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Project This, Project That... I'm A Little Lost!

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  • Project This, Project That... I'm A Little Lost!

    Okay, I've got another little dilemma here.

    I'm having trouble deciding whether the Projects tab of my organizer should consist of a list of project names on a single piece of paper, or whether I should use a sheet of paper for every project.

    The advantages of the latter is that you have space to draft some notes, such as the successful outcome, or do a quick brainstorm. However, my gut feeling tells me that these should really be in this project's notes/support material file which is organised in a filing system somehow which I can easily access, as opposed to flicking through unsorted sheets in a section of my organizer.

    If I do this, however, then almost every project I create will need it's own file since I almost always like to throw out a quick brainstorm when I come up with a project idea. I'm not sure if this is overboard... I remember reading somewhere that Jason Womack only has project files for about 20%+ of his projects?

    I look forward to any help I can get on this one!

    Cheers!

  • #2
    In my project section I have a list of all projects on a single sheet. Then I have a sheet for each project with all the planned actions listed out.

    Here's David Allen's article on paper planners:

    http://www.davidco.com/pdfs/tt_paper_organizer.pdf

    Comment


    • #3
      I don't keep a list of projects. I just have one page for each project - for each complex project, that is. A complex project is one with multiple next actions that can be done at one time; a simple project has next actions that must be done consecutively.

      I use the project page mainly for jotting down ideas and such. It's more for planning and brainstorming and less for tracking my next actions. When I think of a next action for the project, I simply put it on the appropriate list.

      I use a paper planner and this is just what seems to work for me.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by invincible
        ...having trouble deciding whether the Projects tab of my organizer should consist of a list of project names on a single piece of paper, or whether I should use a sheet of paper for every project...my gut feeling tells me that these should really be in this project's notes/support material file...If I do this, however, then almost every project I create will need it's own file
        I believe that you are talking about three separate things 1) a project list, 2) a Next Action list, and 3) project support material.

        It appears to me that many people here have one separate sheet of paper with just a list of projects on it. This allows them to scan that one sheet of paper and review all their projects. Some people may separate this in to Work and Personal project lists.

        It also appears to me that many projects will not require a folder for support material. "Mow the lawn" does not need a separate support folder.

        So, what about number 2), the list of Next Actions? That is where I struggle. Some people appear to have a separate sheet of paper for each project with a list of action items on it related to that project, and others have separate sheets of paper for each context (@workdesk) where they list action items to work on at that context. This context list would of course have a mix of action items for several different projects.

        Based on what you have said, it appears to me that for many of your projects you do want a separate sheet of paper for notes, brainstorming, action items, etc., but for others you need less or more. Maybe you need the first page to be a list of projects only, and then sheets for each project as needed. Some projects may not need an additional page or folder, some may need both, some may need just the additional page, some may need just the additional folder.

        tim99.
        Last edited by tim99; 10-20-2005, 03:43 AM.

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        • #5
          Here's how I do it. My system is an electronic/paper hybrid, so take what you can use and ignore the rest.

          When a project is created, I enter it on my project list (electronic), noting the deadline or next review date, and usually at least the first Next Action. For simple projects -- "replace closet shelves" -- this is all I do.

          For larger projects, I do a bit of brainstorming to work out a rough schedule and a set of subprojects. This takes place on paper, either in a notebook dedicated to project notes, or on a large sketchpad sheet. In either case, I then enter key dates and actions into my electronic system. If the original planning sheet was a loose page, I throw it into an appropriate project support materials folder. If it was a notebook page, I enter it into the index for that notebook, and color code the edge of the page. (The color code also appears in the index.) Other notes related to the project are handled the same way.

          At least in theory, the best possible system would be one that keeps all my notes together in one place. However, each of the systems I've tried has limitations that keep me from using it exclusively. A purely electronic system isn't portable enough for taking notes in meetings, conferences, libraries, and all the other places I work. Paper will go anywhere, but life is too short to spend it scanning everything. Small notebooks are portable, but aren't big enough. Big notebooks aren't portable enough. Neither offers the search and sort capabilities of electronic data. And so I ended up with a hybrid.

