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  • Very long lists

    Iíve been using GTD for over 18 months.

    However, because I have captured and organized EVERYTHING, my lists are now very long. I have nearly 700 projects (many of which require only 2 or 3 action steps, but they could need more than one, so they are projects) and over 1600 next actions. Some of my projects are low priority, but I still want to do them, and each has a next action that could be done whenever Iím in the appropriate context, so they are active projects. I also have about 130 checklists, and hundreds of Someday Maybes.

    My problem is that to do a thorough weekly review takes several hours. Because of the time needed for the weekly review, Iíve now lost my motivation to do it, with the predictable consequence of feeling that Iíve lost control.

    Has anyone else been in this situation, and if so, how did you cope with it?

  • #2
    I suspect that some of your projects are daily/weekly/monthly/yearly routines - so create separate lists for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routines.

    I also suspect that some of these projects can be moved to Someday/Maybe category.

    Or maybe you need to delegate some projects.

    I do not thing that I could manage 700 active projects .

    TesTeq

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Very long lists

      Originally posted by Brenda
      Has anyone else been in this situation, and if so, how did you cope with it?
      Been there, too. Started to do a weekly feasibility check of what I realistically can do during the next week. Context has to be considered, but time and priority have to be considered, too. I consider only those projects that I really can make some progress on during this and next week to be active projects. A project can be active this week, inactive next week, and active again in a fortnight.

      About 60 - 70 % of my time gets scheduled with the projects I think are active and routines I have to do. The rest are time reserves for interruptions, work that takes longer than I estimated, new unexpected work, and breaks (considering my energy).

      Rainer

      Comment


      • #4
        I worked for hours until late last night giving my system a good spring clean.

        The big thing was to reduce the size of my active projects list. I actually decided to move EVERYTHING that I will not do this week onto the someday/maybe list (God bless the Palm!).

        Boy did I feel relieved. And the great thing is, none of those things have gone away, because I will look at the someday/maybe list next week and move a few back onto active.

        Also, of course, nothing on the someday/maybe list should have an NA, so this made my context lists small, manageable, and very sensible.

        Dave

        Comment


        • #5
          Something else to consider: is it possible that some of your NA's might be two minute actions? If so, they should get done without going on your list.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Very long lists

            Originally posted by Brenda
            Iíve been using GTD for over 18 months.

            However, because I have captured and organized EVERYTHING, my lists are now very long. I have nearly 700 projects (many of which require only 2 or 3 action steps, but they could need more than one, so they are projects) and over 1600 next actions. Some of my projects are low priority, but I still want to do them, and each has a next action that could be done whenever Iím in the appropriate context, so they are active projects. I also have about 130 checklists, and hundreds of Someday Maybes.

            My problem is that to do a thorough weekly review takes several hours. Because of the time needed for the weekly review, Iíve now lost my motivation to do it, with the predictable consequence of feeling that Iíve lost control.

            Has anyone else been in this situation, and if so, how did you cope with it?
            I have about that many lists. I organized them hierarchically into categories such as "Woodworking", "Home Repair", "Skiing", "Rental Unit", "Personal Computer", etc. I use a hierarchical outline manager (Ilium Software's ListPro http://www.iliumsoft.com/site/lp/listpro.htm) so I can suppress display of all categories I do not want to consider. For example, when I want to look at all my Someday/Maybe Woodworking projects, I display only the top-level names of all my woodworking projects (eg. "Morris Chair", "Rocking Chair", "Footstool", etc.) and I suppress display of the lower level action (task) details.

            When I first started looking at my list of more than 600 projects I was simply overwhelmed. Then I figured out I needed a way to look only at what I was thinking about at the moment and to not be bothered by the overwhelming clutter of all the things I was not currently thinking about.

            If I had 600 GTC projects written down, each on its own sheet of paper, I would leave 599 in the file cabinet while I looked at the one project I wanted to think about at the moment -- either to further design it or to decide how to date it or prioritize it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Very long lists

              Originally posted by Brenda
              However, because I have captured and organized EVERYTHING, my lists are now very long. I have nearly 700 projects (many of which require only 2 or 3 action steps, but they could need more than one, so they are projects) and over 1600 next actions. Some of my projects are low priority, but I still want to do them, and each has a next action that could be done whenever Iím in the appropriate context, so they are active projects.
              Someone much wiser than I once said, "You can be/do/have anything you want in life, you just can't be/do/have *everything* you want".

