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Having trouble determining "projects" for personal life

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  • Having trouble determining "projects" for personal life

    I'm missing something basic. I've applied GTD to work. I've identified all of my projects, which was easy. I periodically review my project list to make sure I'm not forgetting something.

    But I can't figure out what's considered a project when it comes to my personal life. Certain things are obvious: deck renovation, for example. But how do I capture the on-going activities that never truly end, like laundry, fitness, finances, meal planning, cleaning, etc.? These categories seem too broad to be a "project".

  • #2
    Originally posted by zebolt View Post
    I'm missing something basic. I've applied GTD to work. I've identified all of my projects, which was easy. I periodically review my project list to make sure I'm not forgetting something.

    But I can't figure out what's considered a project when it comes to my personal life. Certain things are obvious: deck renovation, for example. But how do I capture the on-going activities that never truly end, like laundry, fitness, finances, meal planning, cleaning, etc.? These categories seem too broad to be a "project".
    Not so basic. In addition to projects and next actions, DA suggests a hierarchy of horizons of focus based on "altitude":

    0 Next Actions
    10K Projects
    20K Areas of Focus
    30K 1-2 Year Goals
    40K 3-5 Year Goals
    50K Life Goals

    Everything above projects can drive both projects and next actions, and it isn't a pyramid: not every next action has a project, and not every project goes with an area of focus. However, most people have some clear areas of focus, such as health and home, that drive both projects and next actions. So it's good to have a list of areas of focus to help trigger them.

    However, it's up to you whether you want to handle "laundry" as a recurring project, a recurring next action or just put it on your @home list when needed (it's probably not an area of focus unless you own a laundry). Some people use a weekly or daily checklists for recurring household chores, while others have "scheduled meetings with themselves", as in "saturday morning: do laundry". There's no one best way to do things, and GTD is not going to tell you there is. A lot depends on how you want to track such things. HTH!
    Last edited by mcogilvie; 08-17-2011, 08:29 PM.

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    • #3
      Complete versus Maintain

      I find this distinction the most helpful.

      Many of my personal actions are things "tied" to some 20,000 foot Area of Focus (Responsibility) and while the action gets checked off the AOF doesn't. Examples are Bills, Computer, Health, etc.

      Some seemingly small things can become projects. One of my projects is, "Buy a grill brush". Someone stole mine (Grr.) and the next action is to go down to Home Depot and look for one. But I made it a project in case I don't find one I like after running that errand.

      It's not a complex project but I put it on my GTD project list.

      The line between calling something a GTD-style project is very subtle and depends on your own comfort level. You have to experiment.

      Mark

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      • #4
        Originally posted by zebolt View Post
        But how do I capture the on-going activities that never truly end, like laundry, fitness, finances, meal planning, cleaning, etc.? These categories seem too broad to be a "project".
        They aren't projects, they are habits. A project has a start and end. A habit goes on forever. When mapping out my areas of focus, I like to identify not only projects, someday/maybes but also habits. And then for the habits I've identified I set up checklists to make sure they get done.

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        • #5
          Routines

          I agree with the previous comments about Areas. Some of the things your list are, in truth, Areas of Focus. However, my comment refers mostly to your "laundry" item.

          ---
          I have a separate set of lists (context based) for "Routines." This is where I put all my daily-weekly-monthly-yearly tasks and it's independent from my tickler file, although it could work well within it. They're also not quite checklists since I'm very familiar with the processes. I just need some external equipment to hold them so I can get them off mind and still get them done.

          Some examples:
          Task – context

          Daily
          morning yoga - home
          afternoon yoga - home
          take pills - kitchen
          fill up water bottle - kitchen
          Review daily calendars with spouse - (agenda: Spouse's name)
          write in journal - computer

          Weekly
          fill out agenda for Sunday meeting - notebook
          Listen to Japanese Podcast - Bus (I have a particular trip I take every week and it fits just right)
          Weekly update with spouse and planning of next week (agenda: spouse's name)
          Saturday night cleaning - home
          update company project lists - internet

          Every 13 days
          cut finger nails - Home

          Every 37 days
          cut hair - Susan's

          etc.

          I have these routines for laundry, cleaning, reading, exercises, weekly reviews, and many business routines like checking up on a recurring project or quarterly reports with specific individuals. My business is very small but these routines (along with clearly defined and followed purpose and principles) have helped me maintain (20,000 ft) my business and life on a constant (albeit not particularly steady) path to accomplish our vision.

          My routines list was a major breakthrough for me and has helped me relax even further about my commitments. I got a lot of help from a David Allen twitter post about a year ago on the topic that put me in the right direction, however, I don't remember it anymore (sorry!)

          Hope that helps!

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          • #6
            I use a separate app "CheckSheet" for my habits/routines, so they don't get mixed in with my next action lists. I have a checklist for my morning, evening, workday and weekend routines. It has really helped with my productivity, it's amazing how when you are tired or rundown or sick you can forget so many things you would normally do. Just a simple item on my list "check son's bag for notices' has saved me many times from missing out on school events, where as previously I would rely on my son to do this, now I have the reminder in case he forgets, which seems to be very often.

            I know a lot of people on the forums have these sort of things setup as projects, with the view that once they've established the habit they won't need the reminders anymore and will remember automatically. I'm unfortunately not like that, I am trying to pack so much in my day that if I don't have a list reminding me to do the budget, help with homework and do the million other things I'm trying to do then I will let things fall behind from sheer forgetfulness and distraction. The list keeps me focussed, and it is an essential tool in my daily life now.

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            • #7
              Thanks for the comments and ideas, everyone. I'll have to think about all of these suggestions and experiment to find the best way to capture those ongoing tasks. I'm also re-reading GTD just because I know I didn't fully grasp the Horizons of Focus section.

              It was so much easier for me to implement the workflow process at work because my projects are all discreet, definable entities. My personal life is messier.

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              • #8
                You're not the only one...

                Originally posted by zebolt View Post
                Thanks for the comments and ideas, everyone. I'll have to think about all of these suggestions and experiment to find the best way to capture those ongoing tasks. I'm also re-reading GTD just because I know I didn't fully grasp the Horizons of Focus section.

                It was so much easier for me to implement the workflow process at work because my projects are all discreet, definable entities. My personal life is messier.
                My GTD-enabled work-life is much more advanced than my home life!

                Also - if you want a better explanation of Horizons of Focus, I'd recommend Making it All Work (again by David Allen) as it goes into more depth in there than in GTD.

                cheers

                Nick

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