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  • Referencing Next Actions to Projects

    I am not sure how to organize and keep track of projects. I have a projects list, but how are these referenced to Next Actions. From what I got from the book, the projects list is only that, a list. When a Next Action is completed, what method is used to relate this to a project and move on to the next NA in that project

    Steve

  • #2
    Future actions for a project are contained in the project support materials, which can be as extensive as necessary.

    Exact details depend on your specific implementation. The general idea is that after you complete an NA you refer to the project support materials to see what happens next.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by tekkisan
      I am not sure how to organize and keep track of projects. I have a projects list, but how are these referenced to Next Actions. From what I got from the book, the projects list is only that, a list. When a Next Action is completed, what method is used to relate this to a project and move on to the next NA in that project

      Steve
      First, a correction. The tasks in your projects list are not necessarily NAs. The NA is bookmark - something you can use to get back in the flow of whatever you are doing.

      I agree with the project-support advice. But I think you are asking, "how do I tie, link, or otherwise reference a task/na to a project so that I know I am making progress on the project?"

      I've been a practitioner/zealot of GTD for a few years and the best answer I can give you is "weekly review."

      There are lots of tools, notebooks, systems, and software out there that can help facilitate the review of completed tasks/nas and their relation to your projects list, and some of them are pretty good. But the only way to be sure you are not missing anything (and keep that mind-like-water state) is to manually review everything in your weekly review and make adjustments.

      Comment


      • #4
        In many cases you probably know what the next action needs to be anyway. In my Palm device, rather than marking the To Do item comlpete, I just edit it to be the next action because it's obvious from what I just did what I ought to do next.

        Comment


        • #5
          Check out the Outlook Add-In

          Originally posted by tekkisan
          I am not sure how to organize and keep track of projects. I have a projects list, but how are these referenced to Next Actions. From what I got from the book, the projects list is only that, a list. When a Next Action is completed, what method is used to relate this to a project and move on to the next NA in that project

          Steve
          Netcentrics sells an Outlook add-in on this site. It allows tasks (next actions) to be assigned to location contexts (e.g., @office, @computer) as well as assigned to projects. By simply changing the view, one can switch back and forth between context view and project view.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by tekkisan
            I am not sure how to organize and keep track of projects. I have a projects list, but how are these referenced to Next Actions. From what I got from the book, the projects list is only that, a list. When a Next Action is completed, what method is used to relate this to a project and move on to the next NA in that project
            Steve
            Ah, implementation again.. and again.. and again. Here is a quick list of questions:

            How do you organize your projects now?
            Are your methods working for you?
            Do different projects need to be managed in different ways?
            What changes would you like to try?

            A lot of projects are sequences of actions that are reasonably obvious once you are engaged with the project. So you do the next action, maybe do a bit more work, and write a next action when you stop. If you forget to write the next action down, you should catch that at your next weekly review.

            Some project require additional tools. I have one project for which the key project support item is a spreadsheet, another for which the key is a calendar (it's a course syllabus). I have mindmaps for others. Some people put a mini-outline or list of possible next actions in their main GTD tool, e.g. Outlook or Palm.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by webagogue
              I've been a practitioner/zealot of GTD for a few years and the best answer I can give you is "weekly review."
              I'll second that advice. I've been doing GTD for about a year now, and I've experimented with a variety of tools and techniques (both software and analog) for "linking" projects and next actions into a hierarchy. I've tried outliners (ShadowPlan, Bonsai, etc.), played with the demo of LifeBalance, and tried tracking projects on individual index cards.

              In every case, the amount of time and effort I've spent maintaining those linkages has vastly exceeded the amount of benefit I got from having them.

              The key to GTD for me is simplicity: Your system (whether on a PC, a Palm, note cards, or whatever) should be as complex as it needs to be to keep you moving forward on your tasks, and no more complex than that. If you complete a Next Action, and the next thing after that isn't obvious, review your project support materials and spend a minute identifying that next action. It's really that simple...and that powerful.

              Incidentally, I use a Wiki (NoteStudio) for my system, and I impose as little structure upon that as I can. I make liberal use of the Wiki's backLinks features to "tag" information on pages with contexts etc., but apart from that, the only structure I impose is a one-page-per-project guideline for support materials, notes and so forth. I've tried other ways of organizing my Wiki, but the more I experiment with complex systems, the more I find that simple works.

              -- Tammy

              Comment


              • #8
                Agreed with Tammy. Indeed, I think much of the trouble people experience with GTD comes from discomfort with the lack of direct, obvious maintenance of the system. People are so used to a heavyweight system that, when they come to GTD, they feel lost and wonder if they're doing something wrong.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brent
                  when they come to GTD, they feel lost and wonder if they're doing something wrong.
                  That's a great observation. I know that the key to GTD's success is its inherent simplicity, but our culture seems to value "systems" that are complex and all-inclusive and rigorous. (For example, the various planning models espoused by the Franklin/Covey folks over the years). The nature of the Covey system -- using special binders and forms, or special Palm OS software -- is such that the emphasis is on the system, and on the tools.

                  With GTD, the emphasis is on the process, and the tools can be whatever it takes to guide each individual person through the process. That's really a different way of thinking.