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


              I'm in a similiar situation in that (through some quirk of my personality) every new idea or thought that comes into my head is fodder for new daydreams and/or blueprints for the future. The only way I can keep a handle on it is to:

              1) Be ruthlessly realistic about what I'm actually going to be able to get to in the next few weeks or months. The amount of NA's that can be dealt within a single context list without 'analysis paralysis' will vary from person to person (I currently have about 400 NA's and 75 active projects and seem to be doing ok with that). But I've learned the hard way that less is often more and I've gotten much more decisive about moving items to the inactive lists (someday and/or future projects).

              2) I *have* to use priorities in context lists, even if it's only two categories: Important and Everything Else. I need something that says "Hey, the last time you sat down and reviewed this list in detail, *these* were the items that you flagged as important (for whatever reason)". This doesn't mean that I don't use the 4-step intuitive context/time/energy/priority model when making a decision, it just means that I've put a little prior thought into deciding importance. It also doesn't mean that I can't choose, in the moment, to do the least important item on the list (maybe that's all I have the time or energy for or maybe I just feel like goofing off or getting a quick 'win' by checking something simple off).

              3) I use a hierarchal notes manager (Listpro) to collect and organize my Projects and Someday/Maybe lists. Both of these categories are just too big and too complicated (in my view) to be handled by a simple flat list. I have literally thousands of Someday/Maybe's (organized by category, i.e. Travel, Lifestyle, Hobbies, Books, Career, etc.) and hundreds of active Projects or Projects to be done in the future. The Someday list has each item auto-dated with the creation date (to quickly see how long items have been on my "wishlist") and the Projects list is broken out into 5 year, 1 to 2 year and current projects. Truthfully, when doing the weekly review I only concentrate on the current projects lists. Periodically, when the mood strikes me I review all the items in both lists to see if anything needs to be moved up a level (from Someday to future Project or from future to current Project).

              The process of integrating GTD into your lifestyle and work habits is a highly individual one, but I know that these three 'modifications' took a lot of the stress out of GTD for me. Especially when I stumbled across (or remembered) the quote above and stopped seeing the Someday/Maybe list as a bunch of pending items that *had* to be done eventually. Now, when I browse my Someday list, it's with a sense of joy. I know that I'll never get to a fraction of all the things on it but that's ok. I also know that I *will* get to some of them and in the meantime, well... it's nice to dream.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm a writer. The nature of being a writer is that you have lots and lots of ideas. Potential characters, potential settings, potential plots, etc. Many of these ideas will never see the light of day, but many will recombine in interesting ways to become the basis of writing projects. I don't want to clutter up my time management system with this stuff, but don't want to lose it, either.

                My solution is to keep an "idea file," separate from my GTD structure. When and if any of these ideas are complete enough to define a project, they move to either my Someday/Maybe list, or to my future projects list.

                To give you an example of what I mean, "Civil War novel" might be an idea file item. If I then add character sketches for two soldiers who fought on opposite sides at Gettysburg, and descriptions of the towns in Maine and Georgia where they came from, and some snippets of research on how the Civil War changed life on the home front, then I've got enough detail to think about pursuing it further. I then have enough information to put it on my Someday/Maybe or active project list. Whether it actually goes there, however, depends on my degree of interest and the number of other projects I'm thinking about.

                In my lists, the only "active" projects are projects with committed deadlines (either personal or professional), and projects that I hope to move forward in the next week. Someday/Maybe projects are projects that interested me enough to figure out how to move them forward, but that I'm not committed to actually doing for whatever reason. Idea file items are ideas that are still too unfocused to build a project around.

                One thing that has helped me is to be really ruthless in my weekly reviews:
                Will I do this this week?
                Will I do it next week?
                Do I have the foggiest idea when I might do this?

                If the answer to one of these questions is yes, then I schedule either and action or a next review date. If the answer to all three questions is no, then whatever it is gets pushed off my project list and into the idea file.

                Hope this helps.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Assign work period or completion date in outcome stmt.

