I am generally a super organized person, but I struggle with keeping project information together. I am managing multiple projects and things get jumbled...err...lost in emails or computer docs or google docs or papers or notebooks or whatsapp or messaging, or whatever. So I waste time looking in my email when it's somewhere else, or vise versa. There have to be better ways to keep things together and organized. And therefore I can help my directs stay organized too.  

I don't think I'm the only one who struggles with keeping documents, emails, project data, and other key components to what I am working on organized, am I?  What are some practical ways, apps, programs, etc that people have used successfully? I want things in one place and easy to find. Is there "a cast for that"? This is 2021, there have to be solutions! Thanks!! 

jrb3's picture
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What's the most frequent type of question you have to answer, that you cannot, because of insufficient organization?  Start with putting in some structure there.

For me, I drop into overwhelm more often than I'd like.  So, I have to very frequently catch up and take stock of my part of the work around me.  I take a cue from David Allen's "Getting Things Done" and have regular sweeps to gather and digest info.  Oftentimes, I have to craft parallel digital and physical equivalents in (or of) each inbox, and dedicate specific time-blocks to gathering and processing and updating for each specific major project from each specific inbox subset.

Many times, my processing involves pulling an item from an inbox, updating a status or making a note or three, maybe sending a response or making requests, then archiving that item *so I never need see it again*.  I keep the 'master record' of present status in only one format and place, say a spreadsheet plus text documents in one directory on my work-laptop.

Some projects are large enough that I must archive by month (or week!) for easier reference.  If there's other special stuff that I need to refer back to often, I'll often archive lists of cross-references into the monthly/weekly for that project, or into other projects.

Current example:  I have a remote client I'm writing software for.  He's pulled many different directions, so I need to stay in synch with his sense of priority on items with few hints or warnings about shifts or new items.  I track my understanding of the backlog of work on a magnetic task-board on the wall to the right of my studio's laptop.  [Agile folks:  one-person-team Kanban board.]  I spend a few minutes each morning and each afternoon (at email time) to walk my email and notebooks and voice-mail, to add/re-arrange the A7-size slips of paper which each represent one item.  Weekly, as I construct my end-of-week report, I take down the stuff that's done, write it all up, and file the slips away in a file-folder in a file-drawer to the left of my studio desk.  I need the daily gather-and-process and the weekly summarize-and-archive, to maintain the task-board as my uncluttered "system of record" about what I'm doing for him.  No matter how it came to me, anything about me getting something done for him gets onto that task-board, or into its designated overflow which operationally is "too far away to consider yet still tracked".  (We look at that overflow every other O3 or so, as a standing agenda item.)

In past professional engagements, that one "system of record" might have been physical paper sheets, one spreadsheet file in one network-accessible drive, or even a paper-clipped-together small stack of 3x5 index cards.  It always required some time to keep up-to-date, and to discard or archive anything once reflected into that "system of record".


Is this the sort of suggestion you're looking for?

ses's picture
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Like @jrb3, I take cues from GTD.  However, I and most of the successful managers I work with have moved past a strict GTD workflow.  Why?  GTD is about managing your *personal* tasks, and doesn't scale too well once a large portion of your work.

Some governing principles (GTD and otherwise):

  • There must be a single point of truth for information regarding work in progress.
    If there isn't, you spend all your time trying to locate plans and information, rather than executing on what you have.
  • The system must not be interrupt-driven.
    Email is a bad system because if you have it open to reference, you are exposing yourself to many interruptions.  It is driven by other people, not by you.  A Bullet Journal might be a good system, it can't interrupt you; it gives information when you look for it.  Basecamp, Asana, ClickUp, and other project management software can be good systems if you ratchet down the notifications to nearly nil.
  • The system must be timely.
    Meaning, specifically, that the system should make it easy to discover information when you need it.  Whether you use a 42 folders system, a calendar, or an electronic system, that thing you need to do every third Thursday should be easy to find every third Thursday, and the fact that it needs to happen at that time should be presented obviously, so you don't have to remember.
  • The system must be available to all parties who need to use the information.
    A bullet journal is great for things *you* need to know, but it doesn't give you visibility into what your team is doing, or the ability for you or others on your team to share information.  When you choose a system for a particular purpose, you should keep in mind who needs visibility into that system.
  • The system must be used consistently.
    If you only use the system sometimes, then either you won't trust it, and you'll repeat your checking-all-possible-sources behavior, or you will trust it, thinking you have all the info when you don't.
  • The system must be understood by everyone who uses it.
    As in everything else, if you don't set expectations you probably won't get what you want.
  • The system must be suitable to its purpose.
    This used to seem self-explanatory to me, but I've definitely watched people try to shoehorn their workflow into an unsuitable tool, because they got the idea that was the "right" tool, and wanted to match it.  The right tool for one case is often the wrong tool for another.

I hope that helps.  I'm happy to discuss more if it would be of use.


Jollymom's picture

Thanks for the help. This is great read and will definitely follow the suggestions here. 

Breanna_Ileen's picture

To add, proper delegation of task helps the management to achieve their goals. Just be consistent and organized. As to others, it was already mentioned above.