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Linking projects to next actions (Yeah, like this hasn't been discussed before...)

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  • Linking projects to next actions (Yeah, like this hasn't been discussed before...)

    .....
    Last edited by bcmyers2112; 12-02-2013, 09:00 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
    Do you struggle, as I do, with remembering whether you've got at least one next action for each of your projects when doing the weekly review? Do you use software that links NA's and projects? Do you have some other trick you use? Or is this just not a problem for you?
    I realize that my input is perhaps not what you value most, but anyway, FWIW:

    1) Do you struggle, as I do, with remembering whether you've got at least one next action for each of your projects when doing the weekly review?
    No. I can see this easily in the list. No problem at all assuming I have each project defined as a project, but please also see comment below *).

    2) Do you use software that links NA's and projects?
    Yes. I use Doit now, and used Nirvana before that. Both do this out of the box. And before that I use Toodledo, where you can set it up in that way.

    3) Do you have some other trick you use?
    Well, lots probably. One you mentioned yourself is to make notes for things that the app has no "fields" for. For example, I tend to manually write clients' names etc into the task name (if the name is not obvious *) and an "entered date" just to be able to see (remember) how long I've kept something unattended to or have been waiting. Please also see comment below *)

    4) Or is this just not a problem for you?
    It would be a bit of a problem if my software didn't link actions to projects. If I recall correctly, though, in the old paper days I think I used have many more "next lists" (although they didn't have such a nice name in those days.)

    Have you tried using CRM software? Or a special Excel sheet for initial prospecting/funneling? If you have many clients to deal with it may well be more effective to have a separate system, tailored for these activities.

    *) Personally, currently, I have projects defined for "major" clients/jobs only, not for general prospecting and other small stuff. For these "smaller" things I manage to stay afloat by just shuffling (and rewording) tasks between Next, Waiting, Tickler etc. and keeping the name of the potential client visible in the task line. And in addition I "abuse" the app's project functionality by keeping such single actions collected in an appropriate AoR "project" (permanent bucket).

    Hope that helps. YMMV.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bcmyers2112
      ... but for major campaigns (like if I have a specific list of 200 accounts to cold-call, cycling through that list is a project in my view that belongs on my projects list). If I reach someone who is interested but where I haven't yet identified a fully qualified opportunity, there may still be a project, though. "Prep for demo for ABC Account", for example.
      I guess it depends a lot on where your CRM software leaves off. In the extreme case, if the CRM package allows you to manage more or less all kinds of activities ("prep for demo", "send quotation", "send agreement for signature" etc) then maybe in your own GTD system it is enough to just keep a task that says, more or less, just something like "work the CRM system".

      I guess the real difficulty begins if some of those "CRM tasks" require context based coordination with your other activities, for example do a demo at a client's place and perhaps do some unrelated errands in that part of town at the same time. And you will also have to fit this in with your other calendar appointments. In those kinds of cases I think it is inevitable that there will be some amount of double work, keeping the same thing listed in more places than just one, and keeping them manually "in sync".

      I do lots of similar double work and "manual syncing", but I do not really suffer from it. I am used to it and never expected anything else. For example, if I work with some people we may have a shared calendar, shared action lists etc etc, but I still maintain my own version of what I will do and I will maintain the "linkages" manually and at my own discretion. The shared material is just "reference material" for me. In it there is usually plenty of stuff that I do not care about, and in my own material there can be things that I do not want to share with the others. I do not think it is possible to eliminate double work. I believe maybe the same could be true for you when you use a CRM system.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
        Anyway, I am curious about other forum member's experiences...

        That's what the forums are all about! So let's see here...

        1. Do you struggle, as I do, with remembering whether you've got at least one next action for each of your projects when doing the weekly review?

          Hmmm. No, but now that I think about it, I don't really pay a lot of attention to whether every project has a next action when it comes to weekly reviews.

          Yeah, yeah, I know -- heresy. But what I mean is that what I care about is whether a project is moving in the direction and at a rate that I'm happy with, and the degree to which it's on my mind. Which just brings us around back to next actions, of course, so maybe it doesn't really make any difference, but I don't find myself in the situation of trying to remember whether a particular project is weighing on my mind.

        2. Do you use software that links NA's and projects?

          Nah, I'm still pretty non-software when it comes to GTD. Did enjoy using evernote for a while earlier this year, but ended up moving away from it.

        3. Do you have some other trick you use? Or is this just not a problem for you?

          It's not really a problem for me, but for the first time I've seen it explained how it could be a problem, so thanks for that. If I ended up with a large number of projects which were all very similar to each other, then it does make a certain amount of sense.




        Cheers,
        Roger

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        • #5
          I'm currently using Omnifocus to link projects to next actions. Although minimal flat lists appeal to me, weekly reviews were deeply repelling. What I have done is dumped a "projects in areas of focus folders" organization in favor of an "Eisenhower folder arrangement" where projects are sorted into bins based on urgency and importance. I like it better than anything else I've tried. Because projects with a lot of currently moving parts tend to be near the top, I find it easier to handle the mechanics of linking projects and next actions.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
            Do you struggle, as I do, with remembering whether you've got at least one next action for each of your projects when doing the weekly review? Do you use software that links NA's and projects? Do you have some other trick you use? Or is this just not a problem for you?
            No, because as part of my weekly review I absolutely review the current next action and if I don't have one the project comes up as a stalled project so I know I have to create an action for it. Also during review if I recognize that an action is not getting done or a project is not moving that is a signal to me that I have failed to properly plan it out using the planning model and probably don't have the real next action in my lists.

