Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.
A question about projects - listing completed actions? Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • A question about projects - listing completed actions?

    I'm struggling with GTD. I can understand the WHY's of using NA's and @contexts but I'm so used to listing actions within the confines of my individual projects in my old planner. Each project would be basically a To-Do list and I'd mark them as completed. How, in GTD, do you keep track of what you've accomplished for any particular project? Just additional notes attached to that project?

    Also, if my life pretty much is sitting behind a computer, the @computer really doesn't work well for me. While I'm working, I'm pretty much working ON a project or in a meeting. Would I be better served to create a @projects type list and have all my various projected related NA's there? (even if it's distributed between phone/email/internet/meeting)?

    Whew. Sorry for all the questions.

    Kenny

  • #2
    Re: A question about projects - listing completed actions?

    Originally posted by KenWise
    I'm struggling with GTD. I can understand the WHY's of using NA's and @contexts but I'm so used to listing actions within the confines of my individual projects in my old planner. Each project would be basically a To-Do list and I'd mark them as completed. How, in GTD, do you keep track of what you've accomplished for any particular project? Just additional notes attached to that project?
    You do what you have to do to track the project. Most projects (=more than one action items) don't need a lot of planning or tracking, just a desired outcome and a next action. For some people, overplanning is deadly. Tracking and reviewing what you've done can be a waste of time, or it can be a job requirement . All you really need is enough to keep going. More elaborate projects need different kinds of support. When I am starting a larger project, I may make an outline. That outline typically loses value as the project evolves. Suppose an outline becomes headings in a manuscript. Once the information in the outline is in the manuscript, it's value is transferred to the document. When I was organizing a week-long conference for 300 attendees, my colleagues and I used a master document that described the status of every subproject. That evolved into a day-by-day schedule for us filled with information, events, and tasks. But "Renew my passport" is not in the same league.
    A lot of people do put project information in note fields in a project list, of course. If there was important information elsewhere, and I thought I might forget where it was, I would put in the note a pointer to that information.

    Originally posted by KenWise
    Also, if my life pretty much is sitting behind a computer, the @computer really doesn't work well for me. While I'm working, I'm pretty much working ON a project or in a meeting. Would I be better served to create a @projects type list and have all my various projected related NA's there? (even if it's distributed between phone/email/internet/meeting)?
    First of all, I hope your life is more than sitting behind a computer You probably have non-work related projects, next actions for @Home, @Out, et cetera. Maybe you only need @Desk for work. Some people find value in batching their tasks, even though they are desk jockeys: @Calls, @Email, et cetera. It's a technique for dealing with the smaller tasks so that larger matters are not disrupted, and for keeping focus. Most people who come to GTD after experience with other systems find that a big list of project-related tasks does not work at all. There is a lot of mental judo in GTD. Remember that next actions are just next actions, not project plans. A next action is the answer to the question: what is the next incremental effort that will advance me towards my desired outcome? I can have what looks like a "project plan" but without a next action, where do I start?

    Best,
    Mike

    Comment


    • #3
      Mike,

      I realize having a long list of to-do's for a project, with some of them checked off is counter-GTD. I'm just having trouble letting go of it. There's a kind of relief for me when I can look at a particular project I've been working on for several months and go "Oh yeah! I already did that segment."

      That loss of completion (or rather "loss of notes" confirming what I have completed) is unnerving to me...at least right now. Then again, I'm one of those people that writes in things they done during the day and then checks them off.

      And yes, I do have more to life than sitting behind the desk, but my primary reason for considering GTD is due to the tactical nuke that struck my office. I have pilot projects in a stack at least 1 foot thick not to mention concurrently running projects and client sale stages that I'm multitasking. Life away from work is by-far easier.

      I'm the guy that fumbles around his desk for 5 minutes looking for that 1 piece of paper that has "important" notes jotted about a particular project.

      Comment


      • #4
        One more question to add to the thread:

        I like the idea of a single location A-Z reference system, but how would one use it if some of the reference material are in binders, dvds, cds, videotapes, etc?

        Right now, all components of a particular project (if they contain items larger than a legal size page) are located in a separate storage area. When I need material to refer to for any given project, I check my datalog (similar to the A-Z reference system and in that project, it'll list reference materials in the storage shelf. Should I maintain that?

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm in my 6th week of implementing GTD, so let me throw in a couple of reactions to some of the points you raise.
          First of all, I've found it important to keep "context" lists for a couple of reasons. If your computer is down it's nice to be able to pull out an @Office list that doesn't require the computer. No sense in going through a list of non-actionable NA's in order to triage down to something doable. Another reason is the overarching concept behind GTD - the act of putting the NA's on their respective context lists in and of itself helps clarify and define how and when something could/should be done in order to achieve maximum efficiency. The act of assigning the NA's to context lists is a part of the front-end planning that pays off when you are actually doing. It also aids in making the weekly review an integral part of tracking where you've been, where you are, and where you're going.

