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  • Outlook: Connecting Everything?

    I'm new to GTD and still reading the book. I also got the whitepaper on doing GTD in Outlook. I think I'm beginning to understand GTD, but an area of it bothers me (perhaps it's a mindset thing).

    In Outlook, it seems that the thing to do is to take "stuff" in (usually email) and create an NA task to begin working on the "stuff". When the NA is done, I guess you would generate a new NA task for the next step. NA tasks seem to be very low-level and step-by-step oriented. What I'm not catching is how to maintain a higher-level view of what projects these tasks apply to without having to chase into each NA task to look at it's notes. I would think that there should be an easy way of connecting things in Outlook for this.

    On a related note, using GTD in Outlook, how would you produce a regular "status report" that you might give to your manager to say "this is what I've done"?

  • #2
    Next Actions connected to Projects

    Hi dsm,

    Ahhh....the million dollar question -- how to link next actions to projects in Outlook. The quick, short answer is that it cannot be done in Outlook 2003. Now, with that said, there have been a number of ways discussed in this forum to do this. One is the pig-pog method. Here, one has the title or code of a project at the end (or beginning, with some folks) of the next action subject line. One usually has only one next action "active" using this method and there is usually no project list with this method. When you have completed this next action, you create a new one with the project title in it to keep the ball rolling. Some folks list future next actions in the note section of the active next action. DO a search for this method and you can find a much better description.

    In David Allen's white paper on Outlook, he says that one can enter a code for each project into each next action. One can then do a quick search using this code and find all of the associated next actions.

    Another method by Bill Kratz is using contacts as the link to next actions. He published a projects form that one can use and you can setup a project list in a new folder. Then, when you create a new next action, you can link it to the project by checking the particular project in the "contact" folder, which is really your project folder. I have the pdf files that describe how to set this up in Outlook. It is nice, but not perfect. One problem is that one cannot print out the list of linked next actions shown in the project view.

    There are other ways folks have worked on this as this is one of the most wanted things to do that I have seen people comment on in this forum. Of course, there is the GTD add-in if you want to spend more money...

    Regards,
    Longstreet

    Comment


    • #3
      Oh well...

      It's too bad there wasn't a type of Mini-MS Project inside of Outlook for tasks. That would be nice.

      Maybe David can have a pow wow with Mr. Gates about that.

      Bob

      Comment


      • #4
        Ah, but you can do it. (Long, with example).

        Actually, it can be done, sort of, as long as you don't have too many next actions for a particular project. Basically, you just keep changing the title of the same task, and adding a note in the notes section about what you did, or what information you got. This builds a history.

        Say your project is "Get a dog," and your family decided to do this on Christmas day. (I'm using a simple project, obviously, you probably wouldn't want to go into this much detail for a project like this.)

        Make a task called "Get a dog"

        In the notes section, I would type: "12/25/04: Family decided to get a dog."

        Say the next action on this project is to go to the libary and get dog books in order to find out what breeds are appropriate.

        Change task title to: "Get a dog: Get dog books from library."

        Category is @out and about.

        Then, on 1/1/05, you went to the library and checked out dog breed books.

        In the notes section, add, below the 12/25/04 entry,

        "1/1/05: checked out dog books from library."

        Say on 1/5/05 you read the dog books and they yielded Jack Russel and Poodle as ideal breeds, and you wanted to ask your friend Sally who has a poodle about hers.

        Put in notes section (if you want to): "1/5/05: dog books said Poodle or Jack Russel are perfect for us."

        Change title of task to "Get a Dog: Call Sally."

        Etc. Keep changing the title to reflect the actual next action, and keep making little notes about what you did.

        The notes end up looking like this: (This is an actual project) Note the advantages from a CYA perspective, without having to shuffle through a million emails.

        Task title: "Client5: Partnership Amendment (waiting for signatures)"
        [current category: @waiting for]

        5/10/04: Need to get copy of Pp agt. Ask A if she has it. If not, call B- 310-xxx-xxxx
        5/10/04: B said we should have the agreement. I asked A to have the boxes sent to me.
        5/20/04: Spoke with M. She said to go ahead with division. Need to call B to get copies of Pp docs, call S and tell him I"m going ahead.
        5/26/04: talked to B again, told him to dig up partnership docs. Lm for S re this.
        5/27/04: B said he is sending docs.
        6/8/04: Sent amendment and cover letter to M for review and comment.
        7/12/04: emailed M re status.
        7/26/04: talked to M about this. She said she would review it.
        8/4/04: emailed M again with another copy of it.
        8/30/04: M's client agrees, as long as trust won't lose creditor priority. I emailed J. Jsays no priority to begin with.
        8/31/04: I left vm for M's client saying this.
        9/2/04: talked with M - forgot what her question was -- priority wrt something else.
        9/7/04: Left M a vm to call me.
        9/9/04: sent amendment to M's client for signature.
        9/24/04: last week, M's client sent in her signature.
        9/27/04: Sent to Stanley for his signature.
        9/27/04: Received C's sig. Waiting for S and other partners.
        10/8/04: S and C signed the amendment; S took the original to get signatures of other partners.
        10/20/04: S said he's still working on it.
        11/29/04: Gave Y letter again to send second copy to S.
        2/24/05: reminded S re sigs.
        5/?/05: Told S to call R. Have received all but his signature.

