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Relationship between project lists and next action lists

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  • Relationship between project lists and next action lists

    I just finished reading GTD and don't understand the mechanics of how you relate the NA lists to the original projects lists generated by the in- basket filling and "triggering" ideas listing. Once you have your projects, figured out 2 or 3 next actions for a project, placed one on the appropriate NA list, and completed it, do you cross it off the NA list and immediately return to the projects list for the NA for that specific project? Where do you keep the other 1 or 2 NAs that you have figured out but haven't written on an NA list?

    Also, where exactly do you keep the project source material- in a separate filing system from the alpha one?

    Finally, are random notes about agendas and other writings kept in the reference system or with the project resources and do you integrate the project files in with the alpha filing system or keep them separate as well?
    Thanks.

  • #2
    I think the short answer is: do whatever works for you. All of these options that you mention are suggestions - that's what the book is all about. If you already had some of these things working for you before you read the book, there may be no need to change these methods.

    Personally, I don't update my lists at Weekly Review. I do it several times a week (hopefully daily). Part of it is making sure my Completed NA's are purged and the NA's are in place. My NA's may be expanded to include notes on other things I am intending to do in the same session. Notes and ideas about things other than the immediate Next Action go into Project Support - if it's paper, it goes into a Project Support file, an idea is an electronic attached note to the Project in the Project List. I don't note future steps beyond the NA - only milestones or unstarted sub-Projects. I keep Project Support papers in files close to me. I don't mix reference files with current work.

    Other people (including you) may do it completely differently.

    Andrew

    Comment


    • #3
      MGL,

      >Once you have your projects, figured out 2 or 3 next actions for a project, placed
      >one on the appropriate NA list, and completed it, do you cross it off the NA list and
      >immediately return to the projects list for the NA for that specific project?

      According to the GTD book we should stay in the context we are in for a while and work on the next actions
      in the same context regardless of the projects these next action belong to. I wrote “should” because you may
      choose to change the context and keep on working on the same project.

      >Where do you keep the other 1 or 2 NAs that you have figured out but haven't written on an NA list?

      Project plan.

      >Also, where exactly do you keep the project source material- in a separate filing system from the alpha one?

      Yes, separate, in the project support file

      >Finally, are random notes about agendas and other writings kept in the reference system
      No
      >or with the project resources
      Yes
      >and do you integrate the project files in with the alpha filing system
      No
      >or keep them separate as well?
      Yes

      Rainer

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Relationship between project lists and next action lists

        Originally posted by MGL
        Once you have your projects, figured out 2 or 3 next actions for a project, placed one on the appropriate NA list, and completed it, do you cross it off the NA list and immediately return to the projects list for the NA for that specific project?
        I've had this come up in different degrees during every coaching. Sometimes just as a vague look of anxiety (you can see it) and other times they just come right out and express how concerned they are with not being able to connect projects/next actions. I usually echo David's response that when you become involved with the lists on a weekly basis, you just know what actions go with what projects. But to ease the anxiety, I offer the same solution previously mentioned, to put a code word into each project and then again into the corresponding action. That way, on a ctrl-f, they all come up and presto!, they can connect them. Usually, after all the extra typing that's required and a week or two of reviews, they stop with the code words and realize I was right (imagine that!!) and let go. But I find it's easier to give them a solution to ease the anxiety and let them come to this place by themselves.

        My take is, and especially for people who don't experience this in training/coaching, they struggle with drilling down to the very next actoin(s) so they feel they still have to capture all the steps of the project as opposed to the very next step or action. So here is what I would offer:

        When I run into this question I first really drill down the specific project to identify the very next action that can/must be taken on this project. Often there is one and only one next action - i.e. a waiting for a report which then drives a logical next acton read & review report, then draft response for department. These examples logically follow one another and need only to be captured as one is completed the next action is then recorded on a list or calendar. It seems, based upon my experience, there are two issues here for the client: first he/she wants to see all the individual tasks to project completion so I encourage them to make these lists as "notes" under the individual project and pull out the very next actions that must go on the next action/steps list. The client is always reminded that these "notes" (works in both Palm and Outlook) are not yet actionable and need to be reviewed weekly to determine if they are now actionable and need to move to an appropriate action list. Second, if they still want to cross reference their individual actions to a project, they usually come up with a creative abbreviation which they place in ( ) at the end of the next action, call or waiting for (example: hire VP-Sales, off relocation, etc.).

