Graduate Student hopeful she can learn how to incorporate GTD
I am very excited with the possibility that GTD will help me function very efficiently at work and at home. I bought and have read the book and both the Implementation guide and the GTD for Outlook 2010 manual. I have been at this process for almost a week now, non-stop basically. This is where I stand today, but I feel there are some things missing.
-finished setting up all my categories in Outlook. I have a total of 14 categories. The maximum tasks I have for a category are @computer = 49 items, followed by @projects = 35, @home = 28, @errands = 18, and so on.
-finished setting up my calendar using the Outlook layout provided in the GTD and Outlook 2010 manual.
-finished setting up my email as suggested in the GTD and Outlook 2010 manual.
What I don't have:
-Folders for project support material -
Reason: I don't understand where this is done and/or how.
Example: I need to write a science research paper. For this I will do brainstorming, find references (lots of these, could be 100 for example), do lab work, make figures, write at least 10 drafts overtime that I will submit to my advisors for revision (send by email and/or hand out in paper format), receive email back with revisions or questions, and so on until the paper is completed and submitted. Where do I store all of these material? I used to store it in folders in my laptop's desktop, for example:
1 folder - all the PhD references I have so far about the general and specific topics about my research.
1 folder - named as "X paper" - includes figures, pictures, written work, including revisions returned by the professors.
Are these two folders okay as Project Support Folders? I could try to make a copy of the references I need from the "All PhD references" folder, the problem is I am trying not to have double copies of research papers.
Although I am not completely set up with my system yet, today I had a meeting (not research related) which reviewed aspects that will be discussed in another meeting tomorrow. I took notes in a paper (this meeting does not occur frequently), when I got home I reviewed them and added A for action and WF for waiting for. Then I proceeded to tomorrow's date in the Outlook Calendar and in tomorrow's date I wrote down the appointment with the scheduled time. Within the appointment window there is some blank space below where you can write notes. That is where I wrote down the processed list. Although most of the list has actionable tasks (such as finding a document that I would need to bring with me to the meeting tomorrow) I do not feel moving them to the @home category would help, they would get lost in all the tasks I have @home. Where do these actions go then?
I am really trying to get better at this, but is difficult and stressful. I am either very disorganized or I am doing something wrong. Help please! Any academics around that could share their 0.02 cents? Much appreciated
Keep information where you expect to find it.
What is the purpose of the @projects context? Is it a Projects list? If so - I would not use the @ sign - it causes confusion.
Originally Posted by zff
Keep information where you expect to find it. If you like your folders and it is your obvious search destination - it is OK.
Originally Posted by zff
GTD isn't rigid; don't overthink the system
There's no rule in GTD that says all of your support materials for a project have to be in one place and on one medium. I have projects that have a mix of e-mail, electronic documents (e.g. My Documents folder) and paper. I have folders in each of these places dedicated for that kind of support material.
You need as many placeholders as you need but you want as few as you can get by with. The more spread out your support materials the number of places where something *isn't* goes up exponentially. As long as you have no trouble locating or retrieving these support materials when you need them then you're fine.
managing research/writing projects
I can add a couple of thoughts from the academic perspective (I'm a social/behavioral scientist by training and a professor of public health):
1) Storing articles as reference or as project support: my advice would be to invest in a computerized reference manager (I personally use Endnote, but there are lots of them out there) and make that your reference material filing system for journal articles. I would either store the articles electronically as PDFs or in a paper filing system, but I'd make them reference rather than project materials. The reason for that is that as you develop a program of research you'll find that you'll refer to and use the same articles over and over again across specific projects, so having them centralized in a way that isn't tied to a particular project makes sense. When I need to read (or reread) an article for a project I'm working on, I make a next action for it (e.g., "read Smith 2012 and incorporate ideas about XXX into introduction to YYY manuscript"). I usually do my reading on screen with PDF, so I just open endnote and access the PDF from there when I'm ready to do the action; if you prefer paper copies you could move the article from your reference file to your action support file when you create the next action, then re-file it in reference when you're done. The computerized reference managers also have some nice advantages for writing papers -- many have the ability to automatically insert and format citations for you in word processors. Over time, this is an incredible time savings for you (especially for those of us who work in interdisciplinary areas -- depending on which journal I'm submitting to, I may need to use one of three different citation styles).
2) Project defining and support materials for research studies: there's a lot about how you handle project support, etc. for research studies that is just like how you'd handle it for any other project. A couple of specific things you might want to think about -- I find it useful to conceptualize study design, data collection, initial statistical analysis, and writing as four separate and distinct projects. There are a few reasons for this. First, when I'm designing a study I often don't know what the ultimate outcome will be -- it might end up in a manuscript on its own as a single study paper, it might get packaged with other studies in a multistudy paper, if nothing pans out it might end up in a file drawer, etc., so I can't really define the publication/presentation endpoint at the beginning. Second, at least for the kind of work I do there might be a lag between when we finalize the study design and when we start data collection (given personnel power, lab space, and financial constraints), so I find it cleaner to define them as separate projects. Finally, there's a nice sense of accomplishment in finishing off projects; if everything from initial design to publication is a single project, that sense of accomplishment can sometimes be years away (at least in my field -- in others the time lag is shorter).
Hopefully this is helpful -- good luck setting up and using your system.
re: managing research/writing projects
Thanks for your input. I have been using Zotero as a reference system (mainly because is free) but is somewhat cumbersome to work with. I have used Endnote before (during my masters) and it was very good. What you mention makes sense, I study an interdisciplinary field where I use and re-use papers all the time. Right now I have made a folder named All PhD references and that is where I keep all of them. Within that folder I made another folder that includes some more specific-topic papers that serve as support for the other references. I will try suggestion #2, it might help clear my head as I get overwhelmed by all the different concepts involved in a project.