???? My reading notes for getting things done – Part 5.

The Projects List is not meant to hold plans or details about your projects themselves, nor should you try to keep it arranged by priority or size or urgency. It’s just a comprehensive index of your open loops. You actually won’t be working off of the Projects List during your moment to moment activities, for the most part, your calendar, action lists, and any unexpected tasks that come up will constitute your tactical and immediate focus.

Remember, you can’t do a project, you can only do the action steps it requires. The real value of the Projects List lies in the complete review it can provide, at least once a week. Ensuring that you have action steps defined for all of your projects, and that nothing is slipping through the cracks. As I have indicated in other places, the weekly review is the critical success factor for marrying your larger commitments to your day to day activities.

And a complete projects list remains the linchpin for that orientation. Ensuring weekly that you’re okay about what you’re doing, or not doing, with a dog for your kids, along with what you’re doing, or not doing, about next year’s conference, is an essential practice. But that project’s list must already be there, in at least a somewhat recent form, before you have the capability to think about things from that perspective.

Current activities, often there are projects that need to be captured from a simple inventory of your calendar, your action lists, and your workspaces. What meetings are on your schedule, past or upcoming, because there are also very likely still unrecognized projects connected to the next actions on your lists.

Many times people we work with have Call Mario Ray, the fundraising event, on their calls list, but have not yet identified Finalize the fundraiser as something that should be on their projects list. current problems, issues, and opportunities. These fall into three categories. Problems, uh, process improvements, creative and capacity building opportunities.

When is a problem a project? Always. Finally, there might very well be things you’ve been telling yourself you’d like to learn or experience to expand your own development or creative expression. Would you like to learn Italian cooking or how to draw? Have you been telling yourself it would be great to take an online course in digital photography or social media marketing?

It’s very possible that many of these kinds of might like to projects would live just fine on your someday maybe list. One list, or subdivided. Most people find that one list is the best way to go because it serves as a master inventory rather than as a daily prioritizing guideline. To reiterate, you don’t want to use support materials as your primary reminders of what to do.

That should be relegated to your action lists, organizing ad hoc project thinking. In chapter, I suggested that you will often have ideas that you’ll want to keep about projects, but that are not necessarily next actions. Those ideas fall into the broad category of project support materials. And maybe anything from a notion about something you might want to do on your next vacation to a clarification of some major components in a project plan.

What do you do with that kind of material? My recommendation here is that you consider where you’re keeping tabs on the project or topic itself, how you might add information to it in that format, and where you might store any more extensive data associated with it. Most professionals will have several options for how to handle support materials, including attaching notes to a list item, organizing digital information in email and or databases, and maintaining paper based files and notes in notebooks.

Attach notes most organizing software allows you to attach a digital note to a list or calendar entry organizing non actionable data. Interestingly, one of the biggest problems with most people’s personal management systems is that they blend a few actionable things with a large amount of data and material that has value but no action attached.

Having good consistent structures with which to manage the non actionable items in our work and lives is as important as managing our action and project reminders. When the non actionable items aren’t properly managed they clog up the whole process. Non actionable items fall into three large categories.

Reference materials. Reminders of things that need no action now but might at a later date. And things that you don’t need at all. Trash. Reference materials. Much of what comes across your desk and into your life in general is reference material. There’s no action required. But it’s information that you want to keep.

For a variety of reasons. Your major decisions will be how much to keep. How much room to dedicate to it. What form it should be stored in. And where. The problem most people have psychologically with all their stuff is that it’s still stuff. That is, they haven’t decided what’s actionable and what’s not.

Once you’ve made a clean distinction about which is which, what’s left as reference should have no pull or incompletion associated with it. It’s just your library. Your only decision then is how big a library you want. You need to feel comfortable storing even a single piece of paper that you might want to refer to later, or an article you read online.

And your general reference system must be informal and accessible enough that it’s a snap to file something away, right at hand where you do your work and personal administration and review. If you’re not set up that way yet, look back a chapter for help on this topic. Libraries and archives, personalized levels, The question of how much to keep, how close, and in what form will be a changing reality, given the variables of your needs.

Your particular comfort levels with data, and the technology that turbocharges your relationship to global information. Relative to your personal organization and productivity, this is not a core issue, so long as all of your projects and actions are in a control system that you work with regularly.

