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Higher / Lower Altitude Connection

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  • Higher / Lower Altitude Connection

    Hi All,

    In another thread on long-term goal planning I posted about my prose method for getting my higher-level goals out.

    After getting all this stuff down, I decided to stick the items into Bonsai, so that everything would be in one place. There was some flailing about, but this is what I ended up with...

    In Bonsai, I have one outline called GTD that contains all my projects, NAs, waiting fors, and so on using categories for the different types (and keywords for context, FYI). I use a set of filters to see just the items I need (NAs by context, Projects only, Waiting Fors, Someday/Maybes).

    I created a second outline for my text descriptions and some values and principles stuff. The descriptions themselves were in the notes and the outline items were by time (10 years, 5 years, and so on). I made a category called Vision just for these items.

    From my text descriptions I formulated a bunch of goals. It took me a while to get the hang of this part because I kept thinking that I had to have lots of different levels for different timeframes and tried to force everything into this overly complex hierarchy. But what I discovered is that most of my goals span a number of different times and even different areas. Things like "Financial Sustainability" and "Continuing Education." For each goal, I wrote up a definition of success and added projects to help me meet the goal. Since each of my projects already contains a note describing the criteria for completion, it was easy to see how each project will help meet the goal. Some were active projects with next actions that I can start right now and some were Someday/Maybe projects -- just placeholders for the project and any ideas that come along until I'm ready to start them (I'm not ready to buy that perfect house, but until I am, I have a S/M project where I can stash support materials).

    So the goals were a flat list in my GTD outline with projects underneath them. Under the projects are the NAs I need to accomplish. These fit neatly into my main outline (with a couple more filters to help). Now, as part of my weekly review of NAs, projects, WFs, and S/Ms, I can also see the goal each item comes from. I figure a weekly quick review of the goals themselves, in order to generate new project ideas, will keep me on track.

    Plus I have my vision and principles stuff in another outline for occasional review and refinement (a couple times a year).

    The interesting thing is that by working in both directions like this (generating projects and NAs from the bottom up as well as from the top down) I can see all the things I'm doing that don't necessarily meet any of my goals. Things like the "Return broken appliance for repair" project that is just one of those daily annoyances that come up.

    Does anyone else have that distinction of projects that come from a goal or higher altitude plan and projects that don't?

  • #2
    Hi Ivy,

    Read your interesting previous post and yes, I've recently "converted" my outline into purpose-driven (at least I hope it to be!) projects that flow from major goals. I use MLO as my outliner of choice and this is what my outline looks like:

    My True Purpose and Values
    |__Mission Statement
    |__Values
    Planning Level
    |__Inbox
    |__Major Goals
    |__90-Day Goals & Plans
    |__30-Day Goals & Plans
    |__Weekly Goals
    |__Projects & NA's
    |__Someday
    Execution Level
    |__Standalone NA's
    |__30 Day Schedule
    |__Routines
    |__Reference

    The outline is actually one I've adopted from an article to Steve Pavlina's blog.

    My 30 day Schedule is actually a linear list of days thirty days ahead
    of time, so I get my NA's from the project level into individual days.
    I then have a daily to do list and hourly schedule which is actually on
    paper. I have found the final paper interface when actually
    doing a task to be far more satisfying.

    I use the planning level to set out objectives of the goal,
    obstacles, brainstorm possible future next actions or projects, how it
    aligns with my values and true purpose and just about anything that
    comes to my mind that will provide the impetus or drive to push me
    ahead.
    The 90 day/30 day/weekly goals are divided into Primary and Secondary goals. As Steve Pavlina writes, the idea of these subdivisions is to chop up your Major Goals
    into finer levels of granulity until you are left with a weekly set of
    goals that will (hopefully) run right through your layers and push your
    major goals ahead, one week at a time. So, I use task links
    extensively, linking the weekly goal to a higher level and so on, so
    forth. The added benefit of this is that the outline doesn't get too
    many levels deep, though it is some times a pain to link things all the
    time.


    Next is the Projects/Next Actions level. I'm hoping that their links to goals
    will help me intuitively guide decisions on what is impt. So here,
    planning involves linking the project to either weekly or 30 day goals,
    and setting up the next actions for them.

