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How Are the Next Actions List and Projects List Are Implemented Altogether?

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  • How Are the Next Actions List and Projects List Are Implemented Altogether?

    I'm on Ch11 of GTD, but I still don't get how the next actions list and the projects list (including the project folders themselves) will work together throughout my day. From what I understand, once I've created the project, its components and sequences, I'll determine what the next physical action is. But when I place the active project on the projects list, and I determine what the next action is going to be, that's where I get confused. Will I be constantly going back and forward to my projects list to determine the next action? If that's the case, what happens when my next action is a 1 step action, and I complete it in less than 30 seconds, and then have to go back to my projects list? And what about managing the 30+ projects simultaneously as the book says? I don't get how I'll be able to focus on multiple projects at the same time, each day. Right now, my mind is looking at the management of active projects like this: little progress on each active project, but much done since I've at least performed one next action step for each project, individually.

    I don't think I'm understanding this book anymore. I feel self-deceived by the concept of it. Somebody please explain. And if you can, a step by step example would be amazing for me. I'm a visual learner, and learn better when I can imagine how it works.


    Thanks!

    EDIT:
    By the way, I thought this might be helpful, so here is how my project planner looks:
    Purpose - Principles - Vision - Process - Notes (quick access)

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jarod View Post
    I'm on Ch11 of GTD, but I still don't get how the next actions list and the projects list (including the project folders themselves) will work together throughout my day. From what I understand, once I've created the project, its components and sequences, I'll determine what the next physical action is. But when I place the active project on the projects list, and I determine what the next action is going to be, that's where I get confused. Will I be constantly going back and forward to my projects list to determine the next action? If that's the case, what happens when my next action is a 1 step action, and I complete it in less than 30 seconds, and then have to go back to my projects list? And what about managing the 30+ projects simultaneously as the book says? I don't get how I'll be able to focus on multiple projects at the same time, each day. Right now, my mind is looking at the management of active projects like this: little progress on each active project, but much done since I've at least performed one next action step for each project, individually.

    I don't think I'm understanding this book anymore. I feel self-deceived by the concept of it. Somebody please explain. And if you can, a step by step example would be amazing for me. I'm a visual learner, and learn better when I can imagine how it works.


    Thanks!
    Hi there,

    Hang in there--this is one of the more complex concepts for people to understand with GTD. But in practice, it's actually pretty easy. There are 3 key components to projects: Projects list, Next Actions, and Project Support:

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    Here is some text about this process from one of our GTD Setup Guides that might help:

    Sorting next actions by context, not by project, can initially seem awkward. Some people are used to having multiple files, piles, notepads, documents, and spreadsheets related to a project, with next actions for the project buried amongst all of that information. Next Action lists don’t replace project plans—we would just call that data “project support,” and in our experience, it rarely works to have current next actions buried among project support for day-to-day action management. Think of the last time you had 20 minutes free and decided to work on a key project. How easy was it to dig through your project support to find the immediate next actions based on the tools, people, and places available to you in the moment? Probably more repelling than attractive for you, especially if you knew there was still thinking to do from the project support.

    When your next actions are already defined and sorted by context, you can move more quickly, more easily, and more in sync with how you are naturally choosing what to do first—by context. Then project support remains the parking lot for actions that are incubated for future action. You can always add a keyword for the project in your next action or waiting for description. Just be careful that whatever additional criteria you add for creating new entries does not become a burden or requirement.

    Rest assured the Weekly Review is what ties the whole thing together, ensuring that you have actions on all the active parts of your projects on a consistent basis, largely based on those project support materials, so you can trust that what you are choosing from your Next Action lists is current. In practice, your Weekly Review is the time to review each project to make sure you have a Next Action captured for that project. Often, that means going back to your Project Support material to review your plans to see what’s next.
    You are not limited to capturing one Next Action at a time. You might have several you can do simultaneously, and all of those would be captured on your Next Actions lists sorted by context and/or Calendar. You don't necessarily have to go back to your Projects lists or Project Support unless you need that as a trigger to ask yourself, "What's the next thing I can do on this project?"

