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Update: Significantly simplified and focused the question.

I struggle with managing my GTD project files because they contain a mix of electronic and paper-based/physical stuff. Some projects are basically all paper, some are all-electronic, and some are a mix of both.

  • What kind of project tracking system/method will help me manage projects regardless of the media?
  • Should I consider always keeping my future actions in an electronic format, even if all the other project information is paper-based?


  • It's not possible for me to scan or digitize the paper and much of this data can't go in the cloud for security and other reasons).
  • I use a fully-electronic, task management system for my GTD lists: next action contexts, waiting for, someday/maybe, etc.


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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Since you can't scan everything, you need physical folders of some kind.

The main question is then how to include references to these into your electronic system. An obvious one here would be to just have these as "left-lower-drawer/project-five-folder" or something like this, the same way you would have references to electronic documents. Since you may not always be able to access them the extra effort of a really brief summary/description of the contents of this would also make sense.

Regarding keeping future actions in an electronic system: Personally, I find this the way to go. You may prefer paper. What makes no sense is to split where you keep your future actions. It's either paper or electronic. The future actions are disjunct from the support materials, and they need to be accessible in one place, and within one system, otherwise you lose the quick reviewability. Your electronic system should be mobile enough so that you can take it to wherever the paper materials are, but I think that today this is not really a concern anymore.

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I have a system that is both digital and analog (paper), because that is the world we live in, there is physical "stuff" and digital "stuff". The way I keep the two sides of a project tied together is through labels. Lets say the project is "Draft paper on new sales technique using free ipads".

First, the digital system. I have a 'ProjectSupport' Folder on my computer, so I start there. 'ProjectSupport/FreeIpadPaper'. And then an email folder named 'FreeIpadPaper'

Next, the analog system. I pull out a manila folder, and print a label 'Free Ipad Paper'.

I think that part of the problem for me initially was that I thought if i maintained Project Reference material in two places, that was duplicating effort, but in practice, it's just a manila folder and a shortcut on the desktop. If i am working on a project, I have all my materials pertaining to that project available at my desk.

  • A manila folder
  • A Folder on my computer
  • A Folder in my email program

All labeled the same

That is easier ( for me ) than trying to force some conversion process between them. In other words, its "All in one place" because of the label, not the media

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I'm not really familiar with the GTD approach, but I would highly recommend you check out Evernote to help you track your notes / documents. It has a great web and iphone app (probably android too I'm not sure). It could help you solve your electronic / paper divide by either taking pictures or scanning your documents to sync up with Evernote. When the photos are synced Evernote will run OCR on them, which indexes any text on the photos and makes it searchable. So if you forget what the note or photos name is you can try searching for the related text within the photo.

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Thanks for the answer, but I'm definitely looking for a system/method/process that can handle a project with both paper-based and electronic materials, rather than a note capturing tool. For various reasons it's not possible to scan all my physical materials into an electronic tool. (For example, drawings too large to scan, security/privacy/intellectual property concerns that prevent the data from being uploaded to the cloud, etc.) – Adam Wuerl Jul 19 '11 at 3:52
Yea security is a major issue with cloud based solutions like Evernote. It definitely would be very time consuming also to upload all your documents. Sorry I don't have a better solution, but maybe it will help out someone with less sensitive data. – JDutil Jul 19 '11 at 19:55

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