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  • Projects and Next Actions

    I'm thinking of limiting my next action lists to those next actions that are not tied to projects unless they're done in a specific venue (i.e. shopping). This would be why: I am someone who always has many projects going on, and they involve brainstorming as well as next actions. When I start a next action that belongs to a project, I always end up getting wrapped up in the project and spend a lot more time on it than I would had I simply completed the next action. Then (here is where the largest problem lies), I will work really hard on one project, lose steam, and put it on the backburner for a while; if there are next actions for that project on my next action list, they sit and rot and are in my way. So my projects move back and forth from someday/maybe to active and back to someday/maybe. That's how I've always been with projects, so I doubt it will be changing any time soon.

    So my thought is that if I keep my next actions for a specific project with my notes for that particular project, I can keep ideas and other stuff there as well, and when I'm in the mood to work on that particular project, I can look at my notes and know right where to pick up where I left off. At the same time, my mind won't be bugged about the project while I'm not working on it and thus it will have more "room" for the things I am passionate about at the moment.

    I'm a WAHM so 90% of my actions are done at home, even though I separate them into separate contexts (office, computer, outside, etc.). So basically, when I am wondering what to do next, I can ask myself if I want to knock out some specific next actions (following through with what I've planned - aka more mindless) or if I want to work on a project (more creative emphasis where I both think about what to do as well as do it). There are certainly places for both types of work, and I think this would be a great way to harness that creativity so I'm ready to be creative when I'm in the mood and I don't have to be creative if I'm not in the mood.

    Or am I missing something here? I mean, just because I'm working on a project today doesn't mean I'll be excited about it three days from now so having it on my next action list may make sense today but three days from now it will just bog me down and create guilt. Does that make sense?

  • #2
    There is no GTD police.

    Have you tried it? Does it work? If so, go for it. If not, there's little harm in trying.

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    • #3
      I see nothing wrong with your idea of segregating project NAs from our NA list given the nature of your projects and what seems to be less defined completion dates for your projects (my assumption). I would keep a separate project list and as I decided to act on a specific project (in a weekly, daily, or impromptu review) I'd schedule the project on my agenda - in effect, never having project NAs appear on an unscheduled NA list, but rather have it appear in my hard landscape. Your NA lists stay uncluttered, and projects get done in a manner giving you complete control over timing activity to meet your creative approach.

      Broad assumptions on my part, perhaps, yet this would seem to better meet your style of work.

      Keep us posted on your final approach and let us know how it goes!

      - MB

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by pageta
        I'm thinking of limiting my next action lists to those next actions that are not tied to projects unless they're done in a specific venue (i.e. shopping). This would be why: I am someone who always has many projects going on, and they involve brainstorming as well as next actions. When I start a next action that belongs to a project, I always end up getting wrapped up in the project and spend a lot more time on it than I would had I simply completed the next action. Then (here is where the largest problem lies), I will work really hard on one project, lose steam, and put it on the backburner for a while; if there are next actions for that project on my next action list, they sit and rot and are in my way. So my projects move back and forth from someday/maybe to active and back to someday/maybe. That's how I've always been with projects, so I doubt it will be changing any time soon.
        A few thoughts here:

        1) When you go into Project mode, if you end up working more from your Projects lists, or going back and forth between Project lists, NA lists, Project support materials, etc., consider changing your system/tool to one that integrates your Projects and NAs. The overhead of maintaining connections between Projects, NAs, and supporting materials may be reducing the energy you could be spending on your Projects.

        This is exactly why I use an outline rather than separate, flat lists, as I have described in other threads.

        The GTD separation of Project lists, for planning purposes, and NA lists, for doing purposes, is artificial, especially for projects that require continuous, dynamic planning. Your intuition to combine your Projects with their NAs is perhaps a symptom that a different implementation system would suit you better.

        2) It absolutely makes sense to stick with a project while you have momentum on it (though "vanilla" GTD does not support this approach very well). There is always task switching overhead, so you don't want to switch from working on a proposal for a client to working on your taxes, at least not while you have momentum on the proposal project, as you have already found.

        I have a special context list for my biggest, hardest projects (projects that require frequent switching between planning and doing), and I work in blocks of time from that one list so that I can achieve and maintain momentum on them. My context lists are digital and can include other contexts, so I can look at "Home" and see absolutely everything I could be doing at home, or I can switch to "Home-Research" and then see only actions related to big, hard projects when I am ready to devote a block of time to them. (Also, if I decide I want to look at "Home" without the research-project-related NAs, a quick couple taps gives me that list too.)

        During that project block of time, my system works like this: looking at my "Home-Research" context list, I complete and check off a few actions and hit the software's "update" button. My newly-updated list now shows "?Proposal introduction complete?" and of course it is not complete, but this is my trigger to switch to my outline, big-picture planning view and think of what to do next. I think for a few minutes, enter a new action, then start doing it. I then make sure that when my block of project time comes to an end, a Next Action is defined and showing up on my context list.

        Your idea to keep your project-related NAs with the Project lists could be considered a context list for that project, but you will have to be careful how you implement it so that ideas and thoughts do not get mixed up with NAs.

        Having certain context lists reflect mental as well as physical contexts recognizes that your mental state is just as important as your physical location for certain tasks.

        3) For the problem of losing momentum in a project and then avoiding feeling guilty about lack of progress: a) When you feel yourself losing steam, make sure you identify an easy NA to help you get started again later. 2) Try stopping before you feel yourself losing steam. This contradicts #2 above and should not be overused, but I found this tip very helpful for writing. If I write until I have exhausted everything I can think of, it's extremely difficult for me to get back to work on writing later. Instead, I leave a stake in the ground of the ideas I have to write about ("Elaborate on X, Discuss Y"). This strategy has helped me a lot.

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        • #5
          Next Action as a Project bookmark (or restarting point).

          Originally posted by andersons
          3) For the problem of losing momentum in a project and then avoiding feeling guilty about lack of progress: a) When you feel yourself losing steam, make sure you identify an easy NA to help you get started again later.
          I think it is necessary to define a bookmark (the Next Action to start from) when you are leaving the Project mode.

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