    Then comes the Execution level, where theoretically, the rubber hits
    the road. NA's from Projects get assigned to specific days, the so
    called hardlandscape stuff. Here, I assign the context "Schedule-Work",
    "Schedule-Home" dictating where I can physically get the job done.
    Appointments get thrown in here too. But I don't trust myself, so I
    then create a paper to-do list (a spiral notebook), as some these NA's
    may be lurking as multiple steps and might therefore hinder progress at
    a mental level from getting them done. Also, as the day evolves, there
    might be "mosquito" tasks of returning calls, etc that I record into
    the paper list. Just below the to-do list for the day of about 5 - 8
    tasks, is a 2 hourly time line, where I assign the tasks from the to-do
    list to available time slots. This becomes my visual map for the day. I
    take notes on the opposite page on things that come up, they then get
    thrown into the MLO outline at the appropriate place.

    Seems like a lot of work at the planning mode doesn't it before the
    nuts and bolts, but actually I surprised myself. The daily list takes
    15 mins to set up at the end of the day (or at home), and weekly/30 day
    goals get reviewed everyday for about 20 minutes (add notes, change,
    move things around, etc). Quarterly goals get looked at the Weekly
    review, as do the Major Goals.

    It's been a lot of work getting from a pure projects/NA's orientation to a a more goal-based approach, but I hope this outline will serve me better in working towards my objectives. And yes, there are projects/tasks that are unrelated to higher outcomes, things like daily routines, and admin stuff that you have to do, so it's nice to see that distinction emerging from the outline.

    Comment


    • #3
      I do use one of these purpose-driven, pavlina-style outlines as well. Welcome to the club! I second the notion that such a system gives you a much better way to stay on track with your goals and to see which projects are chores that should be eliminated out of your life.

      I don't link n/a's to projects and I don't link projects to goals. These links are not necessary. Quote from another thread: The other reason for treating projects as contexts was the eternal "how do I link NAs and projects?" question. The answer, it turns out, is that I don't need to. If the NA is clearly stated, it's obvious which project it belongs to. Similarly, if the project plan is clear, I should be able

      My outline goes like this:

      * Life Areas
      ** Financial
      ---My plans as text ect
      ---with marked up goals
      ** Sports
      ---My plans as text ect with marked up goals
      * Someday
      --List of upcoming projects
      * Maybe & Ideas
      --List sorted by life area (more or less)
      * Projects
      * Actions
      --sorted by contexts
      * Statistics
      --some stats I keep about my performance like when I hit a target
      * Schedule
      --routine items marked up with date ect

      My software lets me open windows with the entries sorted by other criteria. For example by due today would give me a window with all actions, schedule-items and goal marked up with a time stamp for today. Or I can choose to see all n/a's for a given context and so on. I guess you got it by now. Matt uses the same software and offers some let me say good stuff on his b-log.
      http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2005/08...poor-mans.html
      http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2005/04...ories-for.html

      Anyway, nice to see how others resolved the issue with the projectless n/a's in an outline tree. Thanks for sharing!
      Last edited by Cpu_Modern; 12-05-2006, 03:11 AM. Reason: type-setting needed

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jogesh View Post
        The 90 day/30 day/weekly goals are divided into Primary and Secondary goals. As Steve Pavlina writes, the idea of these subdivisions is to chop up your Major Goals into finer levels of granulity until you are left with a weekly set of goals that will (hopefully) run right through your layers and push your
        major goals ahead, one week at a time.
        See, that's where I originally had trouble, in breaking down goals by time. But I think that for me, projects act as the short term "stuff I can do to further my goals."

        Originally posted by Jogesh View Post
        And yes, there are projects/tasks that are unrelated to higher outcomes, things like daily routines, and admin stuff that you have to do, so it's nice to see that distinction emerging from the outline.
        Yeah, this is what I really liked. I can see where stuff crops up that's necessary, but not really tied to ... well, anything about my plans or future.

        Comment


        • #5
          Congrats, Ivy! Looks like you've found something that works for you.

          My mileage varies. I identify the distinction between higher elevation projects and lower-elevation "stuff" during the Weekly Review, where it's pretty obvious what's supporting my goals and what isn't.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Brent View Post
            I identify the distinction between higher elevation projects and lower-elevation "stuff" during the Weekly Review, where it's pretty obvious what's supporting my goals and what isn't.
            I think this is a testament to your own sense of self and goals. I didn't know what my goals were until I wrote them down and starting thinking about how to make them happen. I can see that over time, I may not need such a tight link between goals and projects... it will work more organically and naturally during my review.