                  Assign a date as part of the desired outcome if a date is meaningful and won't make you too tense and upset, or just assign a probable "work period". For example, if you want to put in your flower bed by May 1, you might want your bed design to be finished April 15, but if you have a lot going on in March and April, you might say, "heck, if this gets done it will be done between 4/14 and 4/30 unless I want to wing it as I buy the plants. There is a relaxed and productive gent who has lead a number of meetings I am in on. After all the tasks or decisions would be listed on a chart board in a meeting, he would make a summarizing point and would say- "let's say we figure out when we might want to work on these" and everything would a number at the end, such as end of week? next 7 days, next 14? 30 days?next 60? next 90? unless it had a known deadline. Pople would take out their claendars and some would argue with his time designation and then he went whenever the assigned do-er said he or she would be able to perform by. One can use TO DO (TASKS) in Palm to arrange by a due date but unfortunately you can't arrange be A to Z or even number as far as I can see in that function. In Memo, it automatically sorts A to Z. Maybe putting the date in as Start- xxxxx and Finish would enable you to ues find to sort by. What I am getting at is it is easier to enter and review orojects that are grouped in some way by area but if you want to make a realistic appraisal of when you might do them, you need to sort by dates or write on a calander abd then move them about.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Some great tips here. The only thing I'd add since I don't see it mentioned is consider the PigPog method, thereby ridding yourself of the projects list altogether.

                    In the alternative, isn't there a way to combine some of these 700 projects into Meta-projects?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks for all the comments and suggestions Ė much appreciated, and nice to know that some of you have similar problems and personality quirks.

                      Iíve read both of Davidís books several times over and Iíve learnt from experience that whenever I follow his advice, it usually works, and when I ignore his advice things go wrong. However, I must be missing something as Iíve not worked out how he keeps his system down to a size that can be reviewed within a couple of hours each week. My system has a habit of growing because so much of the new stuff that shows up in my life ends up becoming either a Project or a Someday Maybe. Iíve tried to trash things, but more often than not I just end up re-collecting them!

                      Iíll try and get myself back on track by doing a review of my system, and will take into account some of your suggestions. For the time being, Iíll probably have to exclude Someday Maybe projects from the weekly review, but if I get them better organized I should be able to review them occasionally. Once Iíve committed to a project and identified a do-able next action, though, Iíd rather keep it as an Active Project, which I shall review weekly. I donít expect to ďdoĒ all of the actions on my context lists in the next week or two, but theyíre there to be done as soon as I can (intuition should guide me as to which to do first). I can live with this on a daily basis, but I just find it hard to cope with the volume at weekly review time. I might be able to group some of my small projects into bigger ones, though, to reduce the volume.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Very long lists

                        Originally posted by Brenda
                        I have nearly 700 projects (many of which require only 2 or 3 action steps, but they could need more than one, so they are projects) and over 1600 next actions. Some of my projects are low priority, but I still want to do them, and each has a next action that could be done whenever Iím in the appropriate context, so they are active projects. I also have about 130 checklists, and hundreds of Someday Maybes.
                        Okay, I think you are technically correct that under GTD next actions for all "active" projects belong on your next action lists. However, it is totally unrealistic to scan over 1600 next actions, even when subdivided by context, to choose items by applying the four-criteria model for choosing actions in the moment. Your weekly review must be a kind of living hell....

                        My solution to the long list problem, as others have suggested, is to make more use of the Someday/Maybe list. I move to the Someday/Maybe list any project that I do not plan to work on for the next week or so. Once on the Someday/Maybe list, I also designate which projects I want to review during each weekly review and which projects can be reviewed less often. (I use the priority function of the Palm task list to do this because I am not using it for other purposes). My guess is that you do not need to see all 1600+ actions every single week.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'd add project #701 - "Pay raise approved", that's a tremendous amount of workload.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            On further reflection... it occurs to me that this is not a GTD problem. It's a personal prioritization problem.

                            GTD did not create 1600 action items and 700 projects. You did. And GTD, performing precisely as intended, is telling you so.

                            Now, it's up to you to decide what to do about it. Obviously, reviewing 700 projects a week is unrealistic. Obviously, you're not going to address more than a fraction of your 1600 action items in any given week.

                            There are lots of potential solutions: you can consolidate miniprojects into a smaller number of larger projects. You can defer the least important/urgent projects for as long as necessary.

                            But in the end, you have to decide what you want to do today, this week, this month, this year.

                            Katherine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              *delurks*

                              ...Another thing to bear in mind with really long lists, though it's a little heretical GTD-wise, is not to be too dogmatic about the idea that any linked chain of more than one next action MUST automatically be made into a project. For very small projects I often just group the relevant actions into a single NA ...

                              "Ring Steve for Mike's number/then ring Mike to get time of meeting/then book taxi for meeting"

                              -- and just delete each step as it is carried out. You're still doing the "next-action thinking" that is at the heart of GTD, but without the bureaucracy of creating a project.

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