          I also have the situation with some large groupings of reference material that simply are too bulky to put in the A-Z file. I've found it helpful to label a file folder and mark on the label as well as on a note inside the folder what shelf or file drawer that supporting material is located in or on. It's a little bit of duplication, but well worth the time to make a label even though I "think" I would remember what I did with the stuff.

          Maybe I'll add more to this later, but these thoughts popped up in my head as I was reading this string.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by KenWise

            I realize having a long list of to-do's for a project, with some of them checked off is counter-GTD. I'm just having trouble letting go of it. There's a kind of relief for me when I can look at a particular project I've been working on for several months and go "Oh yeah! I already did that segment."
            (omitted)
            I'm the guy that fumbles around his desk for 5 minutes looking for that 1 piece of paper that has "important" notes jotted about a particular project.
            I think you should aim for the relief that comes when you look at a project, and think "I know what to do next." Forward focus rather than backward focus. (Checking off things after you do them is a kind of backward focus, especially if you don't write down the next actions at the same time.) Having half a project done is in the end no better than doing none of it, and sometimes worse.

            I have found that projects work better for me if I have several smaller projects with clear focus rather than one umberella project. For example, I went to a conference last month. I come back with several things to do: review notes, send material to several people, do an expense report, prepare a 3 page manuscript. Now those are all related to attending the conference, but they are otherwise quite distinct in many respects. Making each one a separate project gives a clear goal, and often a clear time frame.

            It also seems to me that you need to deal with stuff on the front end. Project notes go into an in basket for further processing. Pull out next actions, then file for future reference anything else. Let me tell you, when you know you have extracted all your next actions, waiting for's, et cetera from a wad of meeting notes, you feel really good. Keep the system moving. Remember, stuff will stagnate at any points of the process you fail to keep up. Try to make every step you make on every project as simple and clear as you can. Do the weekly review, as honestly as you can.

            Good Luck!
            Mike

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for the insights.

              Frankly I'm just scared at the prospect of not having a list of project components (a massive to-do list which represents the entire project build) available for review. I completely understand how the NA's are beneficial and are right on the money for my office environments, but have you (or anyone else for that matter), looked a long-term project you've been doing NA's for months on-and-on and go, "Crap. I don't recall if I've done X yet."

              That's one of the values I saw in project planning software. You new on the plan WHERE you were at any time and WHAT you've accomplished.

              Or am looking at this wrong? HOW do you let go of the things in a project you've completed?

              Comment


              • #8
                If your project is big enough to have the rigor of a project plan, you can on any weekly review see how far you have gone on the project. This would take clearly show the things you have done and how far you have come on the project and what is still left to be done. For smaller projects (with very few NAs) this should not be an issue at all.

                Ashok

                Comment


                • #9
                  If your project is big enough to have the rigor of a project plan, you can on any weekly review see how far you have gone on the project. This would take clearly show the things you have done and how far you have come on the project and what is still left to be done. For smaller projects (with very few NAs) this should not be an issue at all.

                  Ashok

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Kenwise:

                    If you have complex projects then I see nothing wrong with having a full project plan with a master list of actions, only some of which are next actions appearing on context lists.

                    For my complex projects I use MSProject to develop a detailed GANTT chart. Then I transfer actions to my context lists as needed.

                    Ken

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: A question about projects - listing completed actions?

                      [quote="KenWise"]... if my life pretty much is sitting behind a computer, the @computer really doesn't work well for me. While I'm working, I'm pretty much working ON a project or in a meeting. Would I be better served to create a @projects type list and have all my various projected related NA's there? (even if it's distributed between phone/email/internet/meeting)?

                      I frequently make the first word of the "Subject" of my action the name of the application program I will use to perform the action, then group the Task list by Action and sort by Subject. That way, if I choose to, I can continue to stay with the same application in the computer, doing a bunch of tasks, before switching to a different application. I find it saves me some time in getting through the list of things in the @Computer field, while still giving me freedom to skip around in the list, if I get sick of working on a particular type of thing, and I'm ready to do some other type of computer work.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I list future "next actions" in the notes section of my project memo. I generally don't plot out every conceivable next action. I just jot down enough next actions to get the project off my mind and so that I will have a bookmark to remember what I wanted to do. Once a next action is complete, you could easily cut and paste the completed next action into the bottom of the project note section with a date stamp. Then move one of the future next actions onto your context lists. This is a "plain vanilla" version, but there are many ways, with a little creativity, you can track completed next actions by project if you find that information to be helpful.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for all the replies and ideas everyone.

                          Because my major projects take anywhere from 6-12 months, I think I'll benefit from keeping some form of "tasks completed" list within my specific project folder. I'll still have @NA's to keep me focused on what's next, but by having this tasks completed list available to refer to, I'll be able to show my VP and principals (and myself) where I am at any specific time.

                          It's something I won't refer to that often, but be available should someone need to see what's been going on.

                          You guys ROCK!

                          Kenny

                          Comment

                          Working...
                          X