Some degree of consistency will always make things easier. What about rare situations relative to your job? Material needed for those could be archived in departmental files, off site storage, or deep in the digital cloud. Do you see how that personal organization of reference material is simply a logistical and purpose based one?

Distinguishing actionable from non actionable things is the first key success factor in this arena. My reading notes for Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress Free Productivity, David Allen and James Fallows, Someday Maybes. Someday, maybes are not throwaway items. They may be some of the most interesting and creative things you’ll ever get involved with.

These could range from a special trip you might want to take one day, to books you might want to read, to projects you might want to tackle in the next fiscal year. To skills and talents you might want to develop. For a full implementation of this model, you’ll need some sort of backburner, or on hold component.

There are several ways to stage things for later review, all of which will work to get them off your current radar and your mind. You can put the items on various versions of someday maybe lists, or trigger them on your calendar, or in a digital or paper based tickler system. Someday maybe list. It’s highly likely that if you did a complete mind sweep when you were collecting things from your mental space, you came up with some things you’re not sure you want to commit to.

Learn Spanish, get Marcy a horse, climb NT, Washington, write a mystery novel, and get a vacation cottage are typical projects that fall into this category. Give yourself permission to populate that list with all the items of that type that have occurred to you so far. Activating and maintaining your Someday, Maybe category unleashes the flow of your creative thinking.

You have permission to imagine cool things to do without having to commit to doing anything about them yet. You may also be surprised to find that some of the things you write on the list will actually come to pass, almost without you making any conscious effort to make them happen. Make an inventory of your creative imaginings.

Reassess your current projects now’s a good time to review your projects list from a more elevated perspective, that is, the standpoint of your job, goals, and personal commitments, and consider whether you might transfer some of your current commitments to someday, maybe. If on reflection you realize that an optional project doesn’t have a chance of getting your attention for the next few months or more, move it to this list.

There might be a significant difference for you to think about projects you really want to do around your home, as soon as you have the resources versus your, bucket list, kind of fantasies. Such as climbing a mountain in Nepal, or creating a foundation for disadvantaged kids. The key here is to pay attention, as you experiment with these options, to whether your lists and subcategories are unnerving or energizing you.

Special categories of someday, maybe. More than likely you have some special interests that involve lots of possible things to do. It can be fun to collect these on lists. For instance, food, recipes, menus, restaurants, wines, children, things to do with them, books to read, music to download, movies to see, gift ideas, websites to explore, weekend trips to take, ideas, misc, meaning you don’t know where else to put them.

These kinds of lists can be a cross between reference and someday, maybe, reference because you can just collect and add to lists of good wines or restaurants or books to consult as you like. In any case, this is another great reason to have an organizing system that makes it easy to capture things that may add value and variety and interest to your life without clogging your mind and workspace with.

Undecided, unfinished business. The danger of hold and review files and piles. Many people have created some sort of hold and review pile or file or whole drawer or email folder that vaguely fits within the category of. Someday, maybe. They tell themselves, When I have time, I may like to get to this. And a hold and review file seems a convenient place to put it.

I personally don’t recommend this particular kind of subsystem, because in virtually every case I have come across, the person held, but didn’t review. And there was numbness and resistance about the stack and contents. The value of someday, maybe, disappears if you don’t put your conscious awareness back onto it with some consistency.

Also, there’s a big difference between something that’s managed well, as a someday maybe list, and something that’s just a catch all bucket for stuff. Using the calendar for future options. One of the most creative ways to utilize the calendar function is to enter things that you want to take off your mind and reassess at some later date.

Here are a few of the myriad things you should consider inserting. Triggers for activating projects, events you might want to participate in, decision catalysts. Triggers for activating projects if you have a project that you don’t really need to think about now but that deserves a flag at some point in the future.

You can pick an appropriate date and put a reminder about the project in your calendar for that day. It should go in some day specific versus time specific calendar slot for the things you want to be reminded of on that day. Then when the day arrives, you see the reminder and insert the item as an active project on your projects list.

Events you might want to participate in. Decision catalysts once in a while there may be a significant decision that you need to make but can’t or don’t want to. Right away. That’s fine, in terms of your own self management process, as long as you’ve concluded that the additional information you need has to come from an internal rather than an external source.

E. g., you need to sleep on it, or there is a good reason to delay your decision until a last responsible moment, allowing all factors to be as current as possible before you choose how to move on it. But in order to move to a level of okayness about not deciding, you’d better put out a safety net that you can trust to get you to focus on the issue appropriately in the future.

