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  • Projects and "project-ettes"

    Here's something I continue to wrestle with. Ok, so I get than any "thing" I have to do that is more than 2 steps is supposed to be logged on my project list, right?

    Well.... I find it confusing to have complex projects: e.g., "complete 2004 annual plan", "find preschool for D"

    and shorter, less complex projects: e.g., "Get advice on my GTD questions" (I have two, but am limiting myself to one today), or "show my group Melissa's sample test plan" (which involves, getting the plan, reviewing what I want to say, scheduling time at the meeting, making copies - not one step, but also not incredibly complicated)

    on the same list. Does anyone else find this confusing? Any solutions?

    Thanks -- mb

  • #2
    Confusing as heck to me, mb. I'm in the same boat and struggling. I feel like the more I get out of my head and into the system the more complicated the system becomes. I am trying hard (again ) to do things the GTD way because I am finding that I'll forget to make the copies for the review meeting if I don't write it down.

    It's all a matter of tuning for your personal needs to find what is right for you. I am tweaking, rearranging and scrapping my system constantly because I can't get a good feel. I don't look kindly on my creations so I don't use it and slip back into chaos.

    It would be great if we could get some folks who are successful in GTD to put up their structures so we can learn from them. That would help me feel more at ease and beleive that I really can do this.

    Comment


    • #3
      MB,

      On the fly, I sometimes find that two-step projects are done before I even get them to the project list. Other times, something I think will be just one step ends up being several steps -- I end up adding new "next actions," one after another, before I even realize I have a project. For some of these, "creating" a project on the project list would actually add a more time-consuming task to the process than "just doing it."

      Rather than trying to keep all this straight as I'm rolling through the week, I tend to mop up during the weekly review. At that point, I make sure all the NAs are associated with projects (if that's appropriate), and I try to put the projects into "focus areas."

      Not a great system, but it keeps me in the process.

      Kal

      Comment


      • #4
        Link between projects and next actions

        Regarding the big/small projects discussion, I've got an extra question. Whether big or small projects, linking the action I just completed back to the project and generating a new next action is something I actually find pretty hard.

        Yes, I've got a feel for which project it is, of course, but sometimes you really need to browse that list of projects. Most of the time I just start working on the next action I think I can do on the item - without specifying that next action.

        Now, is that necessarily a bad thing? In a sense, to me, it is. I'm in effect rarely working off my next projects list. I start working on something and just keep at it for a while, punctuated by email reading, weblog reading, etc. My feeling is that I'd be much more effective when I'd really work off the next action list. But somewhere there's a blockade for really doing that.

        Perhaps the blockade is that it isn't totally clear/automatic for me if/when/how to define a next action when you've just completed something. Any takers?

        Reinout

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        • #5
          What are you using as your "capture tool"? Paper planner or PDA?

          Comment


          • #6
            mini projects

            >the more I get out of my head and into the system the more complicated the system becomes.

            mb, I agree with you wholeheartedly. When I first started using GTD , I really enjoyed it, because my lists were small and immediate life type tasks. Then I started ramping up to include work projects, and my system now seems to be collapsing under its own weight.

            My Next Action (sorted by context) and Project lists (sorted by life categories) are a little disorganized now. Sometimes I resist collecting new thoughts, because I don't want to have to think, "Is this a Next Action, or is this a Project? What context? What life category?" Since I think collection *is* a key habit, I do capture everything, in an area called In Box, then I assign them to Next Actions or Projects later.

            So I don't have an answer yet. Just thought I'd validate your concern.

            p.s. I'm eight weeks into using GTD faithfully, i.e. all 100% of GTD. Capture tool is Palm (Memo Pad).

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Link between projects and next actions

              Originally posted by reinout
              I'm in effect rarely working off my next projects list.
              just curious, was this a typo, or do you really have a next projects list?

              I thought the purpose of the projects list was to capture all your open loops so you could get them off your mind.

              back on topic, I've also felt uncomfortable having important, complex projects mixed in with run-of-the-mill, one-time projects. I'm still implementing GTD, but here's what I'm experimenting with now. (I'm using a paper system.)