        Notes like this tend to get unwieldy if there are many next actions for a project that are intertwined. But I've found this works REALLY well for projects and sub projects that are pretty discrete.

        Hope that helps.
        Taxgeek

        Comment


        • #5
          Can't you tie the Journal into this in some (useful) manner? Rather than create a (superficial) journal in the notes section of the task, enter each thing you did in the journal (with start/end times, etc.). Then you don't (necessarily?) need to keep the task around -- you can create the new NA task as needed (useful, I guess, if you have several NA tasks going on simultaneously for a project?). I guess you could also attach other Outlook items to the journal entry as needed.

          Does this make sense?

          Comment


          • #6
            It looks like you should probably be able to - make a new journal entry for each thing you do on your various projects, make the category the name of the project (?), then you can sort or filter the view any way you want.

            I haven't used the journal at all, however.

            Comment


            • #7
              Check out this method

              Hi dsm,

              Here is the link to Bill Kratz's method for linking next actions to projects. I have this setup in Outlook 2003 and it works real well. I was wrong when I said one could not print out the list of next actions in the activities tab on the project. One can select all of the next actions, right-click, and then select print and there you are.

              http://home.comcast.net/~whkratz/id3.htm

              Longstreet

              Comment


              • #8
                It looks like you should probably be able to - make a new journal entry for each thing you do on your various projects, make the category the name of the project (?), then you can sort or filter the view any way you want.

                I haven't used the journal at all, however.

                I'm going to make a separate post and see what the heck people actually use the journal for.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Longstreet
                  Hi dsm,

                  Here is the link to Bill Kratz's method for linking next actions to projects. I have this setup in Outlook 2003 and it works real well. I was wrong when I said one could not print out the list of next actions in the activities tab on the project. One can select all of the next actions, right-click, and then select print and there you are.

                  http://home.comcast.net/~whkratz/id3.htm

                  Longstreet
                  Ahhh!

                  Using Contact names as Project names looks like a good way to go. It ties together a lot of the Outlook items. You can attach a Contacts to Journal items, Task items, and Contact items (hmm, hierarchical projects?), but I can't find a way to attach a Contact to a received Mail item or a Note. Not tieing an email to the project is a problem, but I guess you could dump the email into a mail folder for the project or into your ProjectEmail folder and insert a link to the email in the Contact item for the Project (similarly with Notes).

                  Hmmm. Something to play with...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You can add a contact to an email: open the email in outlook (2003) and click on "View" (I use the German version, so I am not sure this is really called "view"; it is the third item from the left) and click on options.
                    Here you can add a category and a contact.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dsm
                      On a related note, using GTD in Outlook, how would you produce a regular "status report" that you might give to your manager to say "this is what I've done"?
                      I use GTD categories for active tasks, but after I complete a task, I change the category to one that better reflects what project/area of responsibility it pertains to. (I'm very, very good with shortcut keys, so this only takes a second for me.) To print a status report, simply create a Status Report view based on your Completed Tasks list, sorted by category and filtered for Tasks completed that week. Customize the view as desired.

                      If you don't want to bother to change the categories each time, then get into the habit of coding your Tasks as DA suggests and group your completed Tasks that way.

                      Hope that helps.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Outlook Tasks vs Journal Items

                        Originally posted by dsm
                        Can't you tie the Journal into this in some (useful) manner? Rather than create a (superficial) journal in the notes section of the task, enter each thing you did in the journal (with start/end times, etc.).
                        I tried this for a couple of months but found it unwieldy and time-consuming, not least because it required manually maintaining duplicate sets of Tasks and Journal Items. (When you drag-and-drop an Outlook Task into a folder containing Journal items, Outlook automatically creates a new Journal Item with the subject of the original Task. You still have to manually enter project and other information into the new Journal Item.)

                        At present, I use individual Outlook Tasks to represent NAs, and record each completed action and its result in the notes field of the appropriate master project task (I use the GTD Outlook Addin.). My project action logs resemble Taxgeek's example. If the results of an NA are lengthy, I record them in its respective Task item. By maintaining NAs as Tasks, permits me to manage projects and NAs using Outlook's list management capabilities. The project completed action log provides a more narrative record of my progress. (I originally thought I'd be able to use Journal Items for this. See the thread Extending GTD Outlook Addin Projects to Journal Items at http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3623.)

                        As Taxgeek says, this method works quite well for simple, discrete projects.

                        I use the Journal for mostly for time-keeping and for recording certain events and routine actions.

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