            Although some of my goal directed projects are not very obviously connected. I have a financial goal, for example, and one of the things I can do to meet it is keep my old (and paid off) car running as long as possible. So a recurring tickler that becomes a regular NA for "change oil" is actually related to meeting my financial goal (car maintenance is not the kind of thing I'd ever think of otherwise). I never would have made that connection without working "down" my tree.

            Comment


            • #7
              [QUOTE=Cpu_Modern;43981]I don't link n/a's to projects and I don't link projects to goals.[/URL]

              You know, I read that other thread and it got me to thinking. I was linking those things, but I recently stopped... to a degree.

              In Bonsai, I can display a flat list of NAs or I can display them along with the projects they come from. I was displaying them with the projects, but found is adversely affected my productivity (seeing the project names always derailed my thinking). However, although I now display the NAs in a flat list, I still often generate future NAs under a project. That is, when I create a new project, I'll dump any potential NAs that are on my mind under the project, but categorized as project support. When I'm ready to do the next thing to further the project, I'll just change one (or several, if appropriate) of those items to "NA" and it appears in my next action list.

              The nice thing about this is that, during my weekly review, I can look at a project and see my progress (NAs completed and not). But I don't have to think about the project when I'm doing my NAs.

              I do the same with goals, brain-dumping project ideas (someday/maybe's) under a goal. But when it comes time to accomplish the project, it's just a project like any other.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Ivy View Post
                The nice thing about this is that, during my weekly review, I can look at a project and see my progress (NAs completed and not). But I don't have to think about the project when I'm doing my NAs.
                So you have some sort of progress-log inbuild, neat. But how do you deal with projectless actions?

                Originally posted by Ivy View Post
                I do the same with goals, brain-dumping project ideas (someday/maybe's) under a goal. But when it comes time to accomplish the project, it's just a project like any other.
                Yes, ideas tend to be best handled when sorted 'under' the relevant goal/project. I am glad that somebody else confirms that. There were more than a day when I drove myself insane trying to figure the perfect gtd-outline approach.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ivy View Post
                  I think this is a testament to your own sense of self and goals. I didn't know what my goals were until I wrote them down and starting thinking about how to make them happen. I can see that over time, I may not need such a tight link between goals and projects... it will work more organically and naturally during my review.
                  Yeah. And I think it naturally becomes clearer over time.

                  We certainly aren't born knowing our purpose in life, and it won't come to us all at once.

                  Although some of my goal directed projects are not very obviously connected. I have a financial goal, for example, and one of the things I can do to meet it is keep my old (and paid off) car running as long as possible. So a recurring tickler that becomes a regular NA for "change oil" is actually related to meeting my financial goal (car maintenance is not the kind of thing I'd ever think of otherwise). I never would have made that connection without working "down" my tree.
                  And congrats to you for having the persistence to figure that out.

                  Frustrating, isn't it, that the insight comes after all the confusing, hard work? One has to stumble through the darkness before finding the light.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                    So you have some sort of progress-log inbuild, neat. But how do you deal with projectless actions?.
                    In Bonsai, it's all about the filters. With the filter off, there's just this giant, multi-level, confusing mass of jumble that I could never parse. But if I filter by NAs, all I see is a flat list of NAs -- whether they are part of projects or not. I can add actions under a project or directly into the NA list. This allows me to have free-floating next actions as well as project tied ones and when I'm working, I can just crank.

                    During the weekly review, I take a run through my NA list to update and then a run through the project list to see what NAs I might want to add, make active, etc for each active project.

                    Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                    Yes, ideas tend to be best handled when sorted 'under' the relevant goal/project. I am glad that somebody else confirms that. There were more than a day when I drove myself insane trying to figure the perfect gtd-outline approach.
                    Yes, but not when working on the actual items. It makes for nice idea planning to put everything in the locaion that spawned it, but I don't want to see all that higher level stuff when I'm just working along. I think that's what DA meant in that podcast about the link between NAs and projects. Once you have those NAs in your list, it doesn't matter where they came from, it just matters that you do them. This messed me up for a bit, but I think it's going smoother now.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brent View Post
                      Frustrating, isn't it, that the insight comes after all the confusing, hard work? One has to stumble through the darkness before finding the light.
                      Oh, no kidding! And I think this is why people might struggle when they start out with GTD in general. There's this time of floundering around and fussing with your implementation and dumping parts of your brain into the system (but missing other parts) and trying to remember to not have to remember things. And as your system gets "trusted" and your brainspace calmer, you start to get these inklings of what you REALLY needed to be doing all along.

                      Comment

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