              I've identified 8-10 very-important, complicated projects that will be on-going for several months. I put these at the top of my projects list, left room to add a few more, drew a line, and then put the run-of the-mill projects below. I have a folder for project plans and reference materials for each above-the-line project. (Some of these plans haven't been made yet, but they have a place where they will go.) I keep all these folders just behind my tickler file: weekly review folder (still developing a checklist for that), projects list folder, someday/maybe lists folder, project plan folders. I look at all of these during the weekly review. Sometimes I add or cross off projects during the week, but I don't feel the need to have a projects list with me all the time.

              This alleviates the anxiety I feel (for whatever reason) at having those really important projects in amongst all the others.

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              • #8
                reinout, I just re-read your post and think you meant next actions list.

                I also find myself not looking at my next actions lists very often. I'm going to work on that this week. The main value of the NA lists for me is not so much using them to decide among possible next actions, but forcing myself to think about and identify the Next Actions in the first place.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Student wrote:
                  reinout, I just re-read your post and think you meant next actions list.
                  Yes, correct. Next action list. Thanks for noticing

                  I'm using a palm instead of paper, which helps me to keep a good eye on the important projects. My projects are a separate TODO category, the category is sorted according to priority (1-5). Just putting the 3 or so most important projects on priority 1 and the rest on 5 separates them for me.

                  The main value of the NA lists for me is not so much using them to decide among possible next actions, but forcing myself to think about and identify the Next Actions in the first place.
                  Defining the next actions and thus thinking about them is important in itself, but there is something more. Having that list should allow you to work on autopilot for a few days. Just take an item from the list and do it. Repeat. Repeat. So having a really complete list might make you mighty productive for a few days.

                  This morning I took one urgent project and brainstormed about it, generating some six next actions. Not just one, but six. I dumped them in my palmpilot and kept at them doggedly for the rest of the day. It works like a charm, doing work, checking off an item. Repeat. Repeat. But it is more than just one single next action item.

                  A bit of a conclusion is in order after such a lengthy post. Let me take my behaviour this morning as an example. I had an initial next action: brainstorm next actions on xxxx. From that I got some six next actions, which I dumped into my system. Not just the very first next action, but the whole lot of six next actions (there is a lot more to come, btw). Conclusion: it is OK to brainstorm a couple of next actions, you're not restricted to just one.

                  Is there a reason to stick to just one next action? If so, how do you iterate back to the original project to generate the second next action? When do you iterate back to that project?

                  Reinout

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                  • #10
                    Massive Parallel Processing.

                    Reinout,
                    Next Action is an Action which does not depend on any other Project's Action. So it is possible to have more than one Next Action if they are not dependant. It seems that your Project with six Next Actions requires massive parallel processing or maybe it consists of more than one definable subprojects.
                    TesTeq

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by student
                      I also find myself not looking at my next actions lists very often. I'm going to work on that this week. The main value of the NA lists for me is not so much using them to decide among possible next actions, but forcing myself to think about and identify the Next Actions in the first place.
                      This, ahem, isn't true after all. I'm a grad student without internet access at home. What I rarely look at is my *at home* NA list. What's on it is mostly housework type projects and studying, and there's no avoiding these items at home. What I have found extremely helpful and refer to at least daily are my not-at-home NA lists. What's my next action at the library, at email, at the web, errands-walking, etc. My system and lists are still incomplete, but these context driven NA lists have made a huge difference already.

                      For important projects, whenever I plan, or just have an idea about one of them, I write down most independent NAs on my lists, some in my tickler file for when they seem appropriate, and any dependent actions or misc ideas stay as notes in the file, where I can't go a week without seeing them.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just a couple of thoughts after reading this thread...

                        Originally posted by mb
                        Well.... I find it confusing to have complex projects: e.g., "complete 2004 annual plan", "find preschool for D"

                        and shorter, less complex projects: e.g., "Get advice on my GTD questions" (I have two, but am limiting myself to one today), or "show my group Melissa's sample test plan" (which involves, getting the plan, reviewing what I want to say, scheduling time at the meeting, making copies - not one step, but also not incredibly complicated)

                        on the same list. Does anyone else find this confusing? Any solutions?
                        I struggled with this, too, especially with I first started implementing GTD. I think initially I hesitated to create those less complex projects, just for this reason. I don't have any clear advice here, except to say that as I continued to practice GTD, it really stopped becoming an issue.