          Hope this helps,

          Katherine

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          • #6
            Technically, if you want to do it by the book, you'll have both a list of all projects and separate project plans. Plus, of course, separate Next Actions lists.

            But don't follow the rules unless you have a good reason to. The reason given to maintain a projects list is simply to ensure, by reviewing it once a week, that every project has a next action defined to move it forward. There are other ways to accomplish this. For example, pageta defines a next action as soon as she completes the previous one. This is a good approach IMO, because it's easier and more natural to think of the next action when you're working on the previous, related one. The overhead of maintaining a projects list can be replaced with a consistent, timely next action habit.

            You don't have to have a file for each project just to maintain your plans/notes/brainstorms. A single sheet may suffice for many projects, and these can be collected in tabbed sections of a binder.

            And I wouldn't worry about how much anyone else plans; you need to plan as much as you need to. I imagine the percentage varies greatly between individuals. For me, project planning is very important; I need to plan much more than 20% of my projects. I would think that with starting your own business, you need to plan a whole lot more than many people, actually. Your implementation must suit your own needs.

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            • #7
              I struggle with the same thing, but I think I might have solved my problem reading the thread. Maybe just what I needed to initiate the change?

              I use a 100 % paper-based implementation : a letter size 1" leather binder with dividers (switched back after a HipsterPDA attempt).

              I noticed that 75 % of the time, I use my next action context sheets. These seem to work very well. I have @apartment, @office, @phone, @waiting for and @errands. Another 20 % of the time, I flip through my hard landscape pages (2 pages per week calendar pages) and the other 5 % of the time, I check things out in my reference section.

              I also went through the project list dilemma. One project list with many listed projects on it, or a single-page per project approch? Well, since I end up jotting notes and making some kind of plan anyways for most of my projects, I chose to go with a page-per-project approach in which I list the project name, the date, the due date, the people I need to contact, and finally a place to brainstorm.

              But for simpler projects, I basically go from next action to next action without really feeling a "need" to write anything down about the project itself.

              Voilŗ!

              Comment


              • #8
                Wow, so many replies, so little time! Thanks guys, this is great!

                Marcia, you said you use a project list as well as individual project sheetsÖ this is how Iíve started out but I found that I was wasting time writing out small projects twice, once on the list and secondly on the sheet of paper where I draft a quick plan or do some brainstorming. This is why I started this thread!

                Pageta, you say use project sheets, for projects with MORE than one independent next action, but you donít do this for projects with only one independent next action?

                If thatís the case, then let me ask you, what happens if one of these simple projects falls through the cracks, how will you be reminded during your weekly review if you havenít recorded it anywhere? Imagine you were finishing off the next action for a simple project and you got disrupted and lost your place, you then looked at your action lists and began work on another actionÖ you would have missed your only opportunity to record the NEXT action and since this project is not on your list, when it comes the weekly review you wonít get to assign the next action since you may have forgotten the project even exists!

                Tim, you recommended using the first page to be a list of projects only, and then sheets for each project as needed, which is what Marcia recommended above. However, I found in this case I was often writing the same thing twice for small projects that could get done in next to no time and really didnít warrant the time I was taking to write the project description on the project sheet after brainstorming, and then write it down on the project list too.

                I guess an alternative would be to only add a project to the list if it did NOT have itís own sheet. So all small projects that donít require planning would go on the project list, while the bigger ones would have their own sheet and not go on the master list.

                Katherine, you mentioned using a digital project list for all your projects and using project support material folder for larger projects. I assume you add the larger projects to the project list too (as opposed to just using the folder as a reminder?)

                Anderson, you mentioned that the overhead of maintaining a projects list can be replaced with a consistent, timely next action habit, but as I said above to Pegata, what if it that project falls through cracks, how would you be reminded?

