particularly time consuming next actions) for each two week period to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
During the week, I do a review of my projects in the back of my notebook to make sure they are all moving forward (meaning, they all have a next action listed in the front of the notebook). I also refer to the project lists if I'm stuck on what the next action is once I've completed the one on my context list. Otherwise, I just look at what I've got in each context when I'm ready to work.
Hope this helps.