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Want to view next actions by Project AND by Context

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  • Want to view next actions by Project AND by Context

    Every "Next Action" seems to have two key labels associated with it.
    For example, it the "Next Action" is "Contact Travel Agent", then the labels would be:
    1) Associated "Project" (Plan family vacation)
    2) Assocated "Context" or "Action Category" (@Calls)

    In people's GTD systems, are people able to view their "Next Actions" by "Project" as well as by "Context"?

    If I have a large set of "Next Actions," sometimes I want to just view all the "Next Actions" particular to one project to see how Im doing on that project AND sometimes I want to view all the "Next Actions" particular to one context (which could be across several projects).

    As I read the system laid out in the book, it seems like these two labels are disparate.

    There is a projects list that just shows all your projects (no next actions) and then there are context or action category lists that list all the calls (@calls) or errands (@errands) for example across all projects.

    Furthermore, besides viewing NAs by project or context, I would also like to have a system (software or web-based app) to set up next actions easily that have both a project label and a context label.

    When I set up a project, for example, I put all the next actions down under that project (eg calls, errands, web research). It would be great that once I enter in all the next actions for a project, they would AUTOMATICALLY be shown in action category lists as well. Essentially, every NA will be accessible on two lists, the project list for the project its associated with and the next action list for that associated action category, but you would only have to enter in the next action ONCE.

    I hope this makes sense and Im sorry its long-winded. Im just getting started with GTD. Im excited about it but Im running into a few roadblocks so any advice is greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Originally posted by mjsp
    In people's GTD systems, are people able to view their "Next Actions" by "Project" as well as by "Context"?
    Yes.

    To do this, you need (1) a system that allows you to apply at least two labels to each item and (2) a way to sort items based on their labels.

    I don't quite understand why this question comes up so often in this forum. As far as I know, providing multiple views of simple data has been a solved problem in computing for several decades. If your particular software can't do it, it might be time to find different software.

    In Excel, you can give each spreadsheet row a "Project" column and a "Context" column. Sort as desired.

    In Outlook, you can give each task a "Project" category and a "Context" category. Sort as desired. Or, you can create a "Contact" for each project and accomplish the same thing.

    In any database, you can index by whatever fields you want.

    In an outliner, you can use projects as major topics, apply icons to indicate context, and write a macro to show just the items with a particular icon. (ResultManager already does this for the MindManager visual outliner.)

    You can use colored index cards to denote context, and write a project code on each card.

    And so forth and so on.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      This is a legitimate question that many people have, which is why it comes up a lot.

      Many people use the Project as Contact method in Outlook which is explained at: http://home.comcast.net/~whkratz/id3.htm, which I recommend if you have Outlook already and don't want to fork out more money.

      Other people use Excel as suggested by Katherine or software such as MyLife Organized, Life Balance or the GTD Add-In for Outlook which is available on this web site.

      Good luck

      Comment


      • #4
        Before you start answer the question why you need to view all the NA's by Project?

        1. If you want to be sure you have at least one NA per Project then you can use whatever method you want but there should be a label with each NA. I put the Project name in CAPITAL letters at the end of the string and then use Find feature while doing my Weekly Review;

        2. If you want to keep all actions reqired in NAs list then probably it's not the best idea to keep them in NA's list as Next Action is an independent action you can do at the given context and I assume it's not possible to do all the NA for one project as some of them could depend on other NAs.

        3. Your variant of If here and our recommendation will follow

        Regards,

        Eugene.

        Comment


        • #5
          As people have been saying above, it's a simple problem to solve using most software out there.. the solution will be specific to whatever you use.

          Alternative method using Outlook:

          I have a category for each context, and put NAs as tasks in their relevant contexts. Projects are tasks in the "Project" category and they have a project id from P01 - P99 in the name, like "P26 Purchase new laptop". Those NAs that belong to a project have the project id appended at the end, like "Check best prices for SomeBrand laptop on PriceRunner (P26)" for example. If I then do a search on the project id, I'll se the project task and all its next action tasks.

          NOTE: Clarified the post a little after the question from TesTeq below
          Last edited by jwarlander; 05-09-2006, 06:46 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            How can you remember what P26 really is?

            Originally posted by jwarlander
            Projects are tasks in the "Project" category and they have a project id from P01 - P99 in the name. Those NAs that belong to a project have the project id appended at the end, "P26" for example. If I then do a search on the project id, I'll se the project task and all its next action tasks.
            How can you remember what P26 really is? I would prefer keyword or codename identifiers for projects.

            Comment


            • #7
              That might be more convenient depending on your setup

              I'm using numeric codes because I have file folders "P01" - "P60" (currently), so if I have a project that's called "P26 Purchase new laptop" in Outlook tasks, then I know all the paperwork is in the P26 folder. Further, when that project is completed, I can re-use the folder for a new project without re-labeling it.. it's also a "low overhead" for adding to each NA that I set up.. just 3 chars.

              Really though, for the 3-7 projects that are truly active at any point in time, I generally know which code goes with which project.

