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Managing actions across project lists and next actions list

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  • Managing actions across project lists and next actions list

    Hello all. I'm a GTD newbie looking for advice on how to most efficiently manage next actions across a project list and my full next actions list. I feel like I'm missing something and am hoping for some guidance.

    The Situation
    I've got a project list in Excel that contains a project name, successful outcome and next action required for each project. I then have a full next actions list in Outlook Tasks, grouped by context.

    Question
    How do I efficiently manage next actions between my project list and full next actions list? For example - If my next action for "Do taxes" is "Download turbotax", once I've done this do I have to open Excel, write down a new next action AND place that new next action into my Outlook Tasks next actions list?

    I feel like this is redundant, and I'm sure that this is not what I'm supposed to be doing. But I can't figure out how to efficiently manage next actions across my project list and full next actions list.

    I guess I could just not put next actions into my project list, but then I won't have my actions categorized by project, which I feel will be helpful in my weekly review.

    Help please!

  • #2
    Hi there,

    So is Excel so you can see all of your projects at once? How many actions for each project are listed in Excel? All or just one? Meaning, are they really project plans?

    Have you considered putting your Projects list in Outlook Tasks as well, as we describe in our GTD Setup Guide for Outlook? That way it's all in one place, although I'm sure what you're doing can work too, so I'm happy to help find some efficiency in this for you.

    In terms of methodology, yes, that's the process--move Next Actions, as you can do them, on to your current Next Actions list. Regardless of where "future" Next Actions are stored, you've got the process down.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by DBSABZB View Post
      I guess I could just not put next actions into my project list, but then I won't have my actions categorized by project, which I feel will be helpful in my weekly review.
      This pattern (or anti-pattern) comes up often enough to be familiar. As far as I can tell, most people, once they actually get their system up and running, don't really need any explicit by-project categorization in their Next Actions. I'd recommend you try running without it for a while and see if you miss it.



      Cheers.
      Roger

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Roger View Post
        This pattern (or anti-pattern) comes up often enough to be familiar. As far as I can tell, most people, once they actually get their system up and running, don't really need any explicit by-project categorization in their Next Actions. I'd recommend you try running without it for a while and see if you miss it.
        I'm not sure I agree. Once I became used to the luxury of truly having both a context view and a project view in one tool, I discovered I couldn't go back. Of course, I am using OmniFocus, which is the 900-lb gorilla of Apple gtd apps. I don't know what the best tool in the pc world would be. However, there is one thing I am pretty sure of: using two tools is not going to work very well. I am pretty sure using either Excel or Outlook would be better than both.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks everyone for the replies. Here are a few responses:

          So is Excel so you can see all of your projects at once? How many actions for each project are listed in Excel? All or just one? Meaning, are they really project plans?
          It is one action per project - the next action. So every project is its own row, and every row has 3 columns - project name, successful outcome and next action.

          Have you considered putting your Projects list in Outlook Tasks as well, as we describe in our GTD Setup Guide for Outlook? That way it's all in one place, although I'm sure what you're doing can work too, so I'm happy to help find some efficiency in this for you.
          I thought about it, but I've got well over 100 projects, which seems like it would be a ton of task categories. I haven't looked at the GTD Setup Guide for Outlook. You say that's on this site? I'll take a look.

          I'm not sure I agree. Once I became used to the luxury of truly having both a context view and a project view in one tool, I discovered I couldn't go back.
          Yes, I have found that the project view is extremely helpful and would prefer not to lose it.

          I am pretty sure using either Excel or Outlook would be better than both.
          It would be great, and I've tried. What I've found is that Outlook Tasks work very well for next actions and Excel works very well for tracking projects. But neither works well for both.

          If someone has figured out how to make one of them work for both, I am all ears.

          -DB

          Comment


          • #6
            Your brain connects the dots fine; it just doesn't remember them

            There's really no need to link your actions and projects in your system; IMO it just adds extra overhead. Excess overhead is a productivity system killer especially when the volume of work it has to manage goes through the roof.

