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  • Need Help With Organizing Task List

    I've been trying to use GTD for about two months now and though there have been some improvement, my organization is no where near the level I need it to be at.

    The good thing, however, is that I'm starting to get a better idea of my requirements for getting the system to work better, and that alone is progress.

    Some background.

    Professional - I'm an executive in charge of content for an web site. Hence, I have multiple deadlines throughout the week, multiple projects in addition to those deadlines and a staff to manage. Plus, there are various immediate issues that pop-up throughout the week, whether its a fire or someone from the media calling to speak to me. Oh, I also receive in excess of a 100 emails a day. (I'm sure many of you live the same type of life )

    Technology - I'm using Vista at work with Outlook, XP with Outlook on my laptop and Windows Mobile on my Motorola Q.

    Other - I need to share my project list with my boss on a regular basis and be able to quickly update him on various projects at a moment's notice. I've been using an Excel spreadsheet to do this, but its not the easy thing to work off of.

    I've been trying to switch to Outlook Tasks and using the reminders in that. The reminders are helpful, but I finding myself overbooking days or afternoons when I have to postpone things do a fire or other distractions.

    So I need a solution that will allow me to manage all of the moving parts and deadlines. Plus, I need the ability to quickly create a project list into a format that my boss will understand. (And I need to be able to quickly modify to exclude any personal items that are added.)

    I have looked some software for the Q, but haven't bought any yet because I'm still a bit lost as to how to best implement GTD given my worklife.

    As far as IT stuff goes, something that works with Outlook and Windows Mobile would be good in terms of task and project management. But, I'm willing to combine any IT solution with some good old folders and legal pads.

    Since many of you have faced the same pickle and successfully moved away from it, any suggestions/tips that you all can provide would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Just offering, I use the Franklin Covey Add-in PlanPlus for MS Outlook. This allows me to use tasks, categories, and arrange fairly detailed projects with nested sub-tasks. It's not mega project management but it's very easy to see where you are, plan timelines, and even generate a status/email update on a project/subproject. For personal stuff I actually have a personal project and nest things in there (not perfect but it works and it's better than a monster category grouping as I can see it arranged and ordered logically all at once). There's a free trial period to check it out if you want.

    If you install the software on your desktop and laptop you have a good start. It comes with software for the mobile device (I have a PPC not smartphone based device so not sure how it works). On the PPC to get all the project funcationality out of the included Pocket Informant software, I'd need to sync at a PC with USB. Since I prefer the Exchange Server wireless syncing I just have my tasks ordered for active/today and it's fairly manageable.

    PlanPlus has been clunky and flawed in the past - it's pretty darn stable now though. I'd check it out and see if it meets your needs, there's a free trial. It's not a GTD official thing but for project management like that it works nicely and that's exactly why I have it. Plus I think FC's weekly review in the software and general top down 50000 foot stuff is pretty decent. Bottom up trench stuff in the modern email world is owned by GTD though, has helped me immensely. That said, for projects and tracking electronically people seem to run into issues if they want to do it all out of their core PIM/Outlook.

    Comment


    • #3
      How well does PlanPlus export reports?

      I saw the other thread about the software, but one of the key things I need in addition to project management is the ability to provide high level updates in an electronic form to my boss. And it needs to be in format that is easy to read by a non-PP user.

      Comment


      • #4
        After going through my project list today, using a combination of Outlook Tasks and the Excel spreadsheet, I think I have a good idea of what I need in a program:

        *Must be able to produce reports that can be reads by others
        *Preferably works as a plug-in or otherwise syncs with Outlook
        *Allows me to see a high-level overview of a project as well as associated tasks
        *Also works on Windows mobile or can interact with something that does
        *Fairly straightforward to implement

        Suggestions?

        Comment


        • #5
          I tried PlanPlus this morning and it was very slow and clunky even using my new laptop with 2GB of memory! It ended up freezing my computer and I had to finally delete the program.