              If I don't, I just do a search in Outlook for a part of the actual project name, like "laptop", and my project line will pop up.. then I do a search on the newly discovered project code and immediately see the project and all NAs. Total time consumed? Maybe 10 seconds.

              Comment


              • #8
                I use Excel (actually nowadays I use OpenOffice Calc) and I have a column for Projects and one for Contexts, as already described by others in this thread.

                Furthermore, I use a numeric code, for example P18 to reference every Project. Every NA (including those concerning Projects) has a sequential number. This helps me with my filing of Project NAs and NAs that are not Project-related.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Another variation that works for me

                  Well, part of the problem is that Palm OS only lets you assign one "category" to things . . . so the plain vanilla users have to find a work around. I developed this one:

                  Item (todo, memo, task, whatever) title is:

                  "PROJECTNAME: Next action name."

                  The "Category" would be for the context.

                  So if you sort your items alphabetically, they fall into order by project. If you sort by category, you get them by context.

                  Works for me, I've been using it for years now.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jwarlander
                    That might be more convenient depending on your setup

                    I'm using numeric codes because I have file folders "P01" - "P60" (currently), so if I have a project that's called "P26 Purchase new laptop" in Outlook tasks, then I know all the paperwork is in the P26 folder. Further, when that project is completed, I can re-use the folder for a new project without re-labeling it.. it's also a "low overhead" for adding to each NA that I set up.. just 3 chars.

                    Really though, for the 3-7 projects that are truly active at any point in time, I generally know which code goes with which project.

                    If I don't, I just do a search in Outlook for a part of the actual project name, like "laptop", and my project line will pop up.. then I do a search on the newly discovered project code and immediately see the project and all NAs. Total time consumed? Maybe 10 seconds.
                    I like the concept behind this method. I think I am going to give it a try. It has the added bonus of sepearting my P categories from my @ categories.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      software

                      Software solutions for GTD are great for this sort of thing. I currently use www.vitalist.com and it works well for me.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kewms
                        I don't quite understand why this question comes up so often in this forum. As far as I know, providing multiple views of simple data has been a solved problem in computing for several decades. If your particular software can't do it, it might be time to find different software.
                        I think people aren't looking for how-tos on a system of outline viewing so much as looking for "permission" to use hierarchical lists, which are conspicuously absent from the book except in the project planning section. In seminars, David has discussed reasons for avoiding them, but the book leaves the issue untouched, so the void get filled in here. Maybe he'll address his recommendation of flat lists head-on in an upcoming teleseminar, since it seems to be one of the more counterintuitive aspects of the system for many people.
                        Last edited by Gameboy70; 08-22-2006, 06:49 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kewms
                          I don't quite understand why this question comes up so often in this forum. As far as I know, providing multiple views of simple data has been a solved problem in computing for several decades. If your particular software can't do it, it might be time to find different software.
                          I think I do understand why it comes up- although anyone with reasonable computer skills can create a database that seems to do the job. Many people want a solution that works on multiple computers, and likely with a pda as well. The solutions available with those constraints are just not that good (yet). Furthermore, I think the use of project labels can be painful. Suppose you have 50-100 projects. Finding the right label in a dropdown list can be a real nuisance. Depending on the software, managing that list can be a pain too. These problems can be addressed, for example, with drag-n-drop tags, but I have not seen a really slick tool yet. I also think 3rd-party pda software is now a niche market, so we may never see a really good solution for pda+multiple computer.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mcogilvie
                            I think I do understand why it comes up- although anyone with reasonable computer skills can create a database that seems to do the job. Many people want a solution that works on multiple computers, and likely with a pda as well. The solutions available with those constraints are just not that good (yet).
                            This is the point exactly that a lot of people are looking for. With vanilla outlook I can customize to add project (etc.) fields but they don't sync to my palm. I could use an outliner on the palm for projects but none of the solutions sync well with outlook (which due to corporate IT standards is the default desktop app most are forced to use).

                            Furthermore, I think the use of project labels can be painful. Suppose you have 50-100 projects. Finding the right label in a dropdown list can be a real nuisance. Depending on the software, managing that list can be a pain too.
                            This is a point that David addressed in GTD Roadmap (at least in San Francisco). Keeping all of this stuff connected (e.g. cross linking and syncing all the project/next action information) is too much of a hassle to do mannually, and since no automated solution is available it's not worth spending time on. David mentioned that the technology just isn't there.

                            The other piece that is critical to understand is that if you are concerned about this then you probably aren't doing your weekly review. If you do your weekly review then you'll remember just by looking at a next action which project it goes with and you won't need a project field on your PDA. Of course I still think a "by project" list on a pda would be both useful and relatively easy to create, it's just not a must. Doing the weekly review is.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jpm
                              [...]fields but they don't sync to my palm. I could use an outliner on the palm for projects but none of the solutions sync well with outlook (which due to corporate IT standards is the default desktop app most are forced to use).
                              I do use an excel-spreadsheet-file on my plain vanilla palm and the other computers I have. I don't use this for my gtd-system, but a table with rows for action-project-context is highly sortable and scriptable in excel.

                              You can work with corporate IT standards AND palm vanilla!

                              Comment

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