                You also mentioned that you don't have to have a file for each project just to maintain your plans/notes/brainstorms, and that a single sheet may suffice for many projects, collected in tabbed sections of a binder. As i said in my original post, my gut feeling tells me that these sheets should really be in this project's notes/support material file which is organised in a filing system somehow which I can easily access, as opposed to flicking through unsorted sheets in a section of my organizer. Or have I made a mistake somewhere here?

                When it comes to working on a specific project, I may want to get out the notes I scribbled or light brainstorming I did, and Iíd want them to be organized effectively. However, like I said, if I do this, then almost every project I create will need it's own file since I almost always like to throw out a quick brainstorm when I come up with a project idea, and I feel thatís just overkill.

                Finally Bebert, what would your definition of ďsimpler projectsĒ be? As I said several times already in the post, what if they fall through the cracks? I feel that NOT recording your projects is asking for trouble.

                Man, I think Iím getting way too bogged down in the detail here. Did I mention that Iím an ex-perfectionist!? LOL!

                I look forward to the replies.

                Comment


                • #9
                  You're definately still a perfectionist, by reading your last reply. But this is not the purpose of my post. I am a perfectionist myself, but I think I got it under control.

                  As long as you have a next action on your next action lists that reminds you of something about this small project, nothing should fall through the cracks.

                  I never bothered defining what a small project is, but I would say that it is a project for which the outcome is clear in your brain, and that the couple of next actions required to achieve this outcome are as clear and obvious to you.

                  My 2 cents.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by invincible
                    Katherine, you mentioned using a digital project list for all your projects and using project support material folder for larger projects. I assume you add the larger projects to the project list too (as opposed to just using the folder as a reminder?
                    Yes, that's correct. All projects appear on my master project list. If a project is not on the master list, it doesn't exist. Other materials -- electronic and paper -- may or may not be associated with the project, as needed.

                    Using the project folder as a reminder is, from a GTD point of view, a very bad idea. The reason is that it's very easy to have 5-10 projects active at once, so the folders lose their effectiveness as reminders and become just more clutter. Put them on the project list, and get the folder out of the way.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by invincible
                      Anderson, you mentioned that the overhead of maintaining a projects list can be replaced with a consistent, timely next action habit, but as I said above to Pegata, what if it that project falls through cracks, how would you be reminded?
                      By consistent, I mean that you must define a next action every time you complete the previous one for a project.

                      By timely, I mean that that you must define that next action right away, as soon as you complete the previous. For example, as soon as I deliver the clothes to the dry cleaners, I would put "Pick up clothes from dry cleaners" into my system on the appropriate NA list. Basically, every time you finish a task, ask yourself, What's next?

                      So, if you define next actions right away every time, no project can possibly fall through the cracks.

                      I'm just suggesting a possible way to reduce the maintenance of your lists. If you don't think you can trust your consistent, timely next action habit, then I think you must stick with the safety net of the standard system. Bite the bullet and write every project down on a separate list.

                      Or you could hope that you would catch it during review anyway. Even without a projects list, you might see a completed previous action on your NA list and recognize it needs another action.

                      Or you could live with a few things falling through the cracks on occasion. <evilly suggesting cold-turkey recovery from perfectionism, haha>

                      Originally posted by invincible
                      You also mentioned that you don't have to have a file for each project just to maintain your plans/notes/brainstorms, and that a single sheet may suffice for many projects, collected in tabbed sections of a binder. As i said in my original post, my gut feeling tells me that these sheets should really be in this project's notes/support material file which is organised in a filing system somehow which I can easily access, as opposed to flicking through unsorted sheets in a section of my organizer. Or have I made a mistake somewhere here?
                      Of course not. Your gut is surely more informed than mine about how much information you need for your projects and how to organize them effectively for you. However, I still would imagine that many projects -- using the GTD definition of any outcome requiring more than 1 action -- won't need folders.

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