          FWIW

          Comment


          • #6
            A quiver of tools

            I used PlanPlus for a long time because of features it offers which native Oulook does not. And I always preferred the views that PlanPlus placed on my old Palm M505. The last Planplus I used was version 4. From the screen shots I’ve seen, I don’t see any functional differences between versions 4 and 5. Although from ChrisF’s comments, I’m guessing that PlanPlus has continued to refine speed and stability with version 5.

            As I recently wrote elsewhere on these forums, I no longer use PlanPlus. There were several reasons for this. I needed a CRM tool and elected to use an Outlook add-on called Avidian Prophet and since Prophet appears to be a fairly sophisticated application, which accesses its own SQL database while residing within Outlook, I reasoned that the combination of PlanPlus and Prophet might likely bring Outlook to its knees. In addition, the enhancements in Outlook 2007 replaced many of the features I found useful in PlanPlus 4 running on Outlook 2003.

            But recently, I discovered that Franklin Covey has spun off their prioritized task list features and their project planning features into separate products. Good news, since the project planning feature is what I used most and wanted most from PlanPlus. So now I use Prophet, Franklin Covey’s ProjectsPlus, and another add-on called Clear Context (which I'm really like a lot). PlanPlus has always extracted a performance hit but I’ve experienced pretty good results with ProjectsPlus, and this on an aging single-processor Pentium system.

            Slow and clunky? I can’t necessarily disagree with GTDWorks. PlanPlus version 3 (the first version with the hierarchical project planning features that ChrisF writes about) was unusable on my system. PP4 was vastly improved to the point that I found it sufficiently usable that the added features outweighed the performance hit. I have not used PP5. The first time I access ProjectsPlus, it will take a few seconds for it to load and open up on my aging system. It’s quite responsive therafter. It takes a bit longer than that to open up the Prophet features. And it can sometimes take even longer than that to open an e-mail. (My conclusion is that what I really need is a new quad-core system with boodles of ram.) I would also note that although I've had acceptable performace with this set-up on laptops, they've never performed as well as on this ancient desktop system. Perhaps because of battery-saving requirements? I don't know.

            Nevertheless, I would offer another approach for sweat to consider. I will assume that what sweat’s boss really needs and wants to know is whether the various projects sweat is handling are on track, i.e. will they be finished on time and within budget. Likewise, his direct reports need to know what their own deadlines and milestones are and how those affect the successful outcome of the entire ordeal. That sounds like timelines and Gantt charts. Of course, MS Project will do this and integrates with Outlook. But my experience has been that MS Project is usually overkill. Just the thing for managing the Big Dig or launching a space shuttle, but the overhead of maintaining the system is simply too high for most of the projects which most of us do most of the time. (The David himself once advised me to avoid systems which were too complex to work more or less on autopilot whenever my “inner Geek” took a holiday. Sound advice, as always.)

            So although ProjectsPlus (or PlanPlus) can be quite useful for handling personal projects, I would suggest that sweat might consider MindManager, for those projects which he needs to report on regularly, along with one of the MindManager add-ons for project planning. I have one called JCV GanttPro, which I first read about from a posting on these forums. It will take a MindManager map and convert it to a Gantt chart and project plan, or vice versa. It can take into account resource utilization and costing data; just the sort of thing your boss would most likely most like to see. It will show each of your teammates just how the tasks they’re responsible for fit into the whole. And MindManager tasks can be exported to—and synchronized with—Outlook.

            The David Allen company is now selling MindManager… no doubt because David Allen uses it extensively himself; and that’s a pretty high endorsement. He did a webinar for Mindjet some months ago (perhaps you can still access it on their web site) where he answered, in response to a question, that he probably has around 150 active maps. That’s serious use. And one of the add-ons (JCV Gantt Pro was the first, but I believe there are one or two more now) turn MindManager into a pretty flexible, simple, yet powerful project management tool.

