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Connecting next actions with projects

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  • Connecting next actions with projects

    Do you connect next actions with the projects they're related to? I'm just getting started with GTD and so far the trouble I'm having is that as far as I can tell the system doesn't say anything about connecting the next actions with particular projects. Is this more of a personal preference? What do you do about this?

    I guess I'm afraid that if I have a bunch of next actions that are listed without listing also their connection to particular projects, there's a chance I'll forget what projects those actions are related to. I might lose track of my progress on particular projects because I'm focused on next actions and not even labeling what projects those actions are related to. Also, if I don't have next actions connected with particular projects, I might complete the "next actions" for that project but forget to add new ones for that project when those are completed. How do you manage that? Is the system to just review once a week and trust what when there are new actions related to particular projects we'll intuitively remember to add them to our "next actions" list?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Depends on what system you've implemented. I'm using Pocket Informant on the iPhone, so actions can be assigned both a project and a context, and both can be viewed when reading the action list.
    Alternatively if it isn't self evident from the action, you can write it like this
    Project Name:action
    eg Renovate House:research builders.
    or use abbreviations for the project names
    eg RH:research builders
    (be careful to not use the same abbreviations for two projects!).

    As a personal preference, I like knowing what project my action is for, although some people may feel comfortable with just the actions listed on their own.

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    • #3
      Review --==> no need to link projects and next actions

      David Allen addressed this point in GTD Fast, I believe. The idea he shared was that regular review of your system will keep the material in it fresh enough that linking the project and the NA are unnecessary.

      My experience supports this. I have most worried about such connections when I was not reviewing my lists regularly enough and, more specifically, when I was not performing a proper Weekly Review regularly enough.

      Hope this helps

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      • #4
        Originally posted by dewiniaeth View Post
        Do you connect next actions with the projects they're related to?
        I use omnifocus and the connection is built in. Weekly review is critical to keeping on top of things though.

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        • #5
          yes

          I use Excel, and have a column for the project. I list my projects in a second tab, and in the NA-tab I select the project from a drop down list, so the link is pretty simple from a technical point of view. One of the things I know I need to work on is my project list. It's not always 100% complete. I must admit that I sometimes not really mention the project as reference, but simply the name of the client, I'm a consultant and I do mostly small projects, so when I mention the client, I mean "active project for this client"...

          Point is: yes, I need some link, even with a regular weekly review... usually have around 100 active NA's, so I need that link in front of me.

          Myriam

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          • #6
            Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
            regular review of your system will keep the material in it fresh enough that linking the project and the NA are unnecessary.
            I would say only in cases where projects are relatively small. Long term projects that extend over a long time (which we've discussed a lot before as for me a project might span years and in a few cases decades) really need a link to the next actions. Especially when they cannot be done except once a year and if missed then need to incubate again for another year.

            I also find it critical to link them when the active projects list gets long. Currently I'm actively working on, as in I expect to be able to get the next actions done on them within the next few weeks, over 145 projects. Without the link in my actions lists I get frustrated, lost and flounder around. Not sure exactly why but it sure works that way for me.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
              David Allen addressed this point in GTD Fast, I believe. The idea he shared was that regular review of your system will keep the material in it fresh enough that linking the project and the NA are unnecessary.

              My experience supports this. I have most worried about such connections when I was not reviewing my lists regularly enough and, more specifically, when I was not performing a proper Weekly Review regularly enough.
              Ditto on that. Your brain does a fine job of connecting the dots, but it doesn't do a good job of remembering where the dots are. That's what your GTD system does. IMO linking projects and actions in your system is unnecessary overhead that makes your system more cumbersome to use. Your brain can do that much more quickly.

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              • #8
                Also depends on how specifically you write your next actions.
                Eg
                'Read ERA report' is obviously for project ERA
                but
                'Plan Project' could be for any project, although if you wrote 'Plan ERA project' it would be obvious which project it is for.
                I find that seeing the project title in an action reminds me that after I've completed this action, I need to immediately identify the next action in order to maintain my place in the project, which is something I don't need to do for other actions.

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                • #9
                  I thnk this could be a science in itself.,,

                  The usefulness of associating next actions with projects is really a matter of whether it helps you or bogs you down, and this is probably related to a combination of factors:

                  How different your projects are from one another in method and purpose.
                  The predictability of the sequence of next actions and the predictability of the range of complexity of the action, based on your degree of expertise and/or the nature of the work
                  The number of independent actions that are spawned from completion of an action.
                  How many projects you have.
                  How often you are interrupted by others or yourself.
                  The "size" of the chunks that you delegate or wait for.
                  Your cognitive style. Do you like things pinned down or more free-flowing and in what situations does this matter to you.
                  What type of status report you might need for others or yourself, especially in regard to resources and sticking to a schedule..
                  Whether you have SOPS and how important it is the follow them.
                  What you are aiming to get out of the project. For example, a farmer's agricultural projects have an immediate end but are also empirical studies.
                  How good you are at estimating how long things will take.

                  Whether you have dedicated places and times for n/as or if most everything is "ad lib".

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                  • #10
                    You know the Managing Projects set covers this too

                    https://secure.davidco.com/store/cat...16670.php?s=hp

                    I know, because I was the producer on it and made sure it was covered!

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