            Your brain does it instantaneously when you review your system (when you are looking at your lists daily or during the weekly review). If you're reviewing your system regularly like you should, there's no need for explicit links in your system.

            Comment


            • #7
              There's really no need to link your actions and projects in your system; IMO it just adds extra overhead. Excess overhead is a productivity system killer especially when the volume of work it has to manage goes through the roof.

              Your brain does it instantaneously when you review your system (when you are looking at your lists daily or during the weekly review). If you're reviewing your system regularly like you should, there's no need for explicit links in your system
              It makes me nervous to kill this link, but I will try it if I can't find an efficient way to link the lists. The added overhead is definitely a system killer, as you said.

              -DB

              Comment


              • #8
                brain connects the dots--maybe for some people

                My brain will only effectively connect the dots if I am working on a single project in a single context, and I am very familiar with what I am working on. I make a lot of mistakes without being able to touch base with what I have done and not done, what I have considered doing next, and why I am doing it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DBSABZB View Post
                  It makes me nervous to kill this link, but I will try it if I can't find an efficient way to link the lists. The added overhead is definitely a system killer, as you said.

                  -DB
                  I don't know the landscape of windows applications anymore, but here is one thing to try: set up Outlook with Projects (or Projects- Work and Projects- Home) as a category. Preface every project and related next action with a unique brief identifier like HvCms for Higgs vs. Confinement manuscript. Put all the project steps that are not real next actions (not likely subsequent steps) into the notes field of the project. Then use search to filter down. Two other things: you might want to look at the gtd outlook setup guide; well over 100 projects is probably going to overwhelm your system until you get it in very good shape. If some projects are very small, there is a trick, endorsed by DA himself, for handling them. Keep one next action, of the form like "Order refill (prescriptions)" which might go in @computer. After you order them, it gets changed to "Pick-up (prescriptions)" @errands. But one way or another, you need to get to a manageable system.also

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I need links

                    Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                    There's really no need to link your actions and projects in your system; .....Your brain does it instantaneously when you review your system
                    Maybe for some people but sure not for me. No explicit link between an action and a project and between a project and an area of focus is a guaranteed way for me to not feel at all comfortable with or trusting of my system. I have to have those explicit links to feel comfortable I'm not missing something.

                    So while no links may work for some people it's not a given it will work for everyone.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Your project list doesn't need to have next actions in it. If you're storing next actions in Outlook it is redundant to have them listed again in Excel. By the way, you need to have at least one next action per project, but not only one so usually projects have many next actions, and this could be a limitation by using Excel.
                      If you want to organise your Outlook tasks by project, just use a project abbreviation or code at the beginning of the action name, eg Home reno: buy paint, so you can see at once all the projects and all the next actions in your Outlook list.

                      I originally started in Excel for my project list but moved to Word, so I have a file for each AOF, and each project is a heading in Word, and I have all the support info there, plus checklists for actions. So all the possible and future actions are in Word, and the next actions are in my list manager (Pocket Informant on the iPhone). I don't need these to link, and I don't write next actions in Word because that would be redundant and unnecessary.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                        Your project list doesn't need to have next actions in it. If you're storing next actions in Outlook it is redundant to have them listed again in Excel. By the way, you need to have at least one next action per project, but not only one so usually projects have many next actions, and this could be a limitation by using Excel.
                        If you want to organise your Outlook tasks by project, just use a project abbreviation or code at the beginning of the action name, eg Home reno: buy paint, so you can see at once all the projects and all the next actions in your Outlook list.

                        I originally started in Excel for my project list but moved to Word, so I have a file for each AOF, and each project is a heading in Word, and I have all the support info there, plus checklists for actions. So all the possible and future actions are in Word, and the next actions are in my list manager (Pocket Informant on the iPhone). I don't need these to link, and I don't write next actions in Word because that would be redundant and unnecessary.
                        Thank you for this advice. The project code is a good idea to link next actions while eliminating redundancy in the Projects and Next Actions lists. I think I'll give this a shot.

                        Comment

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