    The Managing Projects audio set is also a great support for learning about this projects piece:
    https://secure.davidco.com/store/cat...AD-p-16893.php

    Hope that helps,
    Kelly

    Comment


    • #3
      So what about doing projects that need to be completed in 6 months from now and needs certain actions to be fulfilled months before it's final due date? How would I work with that type of project?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jarod View Post
        So what about doing projects that need to be completed in 6 months from now and needs certain actions to be fulfilled months before it's final due date? How would I work with that type of project?

        So this is a project on hold for now? Meaning you are not taking any action yet? If so, it's not a project that would be on my current Projects list. It would be incubated until I can/am willing to take the first next action and would be incubated on my Someday Maybe list or Calendar to trigger me to pick the project up.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by kelstarrising View Post
          So this is a project on hold for now? Meaning you are not taking any action yet? If so, it's not a project that would be on my current Projects list. It would be incubated until I can/am willing to take the first next action and would be incubated on my Someday Maybe list or Calendar to trigger me to pick the project up.
          Well not exactly. Theoretically, it's a mini 90 days goal I want to accomplish, and certain steps will need to be completed each month to keep the project on track and moving forward for its deadline.

          But that's just an example I would like to also apply with the GTD system. I'm a web designer and I want to accomplish certain tasks every week/month if I can. But as I begin to think more about this idea, I'm assuming that would be out of the scope of GTD since it's above the 30,000 foot level?

          EDIT: By the way, I want to ask: do you work on your 30+ projects every day? Or do you normally work on like 5-10 a day? And how many next actions do you normally do for each individual project, on a normal day? 3-5? Or more?

          Comment


          • #6
            If it's a project you are committed to complete within the next 12 months or so, and you can be completing actions now toward that outcome, then it would be considered a current Project. Where you track the Next Actions is up to you. If it can be done ANY day or BY a day, it goes on a Next Actions lists. If it needs to be done ON a day or should be incubated to a date for action, then it would go on the Calendar.

            Nothing you've described so far it outside the scope of GTD. GTD's Horizons of Focus® range from Ground level (next actions) to 50,000 level (Purpose & Principles).

            What you've described so far are Ground (Next Actions) and 10,000 Level (Projects) items.

            I have about 20 current projects. I could be working on any of those on any day. Depends on my context, time available, resources, and priorities. It's a totally "it depends" answer.

            Comment


            • #7
              Similar discussion here:
              http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...Planning-ahead

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jarod View Post

                EDIT:
                By the way, I thought this might be helpful, so here is how my project planner looks:
                Purpose - Principles - Vision - Process - Notes (quick access)
                Although Kelly has given you the official word on this, I thought I would chime in with a few examples. From the above, I gather you are using paper to implement GTD, and that's always a good choice, especially when beginning. Right now, I have four primary context lists:

                @Desk (my longest list, basically me with computer at home or work)
                @Anywhere
                @University (workplace)
                @Out
                @Home

                Today, I worked at home during the morning. I had at 12:30 meeting at the university. I had two items on my @university list: pick up a package from the front office, and print a Mathematica file sent by a collaborator. After the meeting, I did both times on that list. I decided to process the package contents (forwarded mail) at home. That goes on the @home list. I looked at the Mathematical printout, decided what changes I wanted to make. I made the changes, and put an item on my @desk list to test the changes. I cannot stress to you enough how quickly I am doing this- it takes much longer to explain it than to do it, and this is a tiny part of my day. I chose to do the @university items because I knew they were quick and easy. Each next action is triggering another next action without referring back to my project list. Now my @university list is empty, so I am back at my @desk list. To use a Kelly-ism, I am snacking on my lists. Someone else might describe it as a state of flow. It's not that I'm ignoring my projects, it's that my most important projects have appropriate next actions on my lists. Not only do I trust my lists, I am looking at them all the time. I hope this gives you some idea of what the day-to-day gtd experience is like.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Another Example

                  I use a digital list system, Omnifocus for my lists. I thought I'd give an example of how I use it to manage my projects and actions.

                  I currently have 205 active projects. I keep all projects active that I can work on in the season I am in.