                        Originally posted by reinout
                        Regarding the big/small projects discussion, I've got an extra question. Whether big or small projects, linking the action I just completed back to the project and generating a new next action is something I actually find pretty hard.

                        Yes, I've got a feel for which project it is, of course, but sometimes you really need to browse that list of projects. Most of the time I just start working on the next action I think I can do on the item - without specifying that next action.
                        Here's what I do to link next actions to their projects. Each project has a short code associated with it, and each next action starts with that code.

                        Here's an example project:

                        Prepare XYZ report

                        Here are the next actions associated with that project (some on context lists, others waiting for a previous action to be completed):

                        XYZ: Call B for info on problem A
                        XYZ: Draft response to situation B
                        etc.


                        Also, there are times when I don't define each and every next action for a project before doing it. For example, last week I was working on a project that I knew would consume most of my work day. I started in the morning and worked on the project (even doing next actions I hadn't listed) until lunch. Then, I identified the next action to get started with after lunch, and when I got back, I picked up where I had left off. In this way, the next action almost serves as a bookmark. Work on a project until you need to stop, either because of time restraints or because the next action is in a different context, then place a marker somewhere in your system so you know how to move forward with that project later.

                        Originally posted by reinout
                        Is there a reason to stick to just one next action? If so, how do you iterate back to the original project to generate the second next action? When do you iterate back to that project?
                        There are several projects on my list with multiple next actions, and it works well. Sometimes, though, I do limit the number of actions I link to my context lists if (1) the project isn't as time sensitive, and I can wait until the next weekly review to generate more next actions or (2) adding too many next actions would be too overwhelming.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Link between projects and next actions

                          Originally posted by reinout
                          ...Most of the time I just start working on the next action I think I can do on the item - without specifying that next action.

                          Now, is that necessarily a bad thing? In a sense, to me, it is. I'm in effect rarely working off my next projects list. I start working on something and just keep at it for a while, punctuated by email reading, weblog reading, etc. My feeling is that I'd be much more effective when I'd really work off the next action list. But somewhere there's a blockade for really doing that.
                          I'm not sure that's a bad thing. One challenge the next action list presents is that it does not represent all work that needs to be done--just the very next action for each project. It's not meant to be used like an A1,A2,B1 list. Because the actions are short and discreet, we'd hardly ever get a single project done if we flitted about our various projects' next actions like butterflies. In other words, next actions are not an inventory of work to be done, they are a series of place-holders or bookmarks of where we left off and where we need to begin again to move a project towards completion.

                          C

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                          • #14
                            project support material: bingo

                            One thing recently helped to improve my project handling: separating the project support material from the reference material. I noticed that I didn't have an action/not_action seperation in the materials that I was storing. So after a bit of searching on this forum I seperated them.

                            Now I have a dedicated folder for most of my projects. Ah, the freedom of storing a lot of material in a reference folder (mostly having the same name) while not overflowing the project folder with a lot of crud.

                            The relevance to this thread? Well, I noticed I didn't create a folder for every project. Some just didn't warrant it. Mostly small "projecettes". Just two or three email replies to be done etcetera. Those really small things just exist on my palmpilot in order to remind me of them. I've prefaced them with an underscore to indicate that they don't have their own project folder.

                            The rest has a dedicated project folder. Perhaps it just contains a piece of paper with some brainstorming done on it, but some are getting quite full. Yeah, having a paper-based folder to supplement the palmpilot project item, great.

                            Reinout[/b]

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                            • #15
                              Little Projects v. Big Projects

                              The discussion about little versus big projects hits home to me; it is something I struggled with. My Projects list (in ShadowPlan on the Palm), is broken into sections with Items as one section and Projects as another. To me, Items are the little one or two step things that are simple or straightforward, and Projects are things that are more complicated. This helps me keep them straight. And since they are all in one long outline, I use tags and filters in ShadowPlan so I can look at different things in different contexts. Hope this helps.

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