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Proects, Tasks, and End Dates for Non-tangible Items

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  • Proects, Tasks, and End Dates for Non-tangible Items

    Hi. I need help identifying how to place end dates and tangible criteria around many items, especially projects/goals that aren't tangible or could be ongoing.

    Lets say I want to learn to use Photoshop. Assume I have no knowledge of how to use it, but I know I want to make posters for my company. There aren't end dates for the posters - they're nice advertising, but not required for any specific date. I can create tasks with next actions easily, my issue is either (or both):
    1. How do I know what my expected dates for the tasks should be? I may not even know certain tasks I need. For example, I may not know I need to learn which color mode (RGB, CMYK, etc..) and therefore need another task to learn about those.
    2. I have many projects that fit this scenario. I'd presume that any project of 'learn to do <x>' would fall into this scenario. How do I order them against each other without a date?

    How would GTD say to handle this scenario?

  • #2
    I usually do not have deadlines, either. That's normal. For most things every day counts, in some cases more so than others. I flag the particularly important/urgent ones with a red mark to make sure I do not overlook them inadvertently (before perhaps still deciding to do something else instead due to contextual factors etc).

    There is always a next action. If you cannot see one, then there is always the default next action, which is to analyze it a bit more (review/reprocess it) and find out what the next action really should be (or figure out the whole project plan if you prefer). It is my understanding that this is what David Allen suggests, too.

    In addition, I'll tell you an ugly-elegant shortcut (not exactly by the book): I have a "context" called Reflection. If I do not know right now how to deal with an issue I put it down as @Reflection. And actually, despite its name, it actually refers to a context - the required peace of mind, available time etc that I know I will need to be able to figure out the answer; and when I have found the answer I just change the context (and probably rephrase it, too).

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    • #3
      Originally posted by i'llgtd View Post
      How do I order them against each other without a date?
      Oh, you use dates to order your projects against each other. That's an interesting idea.

      Comment


      • #4
        It sounds to me as if you're over-prioritizing dates. Rather than finding a way to artificially attach a date, I'd suggest using other methods for prioritizing your goals.

        Some possible ways to judge:

        - What's more fun?
        - What will impress the boss more?
        - What will look better on your resume?
        - What would be a pleasant change of pace? If most of your work is more abstract, maybe you'd like to do the visual work of the posters.
        - What will help with more of your existing work? If you've had several occasions in the past year when posters would have been useful, and only one when you thought that recording a web video would have come in handy, then it sounds like the posters are the more useful effort.
        - What's actionable? If you already have a license for Photoshop, but you don't have a decent video camera, that's another reason to start with Photoshop.

        As you can see from these, it's really, in the end, just a judgement call.

        One possible way to add structure: Maybe you decide that you're in a rut at work and that you're going to carve out five hours a week to doing Something New, no matter what it takes. Then you decide that you'd kind of like to be making new posters around back-to-school time next year.

        That's about seven months, and you don't know how much work it will be, so you conclude that you're going to devote the whole five hours of time each week to Photoshop, until you feel that you can make a decent poster. If you get done before the seven months are up, then you'll pick your next project.

        Alternatively, of course, you could decide that you'll work on two out of your list of possible projects, because you might get bored with one.

        Then you ask yourself, what's the very first thing I can do? Well, you've heard of those color mode things, so you write a task:

        Next Action: Spend one hour reading about color modes in the context of PhotoShop.

        Now you're ready to go. You don't have to have a big master plan, you just need a single action. When that's done, write and work another action. Until you're done.

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        • #5
          I totally agree with cwoodgold and Gardener about dates. Simply give up the use of arbitrary dates altogether - i.e. give up using pure "planning" dates that you could change anytime without even asking anyone. But do keep a correct record of dates that you have explicitly agreed to or that have been explicitly laid down as "ultimatums" to you.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Folke View Post
            There is always a next action. If you cannot see one, then there is always the default next action, which is to analyze it a bit more (review/reprocess it) and find out what the next action really should be (or figure out the whole project plan if you prefer). It is my understanding that this is what David Allen suggests, too.
            Yeah, definitely. If you don't want to decide something now but don't want to forget it, DA suggests you come up with mechanism to remind you that there is a decision pending. It's the "incubate" part of the GTD workflow.

            Originally posted by Folke View Post
            In addition, I'll tell you an ugly-elegant shortcut (not exactly by the book): I have a "context" called Reflection. If I do not know right now how to deal with an issue I put it down as @Reflection. And actually, despite its name, it actually refers to a context - the required peace of mind, available time etc that I know I will need to be able to figure out the answer; and when I have found the answer I just change the context (and probably rephrase it, too).
            What's "ugly" about that? It sounds like an excellent approach. It's creative but it's entirely consistent with GTD. You're incubating something.

            Personally when I run into a roadblock with determining the next action I'll add "spend time planning project abc" in my Anywhere context. "Spend time planning" may or may not be a proper "next action" but it works for me.

            Still, I can see the merit in your approach as well and it's a great suggestion.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Folke View Post
              I totally agree with cwoodgold and Gardener about dates. Simply give up the use of arbitrary dates altogether - i.e. give up using pure "planning" dates that you could change anytime without even asking anyone. But do keep a correct record of dates that you have explicitly agreed to or that have been explicitly laid down as "ultimatums" to you.
              Ditto what Folke said. Arbitrary due dates aren't useful.

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              • #8
                @Brainstorm

                Similar to Folke, I have a context called Brainstorm. I am a very visual/kinesthetic person so to get ideas out of my head I use mind maps. I need to grab a large sheet of paper and coloured pencils and my favourite ink pen and then get it down as it comes to mind. Once I have done a brain dump I am able to put the tasks back into OmniFocus (my current GTD tool). Without this step I am not very efficient and have too many things in my head.

                I need quiet, or someone to chat to about it, to do this step and ideally a large clear space to spread out on. Sometimes I start with one main idea and end up spread over 5 large sheets (A3) of paper. My ideal scenario is that I would then photograph these pages for a VA to import into OF for me as that takes me hours and I would rather be implementing

                I hope that helps at all?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Duckienz View Post
                  Similar to Folke, I have a context called Brainstorm. I am a very visual/kinesthetic person so to get ideas out of my head I use mind maps. I need to grab a large sheet of paper and coloured pencils and my favourite ink pen and then get it down as it comes to mind. Once I have done a brain dump I am able to put the tasks back into OmniFocus (my current GTD tool). Without this step I am not very efficient and have too many things in my head.

                  I need quiet, or someone to chat to about it, to do this step and ideally a large clear space to spread out on. Sometimes I start with one main idea and end up spread over 5 large sheets (A3) of paper. My ideal scenario is that I would then photograph these pages for a VA to import into OF for me as that takes me hours and I would rather be implementing

                  I hope that helps at all?
                  I also find talking to someone very helpful for brainstorming on an issue. But in the workplace it's not always easy to find a person to talk to. Alternatively I use the Free Writing technology introduced in the book Accidental Genius. But again to me talking to someone trustworthy is far better.

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                  • #10
                    Oh!

                    Originally posted by Clandy View Post
                    Alternatively I use the Free Writing technology introduced in the book Accidental Genius.
                    I will have to look into this. Thank you

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                    • #11
                      Projects vs areas of focus/goals

                      In the examples listed, I would see "learning Photoshop" as a goal or "getting better at Photoshop" as on ongoing area of focus, depending on whether it becomes an ongoing thing. A project could be to find and complete a particular book or tutorial about Photoshop - that way the project describes something specific with an end. (you have to be able to complete a project) If you don't want to start on it now, it might be best to put it on a Someday list.

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