                  Right now on my next action lists I have a couple of actions in several of my contexts, Outside with Help and Shop Building.

                  This morning my husband had some time to help me so I pulled my Outside with Help list up on my phone and looked at it.

                  Run rams in and tease the ewes - That is an action for our Sheep AI Experiment project and is set to repeat daily. I need to do that task every day until the rams selected for semen collection ship to the USDA facility. The rams ship tomorrow so once I do it tomorrow I'll mark the whole section done and catch it on weekly review that the boys are shipped and I can stop for while until I set it up again once we put the hormones in the ewes. It takes 2 of us, one to help get the boys in to the teasing area and then I need to take notes on the behavior of the sheep and then it takes both of us to get them rams to leave the ewes and go back to their pen. We moved the rams in, moved the ewes in, I took notes on sheep behavior and tags and we put them back.

                  That was all I could do on that list before my husband had to go work on some of his projects. But I was close to the shop building so I took a quick look at my Shop Building list. Nothing on it was high priority, or they took too much time given I had to be back in the house for a phone meeting in 10 minutes so I skipped that and came inside.

                  Once in I looked at the inside by myself list, I knew I had a scheduled phone conference call in less than 10 minutes so I picked a couple of quick actions to do (Print out addresses for mailing Association newsletters, and read the Ped-E-Web update/install document. Got that done then did my scheduled conference call.

                  After my call I had time to work on my Android Programming context. I started with the action "Commit and push changes to LookUpSheep module with fixed SimpleCursorAdapter code". It's a place mark for the project. Once that was done I continued in that project until my brain fired. I then documented on my list the next action as a bookmark of where I was and moved on.

                  Next actions are bookmarks.


                  Hope that helps.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    @kelstarrising

                    Ooohh lol I'm thinking projects are in the 30,000 horizon haha. I went back to my book and I fully understand the area of focus pretty well now. Thanks for that correction!


                    @Folke
                    Reading now


                    @mcogilvie

                    I didn't catch onto it the first time I read it, but after I read chapter 12, and I came to some kind of conclusion that next actions were used as tracking to keep up with where you stopped, when working on a project.

                    See, I'm used to using a todo list a lot, so the concept of understanding I had behind next actions were that they were simple outcomes that I expected to achieve within maybe 1-5 easy steps. I never realized that next actions where more about the next easy step though lol. But during my reading GTD, I kind of figured that out somehow, but I just couldn't understand why or how — until I got to chapter 12, where it just connected all of a sudden (I felt wierdly happy as hell for like 30 minutes straight for the first time ever lol).

                    And then I read your response again, and it confirmed what I understood. I think your comment played a role in connecting everything though. Thanks! (^_^)


                    @Oogiem

                    Wish I would've read that before I finished reading up chapter 12 in the book this morning. Right toward the end of the chapter I finally came to the conclusion that next actions were just bookmarks haha. But your info is very detailed, although I'm curious about the 205 active projects part. You must be a blackbelt GTD user? lol


                    @bcmyers2112

                    Now that I think about it, she does have varied interests and talents! That opener makes me wonder how capable I will be with this new todo system now LOL.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kelstarrising View Post

                      You are not limited to capturing one Next Action at a time. You might have several you can do simultaneously, and all of those would be captured on your Next Actions lists sorted by context and/or Calendar. You don't necessarily have to go back to your Projects lists or Project Support unless you need that as a trigger to ask yourself, "What's the next thing I can do on this project?"
                      And to help Jarod along here further, Kelly... If that trigger is needed, where should he put it? He probably doesn't want to see this trigger until he has completed the several next actions that he has already come up with, but yet he wants to see the trigger before his next Weekly Review.

                      Chas29

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chas29 View Post
                        And to help Jarod along here further, Kelly... If that trigger is needed, where should he put it? He probablythought doesn't want to see this trigger until he has completed the several next actions that he has already come up with, but yet he wants to see the trigger before his next Weekly Review.

                        Chas29
                        For most people, completing a next action on a project is the trigger that puts more next actions for that project onto lists. Of course, any time is a good time to throw something into the inbox. The weekly review catches projects where a chain of next actions needs to be resumed.

                        Comment

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