Getting ready for the Fall – Part 2

October 8, 2006

In my last post I talked about organizing my office and touched a little on working with people. No great secrets there. In this post I am focusing on the GTD tasks I have put in to place that have helped me. Secondly, I want to identify a couple of behavior changes that have made a difference.

As I completed the office reorganization and structured files I spent the requisite time to “put things away.” But since this was a reorganization it involved more than just putting things away. It allowed me to focus on where to put things. For example I have a drawer titled “personnel” for those types of issues. A second drawer is titles “classes” and another “publication” and another “projects”. The classes drawer is a history of my classes along with the paperwork I really do need to keep. I can go into those files quickly and identify what I need. I do have to walk over to those file, but I don’t use them much. The projects file is to the right and slightly behind my desk. I merely spin around and open the drawer. Everything is organized A to Z. I’m still working on how to label individual files, but I’m getting better about that. The personnel file is a little inconvenient to get to. it is again to my right and in front of me, but is partially blocked by my computer desk. That was done deliberately since I don’t get into them often and don’t want to make it easy for others. So far this arrangement seems to be working well.

On top of my lower lateral files I have several notebooks. They contain notes from (1) academic meetings and (2) current courses I’m teaching. between the two lateral file cabinets is my HP 4600 color printer. It is as close to me as it can get. Underneath it on a printer stand I purchased almost 20 years ago (and fits perfectly These are just a arm’s reach away. To the right is my telephone and it is the most inconvenient location I think I could find, but it was also about the only place I had left. I don’t spend much time on the telephone, but when I do I take notes. I keep a 4“ x 6” spiral notebook by the telephone that I record all of my call on so I can follow-up on them.

On my computer desk I have a dual screen (20 inch and 17 inch) with e-mail on the right hand screen and my work on the left larger screen. To the right of the monitors I have a magazine file that contains the campus telephone book, undergraduate and graduate catalogs, and the current schedule of classes. These are essential items that I use all of the time. To the left of my desk is an office chair (padded) that a visitor can sit in and visit with me. I use this when we have “work” to do that involves creating or signing forms, scheduling classes, reviewing class work or theses, or resolving an immediate problem. Probably 70 percent of my visitors sit in that chair.

Organizing my work

The above section continued to discuss my office set-up I still need to figure make sure that I record what needs to be done. My focus is on next actions (see Mark Taw, 43 Folders, DIY Planner). I focus my energies on writing everything down that needs to be done and then determining what is the “next action”. I use Omni Outliner Pro with the KGTD shell. Omni is currently creating Omni Focus which will replace KGTD. I look forward to it. I make sure that I enter data into my KGTD file daily and sometimes right as the task is being identified. Since I can create next actions on the fly by simply indenting on the task. The advantage of inputting directly into KGTD is that I don’t have to come back and enter it on Friday afternoon when I’m anxious to leave the office.

kgtd
When I take the time to write things down I also take time to think about them. Later I can reflect even more. It is the mere act of writing it down that causes me to give it more thought. If the task has a suspense date on it I decide what date I must begin working on it or what date it is due from someone else and create a task in iCal. I have just started using zoodo and have great hopes for it. I really don’t like Apple’s “to do” interface.

I previously shared that I’m a list person and don’t do things off the cuff really well. I can sit and stare at my desk for hours, but put a to-do list in front of me and I can literally fly. My to-do list gets accomplished two to three times a week. I print out a copy of my KGTD list and then focus on the next tasks, telephone calls (from my list by the phone), look my in-box of hot items that have popped up, and look at my current to-do list with all of the additional notes I’ve added. It takes maybe 20 minutes to create a new to-do list. I print it on a Franklin-Covey half sheet of technical design. This has a date, but is jsut single lines and I have set up my Pages template to print perfectly on the page. Hot items have a yellow background. Other items have a white background. If I want to highlight something I use another color, but I have learned that more than 2 colors makes the page too confusing. I also set
major heading. These can change from list to list but normally focus on project. I include a telephone list also and have a telephone icon to remind me. I don’t really like telephones so I have to focus my time. Once I’m on the phone I’m ready to spend as much time as necessary to clean up all my calls. It’s just tough getting my index finger to punch the button the first time each day. This process has worked for 2 years quite effectively for me.

todo
The most important change for me this year is to start and end each day with a focus session. I only need 10 minutes in the morning (or less if I’m pressed for time) to review the previous evenings focus session and get ready for the day. The evening focus session usually begins around 4 pm (the office closes at 4:30 pm) and I work until I have enough off my desk that I can come in the next day without feeling overwhelmed. On average it takes about 45 to 60 minutes. If I have a night class (once a week) then I will spend 75 to 90 minutes. This has almost alleviated all of my midnight to 5 am projects and taken considerable stress off of me.

Finally, this whole process is allowing me to focus more of my energies on people. Getting up from my desk and walking over to the couch allows me to let people know they are important. More importantly, it gets me away from my desk where I am easily distracted. If I stay at my desk I swing my cursor up to the corner to turn on the screen saver and take my eyes off of it and take my existing work, organize it and put it to the right side of my desk.

Does it work? Well so far so good. Of course I’m in Cyprus writing this so maybe it won’t in the long run, but I have told my wife I can see the difference in my effectiveness, in my attitude, and in my productivity.

In part 3 I will discuss some of the processes of creating priorities for involvement.

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