A New Job, A New System

A New Job, A New System.

Submitted by dougj on Wed, 2006-09-06 11:06.

I look upon new jobs as great opportunities to tweak one's planning system. In fact, it's one of the only times I feel truly justified in sitting down, working out my time management strategies, and implementing a new way of doing things. After all, with different responsibilities, different personnel, and a different organisational structure to fit into, one can't rely on the “tried and true”. Yes, take what you can from it, but be prepared to burn it all down and build it all back up again.

My new position is as a project manager with a long-established company, and I have a tremendous amount of responsibility to make sure that projects are done on time and on budget: if I mess up, my job and reputation are on the line, and it reflects badly on the company. It means I have to be that much more careful about keeping track of things, and making sure my team is working as efficiently as possible. It probably comes as no surprise that I'm putting the D*I*Y Planner system to good use. Herewith, my current setup.

First of all, my “hub”: a classic size Day Runner. This is my bible, and it usually stays on my desk, only venturing outside for the occasional out-of-office meeting. My layout:

  1. Inside front cover: business cards, an ID card (for if it gets lost), and a stack of index cards that includes 10 blanks, a 2006/2007 yearly calendar backed with a GTD reference card, a Checklist card marked “To Pick Up” (since I always forget what I'm supposed to get for the new house), and a few blank Satellite Action Cards. (All these cards are of course in the D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition packs.) Blank cards are for jotting quick notes to give to people, or for gathering Inbox fodder away from the planner. I also keep some 2″ Post-It notes and some Post-It flags.
  2. Front matter: cover, profile form, important numbers form, two business cards sheets for current client contacts, and a zip pouch for stamps, paperclips, stickers, quarters, and blank cheques.
  3. Contacts section: A-Z tabs with most important contacts, including friends and business associates. A few spare contact forms are stored in the back, along with a few Sources forms for office supplies, transportation, and home hardware. Note that I keep these in pencil, since contacts change their information constantly. (I keep my mega-list of thousands of contacts in Apple Address Book, which is synchronised to my iPod.)
  4. Calendar section: a 2006/2007 yearly calendar, followed by the 2006 monthly calendars. The current month is held with a “Today” snap-in ruler, along with a little stack of punched Satellite Action Cards, which hold NA@Work, NA@Home, NA@Blogs, WF@Work, and so on. Since they're SACs, I can switch them out, or take them with me when I go anywhere. Any time I get word of something that needs to be done, it's duly recorded here or in a relevant project tab. I have few scheduled meetings, but plenty of jobs and deadlines to mind, so these are easily kept in the monthly calendar. (I write small anyway.)
  5. Various project tabs: the average classic size planner can easily hold ten of these, with about a half-dozen or so sheets per section. These are filled as needed with the various project forms (such as Project Outline, Project Details, and so on), notes, checklists, budget information, expense forms, a receipt envelope, and timelines. Goal Planning, Objectives, and Agenda forms are also usually found here. I review projects at least once per week, sometimes daily if it's current.
  6. Incubate tab: for all those Someday/Maybe projects (using the Potentials and Potential Projects forms).
  7. Personal tab: just because I'm at the office doesn't mean that I won't occasionally need access to personal information. I gather it here, but keep it to a minimum. Most things are copied into my Moleskine (see below).
  8. Inbox: paper to capture everything. I fill this with blank paper, lined paper, Notes forms, and Cornell Notetaking forms. The second the phone rings, or someone steps into the office, I automatically turn to this section. At my next spare moment, that information is moved off into another section per its usage, usually rewritten for clarity.
  9. Reference section: a map of the city, a map of the region, weights and measures, and a few miscellaneous lists (such as the Sherlock Holmes books I'm looking for, and music recommendations).
  10. Finances section: receipts envelope, monthly bill-paying schedule, expense forms, rate card, travel log, and so on.
  11. Tech info: software licenses, network info, equipment forms, and the numbers of tech support people I may need at a moment's notice.
  12. Slash pocket folder: handy for keeping spare forms, note paper, and letters.
  13. Writing utensils: a Pilot G-2 0.5 gel pen, and a Staedtler 0.5mm mechanical pencil.

My “take home” is a pocket sized Moleskine, lined. In it, I record most of my personal information and thoughts, and when I leave work for the day, I take my NA@Home and NA@Blogs SACs, stuffing them in the back with a few blank index cards.

Of course, there is also the computer. I'm using a MacBook Pro, and have opted for a mostly-Apple solution: Apple Mail, Apple Address Book, Apple iCal, and iPod synchronisation. For those jobs requiring a lot of writing, I do my drafts in Eastgate Tinderbox before copying that information into Dreamweaver, InDesign, Word (*shudder*), or whatever program is needed. For collecting information, nothing beats the ultimate electronic shoebox, DevonThink Pro: it holds documents, web pages, PDF docs, client graphics, logos, sound files, and everything else I throw at it. I don't consider material to be properly stored, unless it's in DTP. I use DevonAgent for my research (it works exceedingly well with DTP, of course), and have begun to use the betas of OmniPlan to do my project management planning. (Oh, it's nice to forget about Microsoft Project!)

Next up, I'm modifying the Warboarding concept for use in this office. I'll let you know how that goes once it's implemented.

I've always maintained that there should be one, and only one, hub for any particular type of information. As David Allen says, this should be your trusted system. So, my hub for project and time management information is my Day Runner, my hub for contacts is Apple Address Book (sync'ed with the iPod), the hub for my personal information is a Moleskine, and the hub for all my digital information is DevonThink Pro. By ensuring that each hub is “the ultimate authority” for each type of data, I always know what's going on, and when.

It's always a temptation to revise one's planning solution (well, if you like to tinker, that is), but look upon a new job or position as the perfect excuse for getting under the hood, tuning the engine, and roaring out of the gate with a well-oiled productivity machine. The key is to take it seriously, and to commit yourself to its usage, lest it join the graveyard of stillborn time management techniques.

Would anyone else here like to share their current productivity setup?  [D*I*Y Planner – Paper, productivity & passion]

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