            Yes, I much prefer linking all next actions to projects. I don't think in flat lists and the 2 I have for misc. and for errands cause me problems on occasion when I inadvertently put an action that is really a project in there thinking it's a single one-off action. I've learned that I need to keep those 2 lists to less than 10 items each (ideally no more than 5 items on each list) or they become dumping grounds for projects that have not been planned correctly.

            Biggest trick is to trust in the system I set up and to really spend the time to plan my projects. even simple ones benefit from at least 4-5 minutes of deliberate thinking about my outcomes and actions or I get strung out trying to do too much and losing my place.

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            • #7
              bcmyers2112, your situation seems like the textbook case for linking projects to next actions. Back when DA first released the book, most people implemented GTD on paper, Outlook or maybe a Palm.... none of which had linking capability out of the box. People had to come up with all sorts of hacks to create links and that required maintenance and friction. Software has come a long way and linking options are much better and easier to use than a decade ago. Today, the software DA promotes and uses does linking! I've done it both ways, and while I completely get the advantages of not linking, for me as the number of projects grows so does the need for links. ADHD & 200 projects? Run, don't walk, back to your linking software.

              One "cheat" I use to reduce the size of my project list is for simple, small projects. I create a one line mini-project in a single task; something like: "Laundry. Wash. Dry. Fold." and then just delete a word as it gets completed. I use the caps & period syntax because it's easy to create on the iPhone, and easy to recognize as a mini-project.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by notmuch View Post
                bcmyers2112, your situation seems like the textbook case for linking projects to next actions. Back when DA first released the book, most people implemented GTD on paper, Outlook or maybe a Palm.... none of which had linking capability out of the box. People had to come up with all sorts of hacks to create links and that required maintenance and friction. Software has come a long way and linking options are much better and easier to use than a decade ago. Today, the software DA promotes and uses does linking! I've done it both ways, and while I completely get the advantages of not linking, for me as the number of projects grows so does the need for links. ADHD & 200 projects? Run, don't walk, back to your linking software.

                One "cheat" I use to reduce the size of my project list is for simple, small projects. I create a one line mini-project in a single task; something like: "Laundry. Wash. Dry. Fold." and then just delete a word as it gets completed. I use the caps & period syntax because it's easy to create on the iPhone, and easy to recognize as a mini-project.
                Really? I bought the Making it All Work audiobook as it's a lot easier to listen to it on my commute to work than to find time to read it, and one of the points he emphasised on a few occasions was that linking every action to a project was probably more trouble than it was worth. While I absolutely see the sense in this, in today's world the software is so smart you can use hotkeys and auto-complete to add tags and projects in an instant. Personally speaking, when a task is tied in to a project I find much more motivation in doing that task knowing I am closer to completing that project and sending it to the archives.

                I think the key though is to stick to the system or app that you like and not keep chopping and changing. I'm probably not much different to most people in that I suffer from shiny toy syndrome and can't resist trying out too many new wonder apps, but I generally come back to the one that feels right to me and I really don't want the upheaval of learning something new every few months when it's far more productive just to get the best out of what you are already using.

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                • #9
                  One "cheat" I use to reduce the size of my project list is for simple, small projects. I create a one line mini-project in a single task; something like: "Laundry. Wash. Dry. Fold." and then just delete a word as it gets completed. I use the caps & period syntax because it's easy to create on the iPhone, and easy to recognize as a mini-project.
                  I like this a lot and might just steal it! Many of my repetative projects are short and have a happy path which is followed 90% of the time.

                  From what I remember, DA sees the value of linking actions to projects but hasn't seen a system where the effort in maintaining the linking is low enough to justify it.

                  For what it's worth, I link my projects to my next actions. I thought it was my dirty little secret until I read this thread. However, my software is just too clunky. Someone suggested autocomplete. I'd go one better and go for an autosuggest based on fuzzy matching. Even if you mistype it or only guess at a couple of words in the project title, it has a good chance of bringing the right one up.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by notmuch View Post
                    One "cheat" I use to reduce the size of my project list is for simple, small projects. I create a one line mini-project in a single task; something like: "Laundry. Wash. Dry. Fold." and then just delete a word as it gets completed. I use the caps & period syntax because it's easy to create on the iPhone, and easy to recognize as a mini-project.
                    I use that extensively, too. I just can't stand having a long "project list" of multi-step tasks (GTD 10k projects). I keep only "real" projects in my project list. I sometime also use tasks with subtasks for these small 10 k thingies.

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                    • #11
                      I hardly believe this

                      Originally posted by AJS View Post
                      Really? I bought the Making it All Work audiobook as it's a lot easier to listen to it on my commute to work than to find time to read it, and one of the points he emphasised on a few occasions was that linking every action to a project was probably more trouble than it was worth.
                      Honestly, I find this hard to believe. Maybe if you only have a dozen of projects... but if you have a lot of projects and some are very similar, then some kind of link seems absolutely necessary. How am I supposed to know which project goes with next action "write introduction paragraph" or "buy screws with dimensions xyz"??? Unless you would write the name of the project in the next action itself. But hey, then you ARE making a link!

                      I'm a consultant and I use a mix between projects and clients to make the reference. My lists are in Excel, and once I used a project or client name for the first time, it just comes up with auto fill... it also allows me to do mini reviews, per client or per project (filtering the information). No need for special functions to do that...

                      For all of the simple actions or miniprojects (fill out form x, mail y, ...) I use a global reference, like my own name, if it has to do with my personal development, or the name of my company if it's work related administration.

                      greetings
                      Myriam

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