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  • Is a project/action link needed or not?

    There has been some recent discussion in another thread (Katherine's on paper implementation of GTD) on that old chestnut of the need or otherwise of a link between action and projects in one's GTD system.

    You can read that discussion on http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...ed=1#post44269 There's some good stuff in it about people whining about the need for a link (DAs words not mine) and anderson makes a good case for a need for a link.

    I thought I'd start another thread as this issue tends to submerge others. So to get the ball rolling...

    When I first started doing GTD I felt I really needed the link in my system otherwise it seemed almost impossible to check each project has a next action which is a fundamental way of avoiding leaks in GTD. However, now it seems I can abandon this link in the system. It seems that I can just look at my project list and I remember which project has a next action and which has not.

    This also has the profound advantage in that projects can be easily created, merged, split in two and modified without having to spend time creating, revising and maintaining the various links.

    This seems to concur with DAs insistence that a link in the system isn't necessary but rather is dealt with intuitively in the head. However, I'm still not entirely sure that a link isn't necessary for everyone and for all working conditions. Certainly when I started GTD, the link was necessary as I eased myself into the system.

    A related issue is how software programs manage links and how easily links are to change and review within these programs.

    So, what do other people think?

    I don't know if I can get the stuff from the other thread on to this one in some way. If someone knows how feel free to do it.

  • #2
    Following up on my comments in that thread...

    You write;

    Originally posted by tominperu
    When I first started doing GTD I felt I really needed the link in my system otherwise it seemed almost impossible to check each project has a next action which is a fundamental way of avoiding leaks in GTD.
    My Weekly Review is mostly project based. I go through my pages of projects. Sometimes I know that this or that NA has been done; I cross it off. Looking at the information I have listed on the project page I decide what the Next Action is. I put it on the appropriate list and, on the project page, write that list behind it.

    "Mail contract @errands"

    So in that sense I certainly have a link between the two. Between the projects and the NA's. Yet there is no formal link. As the review is project based I pass every project and am aware whether or not a project has a NA or not.

    I do think that it works out either way. However, for me the whole back-and-forth coupling just takes up more time, creates drag and doesn't have a productive pay off.

    Comment


    • #3
      At Weekly Review time, I review my NA lists first, then my Project lists. That way I'm current on what my NAs are, have crossed off everything that's been done, and so forth. That makes it relatively easy to verify that each project has an NA.

      OTOH, I have a relatively short list of projects. If I had hundreds, it would be much more difficult to keep track of them all.

      On the other other hand, if you have more projects than you can track, you probably also have more projects than you can do at any given time. Rather than worrying about NAs for a project that you're not going to work on anyway, maybe it would be better to trim down the list?

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        I, too, started by linking Next Actions with Projects. I don't do that any more, and don't feel a need to.

        During my Weekly Review, I approach my lists from both directions. I look at my Projects, and ensure there's a Next Action for each. Then, I look at each Next Action, and ensure there's a Project for it (if appropriate).

        As I've used GTD more, I've gotten better at writing a new Next Action when I complete an Action. As I complete the action, I remember which project it's part of, and can more easily think of the next action.

        Comment


        • #5
          I cheat a bit by using the Trimpath Next Action software. You can tie projects to actions there.

          But I feel bad about it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Ruud View Post
            However, for me the whole back-and-forth coupling just takes up more time, creates drag and doesn't have a productive pay off.
            That elegantly sums up what I wanted to say about my recent experience!

            However, someone on Katherine's thread talked about having lots of "waiting for"s for lots of different projects. The projects are active in the sense of you might need to follow up the "waiting for" in the weekly review but not in the sense of having any other next actions. I concede that you might need a link for this type of situation.

            Tom

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ruud View Post
              However, for me the whole back-and-forth coupling just takes up more time, creates drag and doesn't have a productive pay off.
              Originally posted by tominperu View Post
              That elegantly sums up what I wanted to say about my recent experience!
              If creating and maintaining project-action links is unproductively time-consuming, then that is a limitation of the tool(s) being used. It takes me no longer than about 3 additional seconds to create an NA that is automatically related to its project. And I spend 0 time later making sure that projects have NAs or vice versa. So for me capturing the relationship in my system is not time-consuming. In fact, it saves time.

              Do I "need" to have the project-action relationship explicitly in my system? No, no more than I "need" to have an automatic dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by andersons View Post
                If creating and maintaining project-action links is unproductively time-consuming, then that is a limitation of the tool(s) being used.
                And I know you use Life Balance! I'm still getting round to trying it out properly. It may as you say, be the tools one uses. I've tried the Contacts as Projects method in Outlook and the GTD add-in and its too time consuming in both of these. For me anyway.

                I'd be interested in the opinions of the benefit/disbenefits of linking from other people who use Life Balance.

                Tom
                Last edited by tominperu; 12-13-2006, 12:19 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Which is my point: I do think that it works out either way and that for me it isn't worth it.

                  I use pen & paper so prepending a project name or label to an NA is trivial -- but for me most of the time it is also trivial it that it doesn't give me anything extra. I could write certain NA's in a different ink color. Doesn't take that much time to switch from pen -- but what does it give me?

                  Look, the vast majority of people here are not in a position where they have 300 active projects. We have, what, 50 to 60 or so? Yet how many people are struggling with trying to find the best way to link tasks and projects together in Outlook? How do to link subprojects back to projects?

