As a research assistant, I need a better document filing and workflow system that can solve my current problems.
I mainly encounter these kinds of documents in my day-to-day work:
papers I need to read (prepare, excerpt)
essays, presentations & theses from students I need to read and grade
applications I need to comment on
administrative documents (travel costs, student exchange, applications, transcripts of records...)
various issues that reach me via email (that I need to solve)
websites I need to setup and maintain (html, css, js, content)
lessons I need to prepare
presentations I need to prepare
books (collections) & journal issues I need to prepare as an editor (corrections, proof reading, author communication, typesetting & layouting)
parts for applications I need to write
papers I need to write (including different long-hand drafts or collaborative documents online, feedback, corrections etc.)
the thesis I need to write (including long-hand drafts, feedback, corrections etc.)
Pretty much all of the abovementioned documents
exist either electronically or physically [e/ph], or both (but as e.g. different versions)
have additional documents, links, images, videos etc associated with them. Those also exist [e/ph].
are part of different "projects" - but since I cannot only work on one project at a time, I have to
(I tried scanning everything for a while but it takes a lot of extra time and the benefit sometimes is marginal.)
Some of these documents
appear in multiple contexts (for digital docs, I tried symlinks, labels, duplicates. Tagspaces was much too slow and clunky for me)
are time sensitive
are effort sensitive
are time sensitive and effort sensitive
have different milestones and deadlines associated with them
need constant follow-ups
need 2 or 3 rounds of re-reading, correction, re-checking & proof reading on my part
need to be sent out immediately to compensate for the delays of other people & then reread as soon as they arrive back
need to be linked to my own notes on them
what I feel I need
A system where
I can assign deadlines, follow up markers, effort markers to different documents or folders, digital and physical
I can keep track of "versions" of stuff in a human readable way
the digital and physical organization system are identical in structure and workflow, without having to have the 100% identical contentwise.
documents can appear in different contexts without being copies
the specific mixture of deadlines, time sensitivity and effort is automatically calculated across these different contexts or projects resulting in a "meta project" timeline (gantt chart, calendar etc) for myself.
I don't need to either print out everything and file it in huge binders, or to scan everything and put it in a folder. I will do this for the most important stuff, though.
not only structure but process and workflow is represented. I would need to be able to "archive" one context or project until in 10 months and so on.
my main issues with existing solutions
I've tried a couple of things. My main problem is that I feel like I don't produce any synergy because ideas, insights, results, good comments etc. are not stored centrally or not findable right away.
The systems I've tried require themselves a very high level of constant maintenance, otherwise they fill up quickly with "cruft" and become unusable.
I don't see right away where I need to invest the most time and effort right now, because the system has trouble anticipating causes and effects...
I've tried GTD to keep complete chaos at bay, but with that I am mainly focused on the immediate time scale. Long-term projects and the creation of personal knowledge across different projects, as well as logical filing etc. seems difficult to do.
I admit that this is probably an utopia and that a lot of it has to to with personality traits. I know colleagues who are somehow constantly calculating and recalculating all of their contexts and projects. They read and reread their emails, they recheck their digital and physical folders and boxes multiple times a day.
This stresses me out to no end and I just want to be able to concentrate on the stuff that will keep the sky from falling on my head - either tomorrow or in 2 years.
Maybe somebody has developed a working solution.