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  • Examples of systems

    I'm setting up my GTD system this weekend. And I'm stuck on how.

    I get the concepts, but there's a few things that I'm not sure about. I wish I could see a working example so I could see how all the details mesh together. I don't want to use outlook, for one I'm a mac user, for two I like to see things in front of me. I don't want to spend too much time on the tech of it.

    my stumbling blocks is:
    When I create/think about a project there might be 10 tasks that need to get done. I like to keep those all together so I can see where I'm at with the project, but of course I"d also like those to appear on the action lists. Some of those projects items might also be agendas or calls, etc. So they could be spread out on a few lists. How does the system account for this? Do you keep things in two places, the project file and spread acorss the actions lists? That seems like you have to track them twice.

    How do people get an overview of the project and what needs to be done while simultaneously tracking the day to day activities?

    [edit]
    I guess if someone using a paper or non-outlook method could take me through the steps they use from project level to action level and how they track the high level project and the detailed actions, that would help

    thanks in advance.
    Last edited by foobar; 04-09-2005, 02:08 PM.

  • #2
    Excel spreadsheet method

    I use a spreadsheet and have all my projects and next actions on one Excel spreadsheet, which contains my project list, action lists, agendas, and waiting for lists. The Filter facility on Excel enables me to view just one of my lists at a time. If you're fairly conversant with a spreadsheet that has a filter facility you might want to try something similar, so I've detailed what I do below.

    For each Project I put the project name in the first column, then either leave the second column blank or type in the successful outcome if I feel I need to be reminded what this is, and in the third column I just type "_PROJECT".

    For each Next Action, I enter the project name in the first column, the action itself in the second column, and the context in the third column (I treat each agenda as a separate context so, for example, I would put "Agenda Helen" in the third column for things I need to talk to Helen about). I also treat "Waiting For" as a context if the next action is something I'm waiting for someone else to do.

    If an action does not have a project associated with it (which is fairly rare as most things I do have at least two actions) I just type something in the first column that relates to the subject matter - I prefer to do this rather than leave the first column blank in case the action ends up creating a project (often things that I thought only needed one action to complete turn out to have more than one action after all).

    Occasionally I use the Waiting For context for future actions which are dependent on a next action that I haven't done yet, but only if its something I definitely want to be reminded of. Mostly I don't plan that far ahead because plans change so frequently.

    I add Comments to the spreadsheet if I want to make myself any reminder notes relating to a project or an action.

    If I want to see a complete list for one Context, I use the filter on the third column. However, if I want to see all actions associated with any one project I use the filter on the first column, and this then brings up the project and all the actions associated with it.

    I've tried several things in the past including Outlook, but I've now settled on this spreadsheet method as I've found it works for me - however, I was very conversant with Excel before I discovered GTD, so it was a natural choice of software for me to use.

    Someday Maybes are not kept on this spreadsheet: I list those on a separate spreadsheet and am still experimenting with the best way of organizing these.

    Oh, and the most important thing, whatever system you use is to do a weekly review weekly - I've learnt from bitter experience that any system breaks down if it is not reviewed frequently enough.

    Comment


    • #3
      So simple, I love it. Thanks, that helps a lot.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'll share how it works for me:

        I have one Next Actions list, which is broken down by context (at home, at work, online, etc.).

        Let's say I need to clean up my personal website. This is a project. I'd create a separate list of atomic tasks for this project, such as "fix comics on gallery," "consolidate animation artwork galleries," "review links for outdated sites," etc. I'd then pick one task and move that to my Next Actions list, under the Online context.

        Once I complete that task, I'd delete it and move the next task from the project list to the Next Actions list. So, the project list shrinks as you complete tasks.

        I've also maintained an Accomplishments list, which is where I moved tasks when I completed them. That wasn't particularly useful for me.

        Does that help?

        Comment


        • #5
          Yes, that does help. I think I was getting tripped up with how many next actions to move from project tothe NA list.

          Comment


          • #6
            Understandable.

            Sometimes I complete several Next Actions before I even think to update my Actions list. That's okay. In fact, that's good; it means I was productive. I just update my Actions and Project lists when I get a chance, removing the completed actions and adding the next incomplete one.

            Comment


            • #7
              I also often complete several next actions before I update my lists, otherwise I'd spend more time maintaining the lists than actually doing anything. When I do update my lists though, I make sure they contain every next action associated with a project (i.e. every action that is do-able now and not dependent on another action being completed first). I find this increases my motivation to work on a project as I can choose whatever next action seems appropriate (using the context/time/energy/priority criteria), and reduces the risk of a project becoming stuck due to one particular action not being completed.

              Comment


              • #8
                Action/Project management

                How do people get an overview of the project and what needs to be done while simultaneously tracking the day to day activities?

                [edit]
                I guess if someone using a paper or non-outlook method could take me through the steps they use from project level to action level and how they track the high level project and the detailed actions, that would help

                thanks in advance.
                I see more than one issue involved here:

                Action Defining
                Project Planning
                System Tracking

                They're very different; and, they require different systems, processes and levels of focus.