            Beyond this. I use an Outlook Task Category called “Projects” which is nothing more than a simple inventory of projects. Those which have been fleshed out in ProjectsPlus begin with “P:”, which I use in filters (along with “SP:”, for sub-projects) to keep them from automatically showing up in my task lists if I assign a start date to a task. Projects that are planned out in MindManager/JCV Gantt Pro can include links from the listing in Outlook to the MindManager map.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by sweat View Post
              After going through my project list today, using a combination of Outlook Tasks and the Excel spreadsheet, I think I have a good idea of what I need in a program:

              *Must be able to produce reports that can be reads by others
              *Preferably works as a plug-in or otherwise syncs with Outlook
              *Allows me to see a high-level overview of a project as well as associated tasks
              *Also works on Windows mobile or can interact with something that does
              *Fairly straightforward to implement

              Suggestions?
              Yeah.. don't do it. There's nothing wrong with a high-level planning tool, but a mobile device will not handle that sort of high-level view. And something that works at that high level will not handle your next actions.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
                Yeah.. don't do it. There's nothing wrong with a high-level planning tool, but a mobile device will not handle that sort of high-level view. And something that works at that high level will not handle your next actions.
                Sticking with my current set-up is not an option since it is not working for me. If I had to rely primarily on my desktop for organization and use my smartphone as a back-up tool, that is fine. But, I definitely need something other than what I'm using now.

                smithdoug - Thanks for the thoughtful response. I'm downloading the webcast about MindManager to find out more about it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sweat View Post
                  Sticking with my current set-up is not an option since it is not working for me. If I had to rely primarily on my desktop for organization and use my smartphone as a back-up tool, that is fine. But, I definitely need something other than what I'm using now.
                  I think I understand your problem, and my advice was not meant in an unkindly way. The emphasis in GTD on lists of projects and next actions is not meant to replace the use of other planning tools for bigger projects. You have to find the tools that work for your situation with those. Rather, the lists give you simplicity and speed in your daily life. If you have been trying to implement GTD for a few months, there is a good chance you need a simple implementation to help you with the habits that will bring you relaxed control. No software tool or tools will do this. I really recommend taking a look at the Davidco Outlook whitepaper as a reference implementation.

                  As for reporting to your boss, what I would do is separate projects into work and personal, and put a * or something on the ones that I needed to report on. I would then keep a status update in the notes. If something like this would not work for you, then you may need something like Mind Manager (which I do use), but it's also likely your projects are too big and perhaps too amorphous.

                  It has taken me several years to get to where I am in GTD practice, and I think that is not atypical. The benefits of a simple, basic GTD implementation are enormous, but I have found that complicated implementations cause more harm than benefit. But YMMV.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    mcogilvie - thanks for the response. Forums are not always the best method for having a "conversation".

                    I was digging around the forums some more and stumbled onto a post about OneNote and then ran a search on other posts about it. I like the fact that it can export directly to Outlook tasks. That level of synchronization is something that I could use.

                    I realize, however, that it is a blank page than an actual planning program. I'm wondering though that with a preset template (e.g. http://manage-this.com/onenote-gtd-project-template/) that if might a decent solution.

                    I should mention that David Allen's video about MindManager is sitting on my laptop and I have not listened to it. Looking at screenshots, I do have concerns about its complexity, but acknowledge that these concerns may not be warranted.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Spent a lot of time in the forum searching around, as well as looking at various software programs.

                      I was pretty much sold on MindManager after watching David's webcast, until I saw the cost. If I knew for a fact that I would use it, I would pay the money. I realize there is a trial and that is something I might consider.

                      I did by a copy of using GTD and Outlook and will read through it.

                      I looked at Jello.Dashboard and wasn't sure if I would find it really useful or not. I'm getting better at managing emails, it is the tasks and fires that I struggle to stay organized with.

                      I did download My Life Organized. MLO seemed a like a potentially good app with its ability to export and integration with Outlook.

                      I'm hoping that and the GTD-Outlook manual will be a good place to start.

                      Comment

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