Managing projects with GTD

Date: Friday, May 26, 2017 by GTD Times Staff

Having a complete and current projects list is one of the cornerstones to GTD mastery. To support you in getting there, here are 10 keys to defining and managing projects:

1. Projects are defined as outcomes that will require more than one action step to complete and that you can mark off as finished in the next 12 months.

2. Think of your Projects list as a current table of contents of the current outcomes on your plate.

3. Most people have 10-100 current projects, personally and professionally.

4. Current projects have at least one next action, waiting for, or calendar action, in order to be considered current.

5. Projects that have no current next action, waiting for, or calendar action are either no longer projects for you, or should be incubated to Someday/Maybe.

6. Future actions (i.e., actions that are dependent on something else happening first) do not go on the Next Actions lists until you can take action on them. They get stored with project plans.

7. The Projects list and project plans are typically reviewed in your GTD Weekly Review, ensuring each project has at least one current next action, waiting for, or calendar item.

8. It’s fine to have multiple next actions on any given project, as long as they are parallel and not sequential actions (e.g., “Buy stamps” and “Mail invitations” would not both be on Next Actions lists for the “Put on Party for David” project given that you need to buy the stamps before you can mail the invitations).

9. Projects are listed by the outcome you will achieve when you can mark it as done (what will be true?).

10. Effective project names motivate you toward the outcome you wish to achieve, and give you clear direction about what you are trying to accomplish.

How well are you doing on these? Where do you have any gaps? What is going well for you?



5 Responses to “Managing projects with GTD”

  1. Ann says:

    This post is so timely as I was just thinking about this on my drive to work. Having practiced GTD for the past 12 years this one element of GTD that I find troublesome.

    If the project is not slated to start for another 4 months (so still falls within the 12 month definition of a current project) why would I want to keep it on a current project list to review every week?

    It does’t go on the calendar because it’s not a definite date and it doesn’t go on the someday maybe list because it will happen within 4 months. For this reason I keep another project list that is not current as I don’t want to review that every week. What am I missing?

  2. Brian says:

    Ann — I would hold it on “Waiting For” and identify “what” or “whom” you are waiting for … and leave it there until it becomes active.

  3. Steve says:

    The other possibility is creating a trigger four months forward on your calendar to “Start Project X”. The project itself can then sit on your Someday list, perhaps with a note that reminds you not to worry about it. This seems to be one of the system’s acceptable use of the calendar. It works!

  4. Tom says:

    I like using GTD ideas to organize my folder structure on my PC, so I have: \ref for reference, \prj for projects with NextAction.txt at the top level.

    One type of thing that comes up for me are “ongoing projects” … say “produce monthly report”. It’s something that I have to do every month, and there is no end date. There are a bunch of resources (say xls files) that I need every time I do this, so it would be good to keep them grouped together in one folder on my PC … but which folder? it’s not exactly reference, it’s not a project (no end date), …

    • Marco says:

      Hi Tom,
      I’m not a GTD expert and I’m also trying to figure out how best apply GTD to my daily life, but what I would do in your case is keeping the “templates” of the bunch of resources you need for the monthly report (or the ones used in a previous month) in the \ref folder, and I would add two reminders scheduled on a monthly basis: one for the project “monthly report” itself with a deadline on the date you need to deliver it, the other for the first action you normally do when you start working on the monthly report, on the date you normally start working on it (say one week before the deadline)

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