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Separating Organizing and Review

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  • Separating Organizing and Review

    My reviews are onerous because, other than an outcome, most of my projects have not been organized in the way that GTD describes with super-detailed mind-maps or outlines.

    When do people do this super detailed organizing? if it isn't done by the weekly review, then my weekly review gets eaten up by doing it. I can't always do it when the project "shows up", because that's during processing and a good organizing session could take a half-hour or more.

  • #2
    I think you may be misreading GTD. My feeling is that DA does *not* advocate doing superorganized planning for all projects up front. Most projects simply don't need that level of detail.

    In my experience, most projects can move along just fine with nothing more than a clearly defined outcome and the first few Next Actions. Even for larger projects, I only plan the very broad outlines and major milestones at the beginning. I do detailed planning for the subprojects only as I get to them.



    • #3
      Project Planning

      This "super-detailed" planning is only required for those Projects that need it.

      This should be limited to those complex projects where the next actions are not obvious or where, even having defined the outcome and actions, it is still taking your attention.

      Out of the 17 work projects on my current list I have only 1 that has required this vertical focus.

      Things like "Write Jac's performance appraisal" or "Write proposal for payment control requirement" don't need detailed planning because they are processes which I am very familiar with and which are well documented elsewhere.

      However "Hold a morale-boosting team build event" does require planning (for me) because I have never done anything like this before.

      It would be interesting to know how many projects you have that require detailed planning and the sort of projects they are.


      • #4
        furashgf, do you use Life Balance? (someone with the same screen name posts on the Life Balance forum) If so, much of the GTD weekly review is not necessary because Life Balance takes care of it for you. So doing a GTD Weekly Review creates a lot of unnecessary work for Life Balance users. For example, there is no need whatsoever to make, update, or review a separate Projects list. Whenever a project has no next action defined, it will show up on the ToDo list as a trigger to define more actions. For most projects, this plan-as-you-go strategy is ideal.

        I have noticed that I have 4 types of projects, using DA's definition of "project."

        1) Extremely simple projects with just a few actions. "Clothes are dry cleaned" is an example with 3 actions that are done in different contexts. If I did not have those 3 separate actions defined for 3 separate contexts, the dry cleaning would never get done. (Thank you, DA, for this insight!) But defining the actions is quick and simple; no complex planning required. I don't even consider these "projects" for my purposes any more; I throw all the actions into Life Balance once and no further planning is ever required.

        2) Complex projects with many actions that can be predefined because of past experience. "Major musical event is performed" or "Analyze New Subjects' data" are examples with at least 30 predefined actions based on past experience. I add others in ad hoc for each project, but I also have a project template with many of the necessary actions ready to go.

        3) Complex projects into uncharted territory that require continuous, dynamic planning based on outcome of previous action. "Pilot data is analyzed" falls into this category. I am figuring it out as I go along. I figure out an action to do; do it and check it off; then the project appears on my ToDo list, triggering me to think about what to do next. Sometimes it's obvious; other times I have to think hard or even consult someone else. I generally spend about half my working hours on this type of project, about 20-30 hours. So these projects are very important to me. If I were to link my actions with the project and define new actions only at a single Weekly Review session, I would never get anywhere with these.

        4) Complex projects that are a hybrid of #2 and #3: some chunks of brainstorming/organizing, some continuous, dynamic planning. I have never done them before so I have no template to go on, but I can plan more than one or two actions at a time. "Renovate kitchen" is an example. This one has many subprojects that can each advance simultaneously, plus branches with dependencies, etc. This is the type of project I need to draw diagrams of, and do a lot of organizing to figure out the most efficient way to progress because there are lots of dependencies. ("Oh, I have to do X before these other 3 things can get done. . .") I also have to consider alternatives. ("What if I can't install tile? Resilient flooring? Stain the concrete?") I don't use "mind maps" per se, but I do draw pictures and make outlines in a style that works for me.

        However, even with #4, it is counterproductive to plan too much in advance because unforeseen things come up to alter the plan anyway. For example, I could plan out all the steps I need to install tile on the floor, but why bother until I find out the results of the beginning steps "Consult HOA" and "Find out subfloor structure."

        So planning projects is an action like any other action. Some "planning" takes just a few minutes (3 actions for dry cleaning), so I do it right away. If I realize I need to take a chunk of time to plan, I consider that a Next Action like any other NA and do it when I have time available and it is the most important thing I need to do.

        With all 4 project types, I can plan as I need to during the week because of the features of Life Balance. I do not have to schedule a huge session to plan and review them all at once. For #1, I put them in the system like any other NA that comes up. I notice something needs dry cleaning and take a minute to put the 3 actions in (or uncheck ones that are already there). For #2, if I find out I need to plan a major event, I stick "Plan major event" in as an action and treat it like any other action, doing the planning when I have time available to do so. For #3, I just stick the successful outcome in and define NA as previous ones are completed during the week. For #4, if I think the project needs more than a few minutes of planning, I stick a "plan project" action in and treat it like any other action, doing it when I have an appropriate chunk of time available.

        It is a lot easier for me to find 20 minutes to plan a specific project than to set aside 3 hours to review and plan for every project I might have.

        The continuous, dynamic planning model possible with Life Balance is superior to a static weekly model for most projects. This is analogous to other real-world applications such as business and military strategy. Successful businesses and the military are investing in "network-centric operations" so that they can plan continuously and dynamically based on what just happened. In the old static planning model, Wal-mart would review quarterly sales, do a sales forecast, place an order, etc; meanwhile, GE would be doing the same. Now, however, when Wal-mart sells a GE lightbulb, GE gets that information right away and adjusts production as needed. Continuous, dynamic adjustments give a competitive advantage; but they require new and better technology.