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Storing/Organizing Projects

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  • Storing/Organizing Projects


    I just started a job a month ago where I am getting overwhelmed with projects such that it dilutes my focus on them.

    I'm struggling with the best way to store projects such that I can easily review them and determine NA as well as status. What works for those of you on this list who have mastered juggling multiple projects at once - Excel?

    Thanks in advance for any tips!

    Matt Cooper

  • #2
    projects, actions, and planning material

    Hi Matt. First, in GTD it's helpful to distinguish between your master projects list (which is just a list of every project, by name, one per line), and project planning material.

    The former can be stored anywhere you prefer - digital or paper. It's what you review once a week to make sure a) it's complete, i.e., that it lists every project in your life, and doesn't list any old ones, and b) there's at least one next action in your system for each project.

    This is different from project planning material, which might be as little as a quick sketch of major steps, to something more formalized for your work. But the point is it should contain some kind of plan of action steps required to move it to completion. It's also the place you keep supporting information like email and web printouts, ideas, issues, etc. Again, it should be in whatever form works for you, though you may need both electronic and paper versions, depending on how you work. (Electronic for emails, documents, and attachments, paper for ... well paper!) Note that smaller projects are simple enough that you may not need a folder for them at all.

    If your planning material is relatively well organized, reviewing its status shouldn't be too difficult. Remember, you should be looking at the project at least once a week in your weekly review, so you should already have a pretty good sense of where it is and what's needed next.

    If you're having trouble creating a plan, David Allen's chapters on planning (the "natural planning model") are straightforward.

    Good luck!


    • #3

      I have read the chapter on planning.

      I guess what I was referring to more was how many projects one should be focusing on at a time, what to do with the ones waiting in the queue so they stay on your radar, etc.

      I know that this number will vary by individual, some people can focus on just two at a time while others may be able to handle sixteen "live" projects, with the other sixty in the queue.

      This is a problem for me because if I try to focus on too many projects, none of them get done or none of them get done well.

      Any suggestions?


      • #4
        It depends on the project. Some require large blocks of focused concentration. Some can move forward with only a few phone calls.



        • #5
          Originally posted by MCooper
          This is a problem for me because if I try to focus on too many projects, none of them get done or none of them get done well.

          Any suggestions?
          Can't you put some of the lower priority projects on your someday list? That way the next actions won't be required and you can report the status as "not started yet". Then you can focus on your most important projects and finish them quicker.


          • #6

            Originally posted by MCooper
            I guess what I was referring to more was how many projects one should be focusing on at a time...
            One. Focus by definition is a singular point of direction or purpose. You can't think about two things at the same time, no more than you can go in two different directions in the same time.

            The more you focus on the less focus you have.

            You will be more successful with GTD if you have the maturity to decide not to focus on certain projects. Say no.

            The number of projects you have in your active project list can vary considerably. I currently have 30. I've had as many as 170. 170 was to much to manage and I had to be ruthless in my culling.

            If you aren't going to work on a project in the next couple of weeks it should go on your someday maybe list. A lot also depends upon the amount of focus the project will require. Can you move a project forward with a phone call or an e-mail or do you need 4 hours of block time to draft a report?

            I use the Outlook Add-In so my projects are stored in my task list in Outlook in the Projects Category and synced with my palm. That seems to work well enough for me.