        I just say, "your brain has to connect those dots, and that's the function of the weekly review. If you stay engaged with your lists appropriately to have them really function well for you, these things will be rather self-evident. If you don't, the whole system won't really work anyway. Just don't write 'Fred', rather 'Call Fred re: mtg'."

        Comment


        • #5
          [quote="Rainer Burmeister"] According to the GTD book we should stay in the context we are in for a while and work on the next actions
          in the same context regardless of the projects these next action belong to. I wrote ?should? because you may
          choose to change the context and keep on working on the same project.

          I don't think the answer to the question is straightforward. According to the GtD book, there is a ranking order of priority - the Calendar items, by definition come first. So, let's say that in between meetings you choose a NA related to a Project. Implicitly you have converted that NA from ASAP to date/time (i.e., now) and you have put yourself in the Context applicable to that NA. When you have completed the NA, what happens next? The Four-Criteria Model sets an order for consideration - 1. Context, 2. Time, 3. Energy, 4. Priority. But the book also suggests some other principles, and often I will consider the following criteria (but don't ask me to put them in order):

          a. Time until next Calendar event
          b. Psychological factors - Energy and Priority
          c. Context of Next Calendar Event vs Current Context.

          Here's an example: let's say I have finished a NA and the next action is "Read" or "Call", but I have a Calendar meeting in a short while. There are 2 possible agendas that can follow:

          1. Read/Call, Travel to Meeting, Attend Meeting.
          2. Travel to Meeting, Read/Call, Attend Meeting.

          I would normally choose 2, because of all of the psychological/ logical things that are unwritten - the meeting time is fixed, but travel and Read/Call duration are variable. If I have an overriding principle that I should be punctual, or if the Priority of the Meeting is higher than the Read/Call, I'm going to make sure that I am on time for the Meeting. I can carry the reading materials or a cell phone and do the Read/Call in the car/bus/coffee shop/client's reception area, but for only as long as the time is available until the meeting starts. In other words, the meeting is hard landscape and the NA remains ASAP/opportunistic. Calendar almost always trumps ASAP, so the process of getting into the Context of the next Calendar event should not be overlooked.

          As I have written before, the book has some very useful guidelines, but Rules? - only I can decide that

          Andrew

          Comment


          • #6
            In my work world, the relationship looks like this

            1. Business plan (updated annually)
            2. Business projects list (updated twice a year)
            3. Quarterly goals list
            4. Weekly "Next Actions" list
            5. Daily schedule and tasks list

            Hope this helps!

            Comment


            • #7
              Well, here's what I do.

              If a NA looks like (I'm a lawyer, each client is a project pretty much).

              "JOE SMITH: draft revocable trust"

              and I get the trust all drafted and send it to the client, I'll IMMEDIATELY change that same Outlook task (or Palm Todo) to read

              "JOE SMITH: (wf client to review draft trust)"

              and move it to the appropriate context list (Waiting for, in this case).

              I will put any other non-obvious, not-yet actionable NAs in the note section for the Task or Todo, like "When client tells me his revisions, then remember to call so-and-so for their input."

              I just keep changing the title of the same Task or Todo -- this way, on the fly, I know I don't drop a project.

              Just another option.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by taxgeek
                Well, here's what I do.

                If a NA looks like (I'm a lawyer, each client is a project pretty much).

                "JOE SMITH: draft revocable trust"

                and I get the trust all drafted and send it to the client, I'll IMMEDIATELY change that same Outlook task (or Palm Todo) to read

                "JOE SMITH: (wf client to review draft trust)"

                and move it to the appropriate context list (Waiting for, in this case).
                One thing I like to do is put today's date onto items I move into "Waiting for...". So, in your example, my "Waiting for..." item would be:

                "JOE SMITH: 4/26, mailed client revocable trust draft for review"

                Then when I look through my "Waiting for..."s during my weekly review, I can easily see how long things have been languishing. If poor Mr. Smith isn't quite as organized as I am, after two or three weeks I'll look at that "Waiting for..." item and say, "Damn, that's old. I'll never get to bill this schmoe until we wrap this up. I'll turn this into a @Call item."

                Comment

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