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  • Next Actions and Project list connection

    I like the idea of project list. It provides a visibility and connection with higher levels that's cool. It is clear how to use the project list when I go down from my areas of responsibility and goals downwards. Not quite sure I get how to use them when I need to go upwards. Imagine a friend of mine was calling. I missed the call. When processing I saw the call and wrote a next action to call him back. Now I have my next action on the list and it's not connected to any project.

    Should I leave it as it is or process it again to give it a project (or higher level connection)?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Kornet View Post
    I like the idea of project list. It provides a visibility and connection with higher levels that's cool. It is clear how to use the project list when I go down from my areas of responsibility and goals downwards. Not quite sure I get how to use them when I need to go upwards. Imagine a friend of mine was calling. I missed the call. When processing I saw the call and wrote a next action to call him back. Now I have my next action on the list and it's not connected to any project.

    Should I leave it as it is or process it again to give it a project (or higher level connection)?
    The project-next action connection issue gets a lot of attention, but what you should do depends on you and on what tools you use. It's generally good practice to write your next actions so that you know why you have it as a next action, as in "Call Tom re movie tonight" rather than "Call Tom." But if it's a phone call from a friend, maybe there is no need to write anything more than "Return Tom's call."

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    • #3
      Keep in mind that a project is defined as something that will require more than one action to complete. Therefore if you have an item like that, it doesn't need a project associated with it. For me, for data completeness in my system I put "Single Action" in the project field against anything like this.

      Note - the risk of this for me of course is that I am lazy and put "Single Action" next to items that actually are projects. This is where the weekly review is important, to keep myself honest on this.

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      • #4
        If you are using your lists correctly (ie not as a project plan) then it should be fairly obvious what the connections are. They key is that your next action really is the NEXT action and doesn't have contingencies that prevent you from doing it. Actions that need to happen in the future go on either your calendar, tickler and/or project plans.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ero213 View Post
          If you are using your lists correctly (ie not as a project plan) then it should be fairly obvious what the connections are. They key is that your next action really is the NEXT action and doesn't have contingencies that prevent you from doing it. Actions that need to happen in the future go on either your calendar, tickler and/or project plans.
          While this is the textbook answer, GTD is not very proscriptive on what project plans look like or where they are kept. I find it fairly easy to make next actions too big or too small, and sometimes they just go stale. I have about 100 projects and 500 next actions total in OmniFocus. Using software like OmniFocus does not completely solve the problem, but helps quite a bit.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
            While this is the textbook answer, GTD is not very proscriptive on what project plans look like or where they are kept. I find it fairly easy to make next actions too big or too small, and sometimes they just go stale. I have about 100 projects and 500 next actions total in OmniFocus. Using software like OmniFocus does not completely solve the problem, but helps quite a bit.
            Perhaps with so many projects it would make more sense to only define one next action per project? I mean, you might not choose to keep some actions in the project plan until it is realistic to take action on them.

            Also, projects differ in size and complexity so I imagine everyone's "project plans" are going to look a bit different. For small projects you probably don't need any plan at all. For medium size projects maybe a schedule or mind map. For big projects you probably need a full-on

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            • #7
              In my experience..

              Originally posted by Kornet View Post
              I like the idea of project list. It provides a visibility and connection with higher levels that's cool. It is clear how to use the project list when I go down from my areas of responsibility and goals downwards. Not quite sure I get how to use them when I need to go upwards. Imagine a friend of mine was calling. I missed the call. When processing I saw the call and wrote a next action to call him back. Now I have my next action on the list and it's not connected to any project.

              Should I leave it as it is or process it again to give it a project (or higher level connection)?
              Hi Kornet,

              Some have already said it, but I definitely go with the rule of not creating a project unless more than one action is involved. I have many single actions on my list that do not need a project. Projects are useful to me because I can look at them during my weekly review and identify the next action that needs to be taken, or mark it off if it is complete. Examples of a non-project actions I have on my list are: a Waiting For to hear back on a coffee date with a colleague; an Errand to pick up my tailoring, or a reminder to schedule a meeting. When I cross them off my list, I am done.

              Some examples of actions that are tied to projects are: Reading over a spreadsheet to finalize numbers for Q4 (that is part of a larger project called Quarterly reconciliation, which requires a few steps); Set up a tour meeting with co-worker (part of a larger project to familiarize a new staff member with our site).

              I hope that helps you distinguish a little. Keep up the great work- these are good questions! If you have a chance to go on our GTD Connect site, we have a webinar called 'Projects and Actions' that really gets into the differences of these lists. You can register for a free trial on our site here: https://secure.davidco.com/connect/free/14days if you would like to view that webinar.

              Warm Regards

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