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  • newbie: Project List?

    hey guys,

    I'm new to GTD but I can already see the tremendous opportunity it represents for organisation and achievemnt.

    I have a couple of questions about Project Lists

    1. is it to fine to use a Microsoft Word (or alternative Word Processor) to record my Projects on?

    2. I've noticed that my projects are essentially my current goals... is it recommended to include self made project deadline dates for projects or not?

    here's an example of how my Project List is currently looking;

    HEALTH
    1. achieve strong, healthy core
    2. achieve excellent posture

    WEALTH
    1. build wealth to $25,000
    2. buy apartment that I love
    3. get permanent full time position

    MUSIC (I'm a music producer / DJ / artist manager)
    1. learn keys / piano
    2. complete Advanced Tactics EP
    3. complete Courts demo
    4. master music production software

    any additional advice is greatly appreciated as I'm really trying to get my head around GTD

    thanks!
    Last edited by nugmusic; 05-20-2006, 03:27 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by nugmusic
    1. is it to fine to use a Microsoft Word (or alternative Word Processor) to record my Projects on?

    2. I've noticed that my projects are essentially my current goals... is it recommended to include self made project deadline dates for projects or not?

    here's an example of how my Project List is currently looking;

    HEALTH
    1. achieve strong, healthy core
    2. achieve excellent posture

    WEALTH
    1. build wealth to $25,000
    2. buy apartment that I love
    3. get permanent full time position

    MUSIC (I'm a music producer / DJ / artist manager)
    1. learn keys / piano
    2. complete Advanced Tactics EP
    3. complete Courts demo
    4. master music production software
    Word is fine, if you will review your projects list at least weekly. Most people like to have their projects list readily available, though.

    Artificial deadlines can be deadly. If you don't meet them, then it is very easy to feel like a failure, or lose interest in the project. My recommendation is to only set deadlines when it makes sense, e.g., to "get an apartment I love" by the time my current lease expires.

    Some of your projects are not really projects in the sense of having a definite desired outcome. How will you know when you have "learned piano?" I have been playing guitar for decades, and I am still learning. You should review the discussion of higher-level goals (20,000 to 50,000 feet) in the GTD book with an eye to moving some of your projects upward, and creating more concrete projects from them.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by mcogilvie
      Word is fine, if you will review your projects list at least weekly. Most people like to have their projects list readily available, though.

      Artificial deadlines can be deadly. If you don't meet them, then it is very easy to feel like a failure, or lose interest in the project. My recommendation is to only set deadlines when it makes sense, e.g., to "get an apartment I love" by the time my current lease expires.

      Some of your projects are not really projects in the sense of having a definite desired outcome. How will you know when you have "learned piano?" I have been playing guitar for decades, and I am still learning. You should review the discussion of higher-level goals (20,000 to 50,000 feet) in the GTD book with an eye to moving some of your projects upward, and creating more concrete projects from them.
      thanks for the reply - I found it really helpful to gaining a better understanding of GTD and how to put it into practice from it!

      I think I'll go with Word (or similar Word Processing software) as the main way of recording my projects as well as keeping a printed version on me as well for quick referral

      you're right about deadlines and I will keep it in mind

      thanks for the insight on being clear on my goals and projects. in terms of learning keys, my goal could be "learning to play keys" as measured by being able to make 10 songs involving keys (as an example) and my current Project could then be to complete "Learn Piano In To 10 Easy Lessons" workbook

      thanks again

      Comment


      • #4
        yes, not exactly projects

        nugmusic,
        The post before was correct that your goals are not projects. I am STILL trying to get this idea in to my head... its so easy to get messy with this stuff!! David reminds that systems need hard edges. Once you can clarify what are projects, and what are not- it is much easier to squeeze out next actions and get the project moving. Hope that helps.

        erik

        Comment


        • #5
          Yeah, this can be very difficult. I struggle with it all the time. But then, any useful system requires some rewiring of the brain.

          "Be a writer" may be a goal, but it's not a project.
          "Write a novel" is a project.

          Comment


          • #6
            thanks for the advice guys!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Brent
              "Be a writer" may be a goal, but it's not a project. "Write a novel" is a project.
              Speaking as a writer, even "Write a novel" is a bit broad to be a project, at least for me. "Complete first draft of The Great American Novel" is a project.

              -- Tammy

              Comment


              • #8
                ^^^

                good point

                I guess it's all about braking it down to the simplest level of achievable project

                Comment


                • #9
                  Depends on the novel. I'm writing a young adult novel, so it's not as big of a project as, say, The Da Vinci Code.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by wordsofwonder
                    Speaking as a writer, even "Write a novel" is a bit broad to be a project, at least for me. "Complete first draft of The Great American Novel" is a project.

                    -- Tammy
                    Actually, "write a novel" is a project. "Complete first draft of The Great American Novel" is a sub-project.

