Yesterday’s organizing of the files went on much longer than my enjoyment of it, but there is discernible improvement.

One thing that really lengthened the process was that I have apparently been coming back from workshops for the past year and dumping all the extra materials into the back of the file drawer. No doubt I have thought, each time, that I would go back and organize it all, and then just repressed the entire episode. So there was a whole lot of sorting out little frog cutouts and handouts and sentence strips and stuff, in addition to tossing ancient press releases and catalogs.

The David Allen GTD system has some useful concepts that I think I will incorporate into my life.

“Ubiquitous capture”: everything that swims into your ken, be it a thought or a piece of paper, gets “captured” in “leakproof external buckets” (in-baskets, email, notebooks.) I already make a point of taking those “I’d better call Sally” thoughts and writing them onto my to-do list. 2

But my early training in “handle a piece of paper only once” leads me to see all papers as “filed” or “not filed.” If they’re not filed yet, then they’re making a mess in my workspace. Nothing in between. So I often have a random pile of papers I intend to use, or have brought back from another workspace (since I am a telecommuter and do shows and workshops and fairs and conferences, that happens a lot.) See the exhibit at right, my messy workspace.

How do you avoid having that “capture” bit turn into stuffing things in the back of the file drawer to be dealt with someday?

Regular processing. That means that you go to your in-box (and I guess I need one of those) and go through the following process with each piece:

Is it actionable? Meaning not that you could sue it, but that you have some action to take on it. If not, you toss it, file it for future reference, or put it in your “someday/maybe” list or folder.

If there is action to take, then is there more than one step involved? If so, consider it a project and put it into the system as one. I don’t usually think of things as projects unless they have dozens of steps. In any case, you determine the next action step you would take if this were going to be done now. If the step would take 2 minutes or less, do it. Otherwise, put the next step onto the to-do list or project steps list, file the object if there is one, and move on to the next item.

So my stack of papers up there has a bread recipe my mother emailed to me. I intend to make the bread, so I printed it out, but that is definitely a multi-step process, so I post it by the counter where I make the bread, write “make bread” on my to-do list for tomorrow, and move on. Next are the Google Analytics printouts for the past two months for the store website. I need to refer to them in the future, so I file them under “website maintenance” and move on.

Clearing that mess up took me about five minutes, since I was following a step-by-step process and didn’t try to do anything that would take more than two minutes. This was a distinct improvement.

2 It made me think about another collection point — the sheet music basket. The eyeglasses basket is next to it, and that needs nothing done with it. We all put our glasses there, on a good day, and then we can all find them again when we need them.

The sheet music basket is something else. All the music we are currently working on is on the rail at the front of the piano. Once we have done our performances (me) or moved on to another piece (#1 son), the old music goes into the basket. My daughters still have pieces of music in the basket.

I remember how happy I was when I came up with the basket, since before that we always had a welter of sheet music all over the place. But now, we cannot find music when we want it. We think, “Don’t I have a copy of that Bizet?” and empty out the whole basket and paw through everything and call each other up and say, “Do you have that Bizet piece I did three Easters ago?”

It’s ridiculous. It is, I see, the consequence of capturing without processing. The messy workspace is perhaps the consequence of processing without capturing. Maybe not. Maybe I just said that for the symmetry.

2

I also repaired the ottoman yesterday. I had enough of the yardage to make a new cover, but since it had gotten shabby before any other things I made from the same fabric at the same time, I decided that it was a high-risk area and I didn’t want to do that. Instead, I used a scrap of another of the fabrics to replace just the top of the cover. It was almost, but not quite big enough. Since I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into this, I eked it out with strips of another fabric in the group instead of doing proper patchwork. I padded it, but of course didn’t want to put in the time to quilt it, so I just did a little random quilting to keep the batting from shifting.

The result looks like something for which I decided not to go to too much trouble. I will therefore still have to make a new cover, using the proper yardage, but I will have to live with this for a while so I won’t feel that it was a completely wasted effort.

Sigh.

I’m still reading Under a Green Sky. Look back at yesterday’s post to see Dr. Ward’s response to my email to him. This book is something of a detective story, as the scientists track down the causes of the mass extinctions of the past. As Lostarts pointed out, the world has cycles of climate change. About every 26 million years, the climate warms significantly and lots of species die off. We know why this is happening now (human choices), but previous occurences, being prehistoric, are more mysterious.

Last I heard, asteroids hitting the earth were the preferred explanation. However, in the 1980s, there were new discoveries and lots of thrilling controversies,and it was in the news and all.

I had babies in 1983, 1984, 1989, and 1991. I guess that is why I missed all that. I’m catching up now.