Tag Archives: 43 folders

Getting Things Done: Processing – Getting “In” to Empty

You’ve gone through last week’s exercise of collecting everything that has your attention, now it’s time to actually wade through all of it. By the time you’re done with this step, you will have trashed the unnecessary stuff, delegated as much as possible, sorted through your own organizing system and identified any larger projects that are looming.

Check out the chart. Scary.

Basic rules: process the top item first, process one item at a time, never put anything back into your “in” basket. By “process,” Allen means “decide what the thing is, what action is required and then dispatch accordingly.” Your in basket is a processing station, not a storage bin, and the key question to keep in mind is “what’s the next action?” The action step needs to be the absolute next physical thing to do – such as “call accountant and set meeting.” If there is no real and immediate action that can be taken, you can trash it, incubate it or keep it as reference material in your filing system.

Once you determine the next action step:

Do it – delegate it – defer it.

Do it if the action takes less than two minutes.

Delegate it if you’re not the most appropriate person to do the action.

Defer it into your organization system as an option for work to do later.

Finally, shift your attention to outlining your projects – those outcomes that will take more than one action step to complete. Make a list of projects to ensure you have placeholders for all of those open loops. This project list must be completed, and maintained as the key driver for appraising your status and progress.


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Getting Things Done: Processing Your Stuff – Time, Space + Tools

Today’s installation of David’ Allen’s getting things done, I’m implementing his “stuff processing” method on my filing system. Although, I must confess, it’s already in pretty good shape. In this chapter, Allen states that his method is all about “tricks” (hacks!) and sometimes one great trick can make going through the whole process worthwhile. I totally agree, as I’m a committed lifehacker.. I’m talking about little tricks/cues/hacks like leaving the tote bag on the front door knob to prompt me to remember to bring replacement clothes or diapers or burp clothes with us to daycare in the morning. It’s the little things… According to GTD:

“You increase your productivity and creativity exponentially when you think about the right things at the right time and have the tools to capture your value-added thinking.”

Ideally, over time and with the right tools in place, managing your workflow would become automatic. Anyway, if you’re into it, here are his steps to processing your stuff into a manageable filing system:

• Set aside the time and prepare a workstation with the appropriate space, furniture and tools (ideally two whole days, back-to-back)

• Set up the space – the bare bones is a desk surface and an in-basket; if you work outside the home, you should also have a satellite system in your home. Focused work space: work, home, if possible – in transit. Don’t share space – you should have your own physical space in each of those locations – don’t split the desk with yo’ man.

• Gather basic processing tools: paper holding trays (minimum 3), stack of plain letter printer paper, pen, 3×3 post-its, paper clips, binder clips, stapler/staples, scotch tape, rubber brands, label maker, file folders, calendar, trash/recycling bins.

Set up your filing system – file drawers, folders, labels, logical basis of organization. No hanging files if possible – this is controversial – hanging folders less efficient because of the effort it takes to make a new file ad hoc and the formality it imposes on your filing system.

Once you know how to process your crap and have a reliable system established, you really just need to create and manage lists – so you might want to add a planner/notebook into the mix once this processing step has been completed. I got these cute new Jonathan Adler file folders so that I have something pretty to look at for my home office filing system.


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Getting Things Done – Reference Files

What is your general reference filing system like? Do you have two, big-ass metal file cabinets, meticulously organized and lovingly labeled? Do you have big canvas-covered hanging file boxes (as I do) and keep only the bare minimum? Do you have hoarder-esque stacks of crap lining the walls of your office? Or are you all digital, scanning receipts and tossing them later?


According to David Allen, in “Getting Things Done,” your filing system must be “fast, functional and fun, or you’ll resist the whole process.”

Allen recommends an “alpha system” organized entirely by A-Z as opposed to multiple systems. One simple alpha system files everything by topic, project, person or company so that it can only be in 3-4 places if you forgot where you put it. I’m not sure I’m down with this, as I like to keep my reference files according to subject (i.e. – vacation ideas, childcare articles, etc). He also recommends using the heavy-duty metal filing cabinets, having sh!t-tons of fresh file folders available, and labeling every damn thing with a label maker. OK, I agree with all of that. Also, files should be purged at least once a year – for sure…

 OCD: End of month gut check

OK so this month, I put routines in place for morning and night, started writing up and accomplishing two weekly goals every Sunday, instituted the grocery list template, the menu planner, the wipe-off chore list, a petty cash system and clipboards galore… I think I’ve really taken February by the balls here. Doing my best to get into some better habits – maybe acting like more of a grown up (now that I’m pushing 40)… All that good shit…

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The Tickler


Sounds like an item for sale at Babes in Toyland….

However, one of the big take-aways from Getting Things Done, is the importance of establishing a “Tickler File” as an adjunct to your usual filing system. The idea is that anything that you may need to be reminded of at a later date goes into this file. Copies of interesting articles, ideas for future globe hopping vacations, restaurant reviews, etc. Every day (or at least weekly) you are supposed to put the folder in your inbox and go through it – adding any time sensitive information to your daily action item list. It should be kept in your line sight, so it’s not forgotten.

I’m looking at my tickler folder now. So far I’ve added a Rolling Stone article to remind me to buy tix to the RHCP show in Austin if I ever have any spare cash, research regarding putting together a will and getting a health savings account, and a blog posting about how 3.5 year olds are the worst people on the planet (which is absolutely true, by the way) that I plan to pass along to other unfortunate parents of such.

Now there is some controversy in the lifehacking/time management community – over whether the Getting Things Done or the more complicated and time-sensitive “43 Folders” method (1 folder per day of the month = 31 + 1 folder per month of the year = 43 folders) is preferable. At this stage in my game, I’m sticking with the simpler Getting Things Done plan, as I’m not back at work yet and the amount of really time-sensitive information I need to keep on top of mind is limited to home-management type of stuff. I’ve also set up a virtual “tickler file” in my gmail to accomplish the same. I think I’ll migrate to the 43 folders method as I progress through the steps in the book, just because my OCD-ness is drooling over the possibility of having daily and monthly folders in which to file, and check meticulously. Excellent.

Now – the trick is – will I remember to check both my paper and electronic tickler files daily? I guess I’ll have to add this as a recurring item in my “action list.” Sigh. Complicated.

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