                    But really that's all semantics. Just list your goals, projects, subproject however you like, and more importantly write down what the next action is and DO it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I find determining the right terms for describing what a project is to be a project in itself.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Stack overflow.

                        Originally posted by Vramin
                        I find determining the right terms for describing what a project is to be a project in itself.
                        But how can you determine the right terms for describing what the "project to determine right terms for describing what a project is" is?

                        You have to start a project to determine the right terms for describing what the "project to determine right terms for describing what a project is" is.

                        The process of writing this post was stopped due to TesTeq's brain stack overflow.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TesTeq
                          The process of writing this post was stopped due to TesTeq's brain stack overflow.
                          Testeq, it's time to upgrade the stack

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Max
                            Actually, "write a novel" is a project. "Complete first draft of The Great American Novel" is a sub-project.
                            Can you clarify how the distinction between projects and sub-projects works for you? I've tried to make this distinction in my own GTD system before, and have ended up refactoring the hierarchical bits out because I got too bogged down in managing the layers of projects and sub-projects to get any work done.

                            For me, I tend to view a project as something that satisfies the following criteria:
                            1. Has a definable goal and outcome.
                            2. Requires more than one NA to complete.
                            3. Relates in some way to my short- or long-term goals, areas of responsibility, values or life.

                            As such, I view "Finish draft 1 of Novel AAA" to be a complete and self-contained project in its own right. It has a definable goal/outcome: To be holding in my hand a draft of the novel. It requires (many) more than one NA to complete. It relates to my 30,000 foot goal, "Be self-supporting as a freelance fiction and non-fiction writer."

                            It's not simply a part of a larger project for me, because it might be that once I get the first draft done, I decide it's a steaming pile of garbage that any self-respecting landfill woudl reject in horror, in which case I'd throw it away and try another idea. If I like the first draft enough to attempt a second one, I can add a new project for the second draft. So, for me, the project/subproject distinction doesn't help me any.

                            I think you're right, though, that it's all semantics and that, at the end of the day, the goal is to get the stuff done. That's why I've been drastically simplifying my system of late, using my PC, PalmPilot and NoteStudio. I've created a system that uses NoteStudio's backlinking system to implement what amount to "tags" -- and in the process, I've reduced my system to the minimum amount of formal structure needed to keep the thing humming along. That way, I spend my time getting my work done and not tweaking my system. (If anyone's interested in a post on how i've set things up in NoteStudio, let me know and I'll be glad to post something.)


                            -- Tammy

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by wordsofwonder
                              Can you clarify how the distinction between projects and sub-projects works for you? I've tried to make this distinction in my own GTD system before, and have ended up refactoring the hierarchical bits out because I got too bogged down in managing the layers of projects and sub-projects to get any work done.

                              For me, I tend to view a project as something that satisfies the following criteria:
                              1. Has a definable goal and outcome.
                              2. Requires more than one NA to complete.
                              3. Relates in some way to my short- or long-term goals, areas of responsibility, values or life.
                              Tammy,

                              You are correct to point out that the exact specifications of a subproject are notoriously difficult to pin down, as David Allen himself recognizes. The problem is much deeper than defining a project; the very notion of an action is relative to the agent's history, mental state, environment and dispositions. If you are in a new situation, "Server backed up" might be a project. The fine-grained actions might be Turn on monitor, Click on history tab, Verify prior night's backup is complete, etc.

                              After you've been backing up the server for a period of time, it no longer is a project. Now all of the fine-grained steps are viewed by you as a single physical action. Now your trusted system only has the NA "Back up server."

                              Any project can be broken down into infinitesimally small components. As we tell each other ad nauseum, we break things down as much as we need to but no more. We very quickly learn that we don't want to spend all our time cultivating our project plans. The goal is to get things done.

                              I applaud your quest for clarity regarding subprojects. I would claim that the use of subprojects is just like the use of projects. It is dependent on your psychological state. If I am at a new job, "Bank statement reconciled" might be a project, with many subordinate NAs. This is because the reconciliation of the bank statement induces, panic, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed within me. I recognize these emotional feelings and respond rationally by breaking the project up into smaller bits.

                              If I have an outcome that will require many days or weeks to accomplish, I might decide that I can deal with it better psychologically by breaking it down into component parts. Most of these components might best be described as outcomes themselves, not actions. So I end up with a project plan that is either a multilevel outline or a mindmap. (For examples of both, see the GTD book.) I would then have a project with a number of subprojects. For each subproject I would define a NA.

                              If my project were "Draft 1 of Novell AAA written," I would need to engage in some introspection. Is this hard to swallow emotionally? Do I have thoughts of doubt and inadequacy? If I don't, it's time to dive in and and start writing. If I do feel at all overwhelmed, I might decide to create subordinate projects. Perhaps:
                              One-paragraph summary written for each main character.
                              One-page summary of narrative written.
                              Atlantic slave trade researched.

                              The first subproject might have the following outcomes:
                              Character summary of Smith written.
                              Character summary of Jones written.
                              Character summary of Morgan written.
                              The next action for the Smith subproject might be:

                              Review my journal entries from my trip to Arkansas last spring.

