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  • Projects and actions

    Read the book, listened to the CD (several times), really great, but some basics still aren't clear to me. I imagine that that's partly because everyone has different ways of GTDing, so I'm interested in how other people think about these fundamentals. Mostly this is about digital stuff (my company uses Outlook), but it's the mindset I don't think I get, not the tools.

    So...

    I have a large number of ongoing projects (some urgent, others someday/maybe), each of which has lots of actions (again some urgent, some blue sky). Many of those actions could be considered projects themselves, because they have multiple steps. If I don't categorize them somehow, the list would be un-usefully big.

    My current theory is to make a new Outlook Task folder for each project, and put all its steps in there. Some of those go in a SOMEDAY/MAYBE PROJECTS folder, some in PROJECTS. Far as I can see, I don't need a projects list other than that. Is there any reason I do?

    But the big thing I don't get is how that translates into a list of Next Actions. Do you pull the NA for each project out of its project folder and into a NEXT ACTIONS folder? If not, how do you flag things as Next, and where do you go for a readout of your front burner items? I could reorder project tasks (actions), putting the Next one at the top, or Flag it, etc, but think I'd still like a list of everything I've told myself was Next.

    Or am I thinking about this "wrong"?

    When I come in in the morning, I process my Inbox (I'm actually succeeding at keeping it pretty much empty), and check my calendar. Then I need to figure out what to do, both next, and hopefully later in the day, "iff'n it don't rain". Where do you look to pick NAs? Having to look at all your projects doesn't seem right; riding herd on all that is the function of weekly review.

    And once you decide what you're shooting for for the day, where you put that info? Move or copy it into an NAs location, and work off that?

    Or do you just pick the One Next Thing for right now, do it, then pick another one?


    Sorry to go on so long, but I've found lots of GTD very useful, and I'm really trying to absorb what it all means in practical terms. Hopefully at some point I'll have a block of time I can attempt really global collection, but even without that, I'm feeling much clearer and more in control, in an environment where that's not easy.

    Thanks for any thoughts,

    d

  • #2
    Originally posted by dmerrill
    My current theory is to make a new Outlook Task folder for each project, and put all its steps in there. Some of those go in a SOMEDAY/MAYBE PROJECTS folder, some in PROJECTS. Far as I can see, I don't need a projects list other than that. Is there any reason I do?
    No, you have it right: if it's not part of your active Projects, then it's a Someday/Maybe.

    But the big thing I don't get is how that translates into a list of Next Actions. Do you pull the NA for each project out of its project folder and into a NEXT ACTIONS folder? If not, how do you flag things as Next, and where do you go for a readout of your front burner items? I could reorder project tasks (actions), putting the Next one at the top, or Flag it, etc, but think I'd still like a list of everything I've told myself was Next.

    Or am I thinking about this "wrong"?
    Folders are used for project and action support, not as project and action triggers. For many projects and actions you may not even need a folder; just a heading on your project list and corresponding actions in the appropriate context lists. An example of a project and next action that would require folders would be "Hire admin assistant," where you'd want to have resumes and interview questions at hand. But the folder would generally be out of sight when you're not actually engaged in the action. The trigger, in this case, would perhaps be a calendar entry for your next interview.

    Any action to a project that can be done "now" (i.e. you have everything you need to take the action when you're in the appropriate context) goes on your next actions lists. Subsequent actions, the stuff you can't actually do right now, get filed in with project support material. Then your action lists only contain things that you actually can do. The order in which you do them is your discretion, unless they're hard landscape items like the job interview at 10:30 am on Tuesday.

    When I come in in the morning, I process my Inbox (I'm actually succeeding at keeping it pretty much empty), and check my calendar. Then I need to figure out what to do, both next, and hopefully later in the day, "iff'n it don't rain". Where do you look to pick NAs? Having to look at all your projects doesn't seem right; riding herd on all that is the function of weekly review.

    And once you decide what you're shooting for for the day, where you put that info? Move or copy it into an NAs location, and work off that?

    Or do you just pick the One Next Thing for right now, do it, then pick another one?
    I start the morning with a daily review, in which I look my calendar and each of my action lists. Then I update my tickler file, processing its contents and anything else in my In-tray, doing likewise with email, until I get to zero and have my calendar and action lists current again. At any point during these review and processing stages, I might be compelled to stop the program and actually do some longer-than-two-minute action off the lists, but in theory, at least, I review and process first; then pick and choose whoat to do once In is empty. What I choose to do off the lists at any moment is an intuitive, just-in-time judgement. I prioritize the situation, not the lists.

    I don't look at my project list during the week except to add incoming projects to it. I only look at my calendar and action lists during the day, since time and place provide concrete triggers to work from. Those entries are separated from the project list during the weekly review. In my system the project list is simply one more Task (To Do) category on the Palm Desktop. Projects, @Office, @Computer, etc. are stored as flat lists.

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    • #3
      Bravissimo!

      Could I just add a big thanks here, Gameboy?

      I'm at a very early stage of implementation and am still struggling to get my head around making the whole system mesh neatly. While I'm convinced that certain aspects will simply come with practice (doing 2 minute tasks immediately, checking tickler file every evening, emptying inbox daily as a matter of routine), real-life examples of how people apply the methodology and keep the edges of their system clean are really helpful.

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