                  Waste of time for the most part because we know what belongs to what.

                  If not... Well, if you look at a NA list and for the life of it, you cannot figure out where this or that NA comes from -- you have seriously miswritten that NA "upload file" or "sent letter" is not a well written NA unless there is just one file, just one letter. Otherwise, make your NA more descriptive.

                  But yes -- it works both ways. With a project link or without one.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Life Balance user

                    I also use Life Balance. First, you have to set-up LB according to the instructions in a thread on this forum. Once you do this, there is no doubling up on writing actions. You either enter it under your Project list and assign it to the appropriate context or you simply enter it under the appropriate context in the outline if it has no attached project. Then, when you view that particular context, it magically shows up!

                    My weekly reviews are a piece of cake because I can very quickly see which projects need a new action.

                    Oh and another bonus... if I feel like it during Project Planning time, I can add a whole list of actions to a single project, assign a different context to each, and then choose for these actions to appear one after another or appear concurrently if they are not dependent on each other.

                    LB appears to be a fairly simple database implementation. It's all about how the database fields relate to one another. That tied in with dual views (outline vs. context) that you can easily switch between. Simple and elegant GTD solution IMHO.

                    I tried using Entourage and Outlook at work. Yikes! So laborious and confusing I had to go back to a simpler tool.

                    Best,

                    Darla

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by darlakbrown View Post
                      I also use Life Balance. First, you have to set-up LB according to the instructions in a thread on this forum.
                      Which thread are you referring to?

                      Tom

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Here's How I Link Projects with NA's

                        I'm the Lead Pastor of a church. Here's the system I use to "link" Next Actions to Projects:

                        1. I house my Projects and NA's in iCal Task List (could be any tool you choose). I use the task note section to record the Successful Outcome and Next Actions.

                        2. I list the Project, the Successful Outcome for the Project, and then list the very Next Action to move it forward. The NA ends with an “*” (asterisk)

                        3. I cut and past that Next Action into the appropriate context on my NA lists and include the "*".

                        4. When I complete a NA (which the “*” identifies as such), I go back to the Project and add another NA for the Project. I remove the * from the first one and add it to the very NA for the Project. I cut and paste that NA into the appropriate context. I do this with every NA until the Project is complete.

                        5. Sometimes I only have two NA’s so I don’t need to be so thorough, but most of my Projects are 4-8 NA steps, so this works great for me.

                        6. As I review my lists, I can quickly identify the very NA’s for all my Projects.

                        7. The Weekly Review keeps it all together and flowing smoothly.

                        Here’s What It Looks Like:

                        Project: Engage Sunday Runway Coordinator

                        Successful Outcome: Our Sunday morning workflow challenges will have disappeared and everything will work as required.

                        Next Action:

                        Inform Board Vice Chair on process and position need. (Done)

                        Update my Admin. Asst. on the process and have her book meeting with X (done).

                        TC Dana and secure her involvement (Done)

                        Have Gina schedule meeting with Dana to review position requirements (Done).

                        Outline meeting agenda* (this is now resting in my @Laptop NA list)

                        The system works extremely well for me and is a simple solution for “linking” NA’s to my Projects.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How to set-up GTD on LifeBalance (link)

                          Originally posted by tominperu View Post
                          Which thread are you referring to?

                          Tom
                          Woops Sorry Tom.. I was going to put a link in there.

                          It's actually not on DavidCo... or maybe it is but I can't find it now..

                          It's on the llamagraphics.com forums...

                          Try this...

                          http://www.llamagraphics.com/dc/dcbo...2&mesg_id=7215

                          I have tweaked mine a little once I got used to Life Balance but this is a good start. If I find other reference, I'll post it here, too.

                          Thanks,
                          Darla

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                            The system works extremely well for me and is a simple solution for “linking” NA’s to my Projects.
                            There's lots of ways of linking tasks and projects. And thanks for detailing yours.

                            The question for me is whether for any particular method, the benefits (for example, in time saved in checking all projects have next actions) outweigh the costs in time of maintaining the links.

                            This method described for instance seems quite labour intensive for me, and I doubt that for me the benefits would make up for that. But, of course everyone is different and everyone's circumstances are different.

                            With Life Balance the method of linking seems relatively quick and straightforward and I hope to try it sometime (over a period of about a month, which is what is needed to really find out if it works for me). I do wonder however if the work required in establishing and maintaining links will be really worth it - even in Life Balance. For instance I regularly enter actions in Outlook without even having to think about what project they relate to, although when it comes to reviewing the project list, it is obvious.

                            I find that I also often merge different projects into one and sometimes decide to split a project into a number of smaller projects. Can the links be easily shifterd around in Life Balance or will I have to spend time at weekly review keeping the links current?

                            The great thing about keeping links just in our heads is that the links can be changed without having to input this into the system.

                            Tom

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What David said...

                              In the Podcast interview that Merlin Mann and David created, David specifically stated that he has never had the question, "How do I link next actions and projects?" raised by someone who consistently did their Weekly Review.

                              So I guess David's answer is that your brain does the linking, and there is no software that even comes close to power and efficiency of your brain - and that, besides adding the drag of additional data entry.

                              You "program" you brain with a consistent Weekly Review, and the "linking" happens automatically. I can see however, that if your Weekly Review was a rare or sporadic thing, that the links would get broken and have to be "reset".

                              FWIW,
                              Gordon

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