                              For another discussion of this practice, I copy a post by andersons:
                              subprojects in practice
                              Originally Posted by egg
                              THE BIG QUESTION!!!!: how do I get this into the GTD(outlook) system. Whats a project? What's a task?!

                              Is (Run "BIG Computer Project") a project? Or is it (run "Product ABC") or ("BIG Computer Project UK")??

                              First point -- outcomes and actions. With the GTD paradigm, express as much as possible in terms of successful outcomes and actions to achieve them. For "Run Big Computer Project," what is the successful outcome? For "Run Product ABC," what is the successful outcome?

                              Here you really have 9 projects that are part of a grand Project. For purposes of GTD, you can factor out the grand Project. Then you have

                              Product ABC is delivered in UK
                              Product ABC is delivered in France
                              Product ABC is delivered in Spain
                              Product XYZ is delivered in UK
                              Product XYZ is delivered in France
                              Product XYZ is delivered in Spain
                              Product 123 is delivered in UK
                              Product 123 is delivered in France
                              Product 123 is delivered in Spain

                              To organize these better conceptually, you could certainly group them EITHER by country OR by product and have a perfect outline. However, from the viewpoint of outcomes and actions, it looks like you have 9 separate projects to organize.

                              Second point - more than 2 levels for complex projects. Yes, you can have more than 2 levels in your project planning. Even if everything possible is expressed in terms of actions and outcomes, you are still going to have 9 complex projects with several levels of hierarchy (i.e., subprojects) before you see actions emerge. GTD mostly addresses the simple projects with 2 levels - project and action - that capture much of what we want to do in our lives - maybe 75%, maybe 90%.

                              However, there are more complex projects that need to be outlined, and GTD recognizes that. It's perfectly fine to expand the hierarchy of project planning in GTD. Chapter 10 of GTD talks a little bit about outlining more complex projects. The example there shows 4 levels deep for moving to a new office location.

                              With your 9 projects, break the first one down into subprojects, subsubprojects, etc. Try to have the subprojects be outcomes, not ideas, as much as possible. If you keep breaking subprojects down, you should have at the lowest level actions you can do to accomplish the subproject which will help accomplish the project. Actions should be things you know how to do in one sitting.

                              After you have planned and organized one project, you might be able to come up with a master project template, or at least a template for each product, so that you do many of the same actions for each product project. Then you can add the actions that are custom to each country as they arise.
                              Quote:
                              Originally Posted by egg
                              It's a shame that I can't have the same kind of hierarchy in the GTD project/task list.. there's only one level, from what I can see.

                              Please help! I'm going mad!
                              Third point - choose the tool that can handle your data. Right now you are trying track actions in Word, and project structure in Outlook. These products were really designed for the opposite use: you could outline the multiple levels of the project structure in Word, then track the lowest-level actions in Outlook.

                              Outlook is not designed to represent hierarchical projects. It was designed to track tasks and relate them to other data, files and emails. Outlook can be rigged to represent 2 levels - projects and actions (by configuring according to the whitepaper, using the custom project form from the Gear forum, or an add-in). The most recent add-in for Outlook rigs it to support 3 levels - project, subproject, and action. But all in all, Outlook has relational structure and operations that have to be jury-rigged to act like a hierarchy. You will need to configure it or add something in to capture 2 or 3 levels. So it's perfectly understandable that you are going mad trying.

                              Personally, I don't like the additional work and headache of rigging software to deal with data structure it was not designed for. Trying to represent hierarchical data with a relational tool is a pain. Trying to represent relational data with a hierarchical tool is a pain.

                              So you have 2 options here. You can abandon Outlook altogether in favor of software that fits your hierarchical project and action data.

                              Or, you can plan the outline of your projects and subprojects outside of Outlook, in some other outlining tool, such as Word. There are better tools than Word if you need them. This project planning should produce an outline with levels of subprojects that finally lead to actions you can do. Then use Outlook to track the actions. Or configure it to track the 2 lowest levels -- the lowest level of subproject and their actions (e.g., with the whitepaper, the custom project form on the Gear forum, or an add-in).

                              So ultimately, you'll have a project outline in Word or some other outlining tool:

                              Product A is delivered in UK [project]
                              --> Product A bugs are fixed [subproject]
                              ----> Product A has been beta-tested [subsubproject]
                              ------> Release Product A beta [subsubsubproject]
                              --------> Check with Product A UK manager about beta release status [next action]

                              Then track all the next actions in Outlook. You could maybe track the next action along with its immediate parent subsubsubproject.

                              Obviously, I don't know much about delivering software products, so my example is likely stupid, but you get the point. And I do know that the steps of releasing software products are standardized to a point; there exists software specifically to track and automate the process because it is complex.

                              Finally, see this thread for more ideas, particularly about MindManager/ResultsManager:
                              http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4552

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