Book Club Jan Week 3: Getting Things Done

by Diane Wolf in Blog, Book Club
January 17, 2017 0 comments


I hope you have been enjoying reading the emails, and reading the book if you have time! I read it once years ago, and it gave me so many great ideas that I’ve implemented and now rely on daily. Surprisingly, I’m finding a whole bunch of new ideas and motivation reading it again now.

Today I wanted to simply focus on the difference between reference files and someday/maybe files. Understanding the difference was huge for me personally, as I tend to be a bit of a ‘knowledge hoarder’. Okay… a bit is a vast understatement. I find it really tough to throw out paper, but at least I’ve had complete control over the organizing and retrieval of paper since I implemented this system. I may still have a bunch of filing cabinets, but if you ask me where my passport is, for example, I can find it in less than a minute. Actually, I could find it in 10 seconds now, but that’s only because I remember that Important Documents are in Reference Folder 42.

Okay. So reference files are for things that have information on them that you might want to retrieve sometime, but they are not part of a current project. If they were, they’d be in a project file. I use a digital organization system for my papers called ‘the Paper Tiger’ that relies on numbered rather than named folders so you can always add to the system without needing to worry about alphabetizing a new folder. The key is that for each folder, I put any possible key words into the program that I might use to look for it later. So, for example, my auto folder (can’t remember the number) has key words such as auto, car, vehicle, car insurance, ‘company name’ of insurance company etc. I don’t need to stress over “did I call that auto or car?” I just list them all, And when I use the search feature, it doesn’t matter if I put in car or auto or vehicle, it pops up the folder number and I can grab it. You can, of course, set this up in excel by yourself, or you can have a look at The Paper Tiger. I am not an affiliate, although I probably should be. I’ve used this program for many, many years, and absolutely love it.

The other thing that’s important to understand is the someday/maybe file. This is a file for things that you don’t simply want to store, never to be seen again unless needed. This is a file for ideas and places to visit and things to do. If you just reference them, they’ll disappear unless you actually go looking for them. The secret to these files is that they need to be in categories that make sense, and accessible when you want to plan something. It’s a place for ‘to-do items’ that you haven’t fully committed to doing yet. For example, ‘take a cruise’ isn’t really a to-do item you can check off. Yes, you can choose to file cruise info in a travel file in your reference folder, but you could also put them in your someday/maybe file and have a reminder every month or so to grab that file and browse your ideas. Things like “take a French course” doesn’t really belong on a to-do list, nor does it belong in reference, but having it out of your mental clutter and listed on your someday/maybe list means you’ll be reminded of it whenever you review your list (on a regular basis) and you can let the idea gel for awhile. David Allen recommends you use this list for things like:

“-things to get or build for your home

-hobbies to take up

-skills to learn

-creative expressions to explore

-clothes and accessories to buy

-toys to acquire

-trips to take

-organizations to join

-service projects to contribute to

-things to see and do.”

(This list is taken from page 178 of his book).

It’s a list/file you keep handy somewhere, whether it’s a digital folder or a notebook. It’s sort of a ‘half-way” point between action items and reference items, and understanding its purpose really helps those decisions when you are looking through things trying to decide where to put them.

Happy Organizing, and Happy Dreaming of things to put on YOUR someday/maybe list!


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