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Projects versus Next Actions

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  • Projects versus Next Actions

    Often, when working on a project, there's lot of next actions, issues that require closure, folks who have to be consulted, etc. Some tasks have dependencies, some do not.

    I was wondering how others handle this in the context of the GTD system? Do you track them on a project by project basis (under you projects lists)? Or pile them up in Next Actions?

    I haven't found a really good solution -- if I put them on a specific project list, I miss them in the context of all the other things I have to do (e.g., other projects, various one offs, etc.). If I put them on the next action list, I lose the ability to see a holistic view of the project.

    How do other folks tackle this?


  • #2
    I do both - list the actions on the next action lists as well as with the project. If you're using a PDA or Outlook, it's a simple copy and paste. If you're on a paper system (as I am), you just have to write it twice. I put stars next to the next actions or sub-projects I have next actions scheduled for. Electronically you could just italicize those items. That way I can see the whole picture and make sure nothing is falling through the cracks at the project level and when I am working on things, simply stick to my @[place] lists and know I won't forget anything.


    • #3
      Agreed with pageta. Different projects benefit from different approaches.

      Also, have the courage to <em>stop</em> planning. Some projects progress just fine when I don't plan them in detail.


      • #4
        I use a PDA (Palm) and utilize Shadow Plan outliner to develp project plans and list NAs within each project. Shadow allows me to link individual NAs to Palm's native Tasks application. I also place single action NAs on my Task list, so NAs can be worked sequentially, regardless of whether they are project-related.

        When I check off project-related NAs from the Tasks application, the check-off carries through to Shadow Plan. When I review the Project within Shadow, I see the completion check mark and link the next NA (sorry for the redundancy) to my Task list.

        This process allows me to effectively review projects daily/weekly, yet when I'm in 'Do' mode I don't have to wade through Projects to determine what's next.

        Dependencies are referenced in the notes I attach to each NA.

        This type of arrangement is possible using other outliners like Bonsai or Progect, and I think it's most elegantly handled by Life Balance (which does the linking process I described more automatically), and can be achieved using wiki-like programs such as Note Studio - all Palm apps with desktop versions (Shadow and Life Balance speak both Mac OSX and Windows). I use Shadow because I like to think through my prioritization rather than have the software do it for me, and I think Shadow's the fastest for this type of processing.

        Cheers -

        - MB


        • #5
          I don't link actions to projects except when reviewing my lists. Being lazy, it was too much work for no obvious benefit to list the project to which each action belongs. When I want to know what projects I have, I look at my project list. When I'm at a phone, I want to know what calls I can make off of my @calls list. The context I'm in is the primary trigger for what actions I take, not the project. Looking at the actions I can take with a given context, it's pretty obvious which actions belong to which projects without having to resort to notation, and it's easy enough to decide which is a priority at that moment. I do like outliners for project planning, but would much rather use a flat list once all of my next actions have been decided.

          The time to think about the relationship between projects and next actions is in the weekly review. The action lists hold the results of that thinking, so that it becomes possible (relatively speaking) to not have to think during the week -- just work off of intelligently dumbed down punch lists. The action lists hold "what" to do, not "why." Or as David says in GTD Fast, "Only your brain will tie the dots together in the weekly review."

          Of course, the topic of linking actions to projects is a recurring issue on the forum, so maybe I'm missing a real need that others have.


          • #6
            Gameboy, I think you're exactly right. Linking simply speeds the process of placing NAs on the working list (and sequencing them, if needed) and allows one to understand which project the NA relates to (which I need because sometimes my NAs are a bit cryptic, particularly if I write them down in a rush).

            - MB


            • #7
              Originally posted by wdr1
              If I put them on the next action list, I lose the ability to see a holistic view of the project.

              How do other folks tackle this?

              IMHO, that's what the project plans are for... The purpose of the NA lists is to provide reminders of what the "very next actions" are, not to flesh out the project.