A calendar reminder can serve that purpose. Some typical decision areas in this category include Hire fire, merge acquire sell, divest, change job career, potential strategy redirection. The tickler file. One elegant way to manage non actionable items that may need an action in the future is the tickler file.

Essentially, the tickler file is a simple file folder system that allows you to distribute paper and other physical reminders in such a way that whatever you want to see on a particular date in the future automatically shows up that day in your intray. If you have a secretary or assistant, you can entrust at least a part of this task to him or her, assuming that he or she has some working version of this or similar system.

Typical examples would be, hand me this agenda the morning of the day I have the meeting. Give this back to me on Monday to rethink, since it applies to our board meeting on Wednesday. Remind me about the Hong Kong trip two weeks ahead, and we’ll plan the logistics. I use my tickler file to manage travel documents I need at hand on a certain day.

Reminders of birthdays and special events upcoming. I would take up too much visual room on my digital calendar. Printouts of interesting things to explore when I might have more time in a couple of months, etc. Checklists, creative and constructive reminders. Whenever you have to think about anything, either because of some regularity of a refreshed view at the end of every calendar year, I won’t need to, or a specific situation that requires more detail than you can easily recall, before I deliver a seminar, I need to, you should entrust those jobs to your external mind, your management system that holds the details you need to engage with.

At appropriate times, there are an infinite number of possible checklists that allow you to have more relaxed control in various situations across your life and work, things you want to pay attention to. Often, when we are working with people to clear up what is on their minds, what shows up are things like this.

Exercise more regularly, spend more quality time with my kids, do more proactive planning for my division, maintain good morale on my team, ensure we’re in alignment with corporate strategy, keep the client billing process up to date, focus more on my spiritual practices, pay more attention to the individual goals of my staff members, keep myself motivated in my job, keep current conversations and updates going with key people in my company.

What should you do with these fuzzier kinds of internal commitments and areas of attention? First, identify inherent projects in action. For much of this kind of stuff, there is still a project and or an action that needs to be defined. Exercise more regularly really translates for many people into set up regular exercise program, project, and call Sally for suggestion about gyms and personal trainers, real action step.

In such cases, inherent projects and actions still need to be clarified and organized into a personal system. But there are some things that don’t quite fit into that category and often appropriate checklists are needed to address them. Many times you’ll want some sort of checklist to help you maintain a focus until you’re more familiar with what you’re doing.

If your CEO suddenly disappeared, for example, and you instantly had to fill her shoes. You’d need some overview and outlines in front of you for a while to ensure that you had all the mission critical aspects of the job handled. And if you’ve just been hired into a new position, with new responsibilities that are relatively unfamiliar to you, you’ll want a framework of control and structure, if only for the first few months.

As we have instituted a novel organizational structure and operating system in our company, we have been using many critical checklists to support our meeting practices for its implementation, until they become automatic. Get comfortable with checklists, both ad hoc and more permanent. Be ready to create and eliminate them as required.

Make sure you have an easily accessed place to put a new list that’s also attractive and even fun to engage with, in a loose leaf notebook or in a software application that is readily available. Appropriately used, checklists can be a tremendous asset in enhancing personal productivity and relieving mental pressure.

If in fact you have now captured everything that represents an open loop in your life and work, clarify it and process each one of those items in terms of what it means to you and what actions are required, and organize the results into an intact system that holds a current and complete overview, large and small, of all your present and some day projects.

Then you’re ready for the next step of implementation in the art of stress free productivity, the reflection process. Reflecting, keeping it all fresh and functional. Your brain must engage on some consistent basis with all your commitments and activities. You must be assured that you’re doing what you need to be doing, and that it’s okay to be not doing what you’re not doing.

Reviewing your system on a regular basis, reflecting on the contents, and keeping it current and functional are prerequisites for that kind of clarity and stability. If you have a list of calls you must make, for example, the minute that list is not totally current with all the calls you need to make, your brain will not trust the system, and it won’t get relief from its lower level mental tasks.

It will have to take back the job of remembering, processing, and reminding, which, as you should know by now, it doesn’t do very effectively. In order to support appropriate action choices, it must be kept up to date, and it should trigger consistent and appropriate evaluation of your life and work at several horizons.

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