                  -- Tammy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    In my opinion, at the higher levels the emphasis is on the work getting done as a result of using the system. One of the great attributes of GTD is that it gives you the time and the clarity to actually get more things done, because you're spending so much less time fiddling with the system.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Next action not always obvious

                      Vramin] "In many cases you probably know what the next action needs to be anyway. In my Palm device, rather than marking the To Do item comlpete, I just edit it to be the next action because it's obvious from what I just did what I ought to do next."

                      It's easy to see you are neither an academic nor a researcher. I often have four or more different lines of tasks going on within one project at the same time. They do not need to be done in any set sequence, but they all need to be done before the project is finished. The "Next Action" depends on where I am, who else is around, how much time I have, what equipment is available, who has finished their assigned tasks (early or on time or do they need a reminder?), and what is going on on my other projects this week (month). One task has cycled on and off the Next Action" list for 3 months because of equipment issues! And student emergencies tend to wreak havoc with all lists.

                      Rachel

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rachel134
                        It's easy to see you are neither an academic nor a researcher. I often have four or more different lines of tasks going on within one project at the same time. They do not need to be done in any set sequence, but they all need to be done before the project is finished. The "Next Action" depends on where I am, who else is around, how much time I have, what equipment is available, who has finished their assigned tasks (early or on time or do they need a reminder?), and what is going on on my other projects this week (month). One task has cycled on and off the Next Action" list for 3 months because of equipment issues! And student emergencies tend to wreak havoc with all lists.
                        Where you are and what equipment is available are both contexts: @library, @TEM lab, etc.

                        Tracking assigned tasks is what the @Waiting For context is for.

                        Many people have projects that are this complicated, and that's why project management tools exist. But most people, regardless of their field, also have lots of projects like "buy office supplies," "fix car," "get email working again," and so forth. If you spend all of your time maintaining a link between your "fix car" project plan and your NA list, you won't have time to manage the projects that really do need that level of detail.

                        Katherine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rachel134
                          It's easy to see you are neither an academic nor a researcher. I often have four or more different lines of tasks going on within one project at the same time. They do not need to be done in any set sequence, but they all need to be done before the project is finished. The "Next Action" depends on where I am, who else is around, how much time I have, what equipment is available, who has finished their assigned tasks (early or on time or do they need a reminder?), and what is going on on my other projects this week (month). One task has cycled on and off the Next Action" list for 3 months because of equipment issues! And student emergencies tend to wreak havoc with all lists.
                          My own experience in academic research suggests to me that a lot of my progress comes from staying engaged and showing up- putting quality time into research projects. If I put a lot of random next actions on my lists at once, associated with a project I am personally actively working on, it can detract from my focus. Lately, I have been having good luck with mindmaps as focus tools.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by wordsofwonder
                            In every case, the amount of time and effort I've spent maintaining those linkages has vastly exceeded the amount of benefit I got from having them.

                            The key to GTD for me is simplicity: Your system (whether on a PC, a Palm, note cards, or whatever) should be as complex as it needs to be to keep you moving forward on your tasks, and no more complex than that. If you complete a Next Action, and the next thing after that isn't obvious, review your project support materials and spend a minute identifying that next action. It's really that simple...and that powerful.
                            Hello, Tammy. I apologize in advance if I didn't understand this correctly.

                            Assuming I did understand you correctly, I certainly agree to a limited extent with the above. For small projects I rarely bother to do more than what you just stated. In these cases I agree whole heartedly that linking the actions to a prepared list of actions for a project is more trouble than its worth as long as you've given the project at least some thought in advance.

                            But I also find myself working on 5 or 6 larger, more complex projects at any one time. Depending on the situation, I often find myself spending an entire day, or even a week, working just on one project while keeping immediate, peripheral issues under control. These large projects absolutely require that I do some planning. The key to that for me is to list out the actions, thinking about what's required and adding actions related to that as I go. In these cases, playing loose and determining actions by reviewing support materials doesn't cut it.

                            What I generally do is keep a list of actions in the project folder and the current action in this folder crosslinked somehow to a deferred actions or waiting for list. That way I have everything available whether I am approaching things from the "What can I do now" perspective or whether I am spending my time on one specific project that day, working my way down the list. When I'm done at the end of the day, both the current actions lists and the project lists have to be up to date with at least one link as a stake in the ground to pick up the next morning. I completely agree that this system doesn't have to be complicated but I find it to be a necessity in these cases.

                            Since you brought up ShadowPlan and Bonsai, I will say that one thing I've stopped doing all together is trying to manage projects on the Palm. I found that it needed to be done either on the computer or on the PDA but that trying to keep both up to date just eats up more time than its worth. I travel quite a bit but hotel rooms nearly always have fast Internet connections now. I can literally connect directly to may work computer and use it almost like I was at my desk. The Palm added an incredible element of complication that, for me, was just not needed. Its a collection device now with a few relevant lists in ShadowPlan.

                            Tom S.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rachel134
                              It's easy to see you are neither an academic nor a researcher. I often have four or more different lines of tasks going on within one project at the same time. They do not need to be done in any set sequence, but they all need to be done before the project is finished. The "Next Action" depends on where I am, who else is around, how much time I have, what equipment is available, who has finished their assigned tasks (early or on time or do they need a reminder?), and what is going on on my other projects this week (month). One task has cycled on and off the Next Action" list for 3 months because of equipment issues! And student emergencies tend to wreak havoc with all lists.
                              You presume that only researchers and academics have complex projects to track.

                              I stand by my original point. I wish that you had read it more carefully.
                              Last edited by Vramin; 06-12-2006, 01:41 PM.

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