                Action Defining: That's what you do when things first show up. An e-mail comes in, FTP that thing (Fundamental Thought Process). There's a paper on your chair when you get back the office. Identify the next action. You're thinking (on Sunday) of something to do at work (on Monday), leave yourself a voice mail, send yourself an e-mail, or write it down in your NoteTaker wallet.

                Project Planning: This is an aspect of self/personal program management that requires we think about our projects as much as we need to, when we need to, to stop thinking about it. A mind map, a brainstorm, a big white board, a series of mind sweeps about a single project will go a long way in clearing up and clearing out what I "could" be thinking about. Personally, I'm a huge fan of paper/pen brainstorming on a manila folder. When I first "inherit" a project, I take out a folder and pens and "go to town." Anything I think about when I think about that project goes into the folder.

                System Tracking: This is where it all comes together, on (at least) a weekly basis. Check your lists of "pre-defined" actions. Review your project plans of "pre-defined" outcomes. Update accordingly so that when you walk away from the "stacks" (mental OR physical) you have very real, very identifiable, very do-able inventories of things to do.

                Bottom line, do the thinking and planning requisite to stop thinking and planning - then, start doing...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brent
                  I'll share how it works for me:

                  I have one Next Actions list, which is broken down by context (at home, at work, online, etc.).

                  Let's say I need to clean up my personal website. This is a project. I'd create a separate list of atomic tasks for this project, such as "fix comics on gallery," "consolidate animation artwork galleries," "review links for outdated sites," etc. I'd then pick one task and move that to my Next Actions list, under the Online context.

                  Once I complete that task, I'd delete it and move the next task from the project list to the Next Actions list. So, the project list shrinks as you complete tasks.

                  I've also maintained an Accomplishments list, which is where I moved tasks when I completed them. That wasn't particularly useful for me.

                  Does that help?

                  Brent,

                  Are you using Outlook tasks to manage your project list? If so, are you using one category per project -- with the atomic tasks "categorized" by category/project?

                  -Jeff

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Exactly Why I wanted to use Project Sheets!

                    I just posted a thread about using a collection of Project Sheets rather than a "Project List".

                    Your frustrations about not really having a way to capture those 10 tasks related to a project in one place where you can see them. I love Jason's idea about using a manilla folder for both brainstorming and containing stuff. That may be even better than mine.

                    Here's an example of how I plan to use project sheets in my new Paper Implementation. Rather than have an item on a Project List, I'll add this paper to my "Projects" section of my planner:

                    Project: Migrate GTD from Digital to Paper

                    Successful Outcome: I have a paper planner that works for me and I'm on my way to a black belt GTD user. All my open loops are captured in the paper planner.

                    Absolute Due Date: None

                    Obstacles:
                    - Deciding on creating custom forms or selecting a commercial version
                    - Treating forms as too rare, need to be able to write and toss without thinking of expense or where the next form is.
                    - Planner being too heavy or bulky to carry with me.
                    - Not putting enough information into the paper version to make it useful.

                    Obvious Next Actions
                    - Web R&D on available commercial forms
                    - Web R&D on DIY Planners
                    - Set up a folder for the results of my R&D
                    - Set up a temporary paper system using a 3-ring binder (New Project)

                    I'd stop there for now and put these "next Actions" in my context lists. (I like to include some kind of mark next to next actions that are related to projects to trigger me to go back and check for additional next actions.)

                    I'd also set up a new project sheet for setting up a temporary system, etc.

                    --Karen

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Who's Mod in here today?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Unregistered
                        Brent,

                        Are you using Outlook tasks to manage your project list? If so, are you using one category per project -- with the atomic tasks "categorized" by category/project?

                        -Jeff
                        No; I don't have Outlook. I use plain text computer files.

                        Here are my files:

                        Actions.rtf
                        Projects.rtf
                        Someday/Maybe.rtf
                        Waiting For.rtf
                        Personal Website Projects.rtf
                        Server Projects.rtf

                        If I have a complex project, I usually have a separate file for it. Otherwise, I keep it in my head.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          project steps that are NOT next actions

                          Brenda -

                          Excellent info. What do you do with steps of a project that are NOT next actions for the project? For example, say project Z has 3 tasks named A,B,and C and B & C are dependant on A. So task A is the next action but B & C are not. I'd like to keep them on the list so I can filter on Project Z and get all the steps but they are not all next actions. Thoughts?

                          Thank you - Brian

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tasks B and C would go on my list for that Project. Task A would go on my Actions list.

                            Perhaps an example would make this clearer. One of my projects is Gardening. I have a Gardening Projects list which looks like this:
                            • Sink bird feeder
                            • Get mulch for beds
                            • Plant knot garden out front
                            • Replace broken pickets out back

                            My Next Actions list includes an item named "Hang pots". Once I complete "Hang pots", I'd replace it with "Sink bird feeder", if that was the best next action.

                            Note that some of my Gardening Projects items are mini-projects. That's okay. During my weekly review, I weigh all these equally and, if the next action is to be a mini-project, I'll break that out into appropriate actions then.

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