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Newbie Question - Action Item and Working A Project

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  • Newbie Question - Action Item and Working A Project

    Hi everyone,

    I am barely 2 days into my exploration of GTD and after listening to the audiobook version I am left with a couple of nagging questions:

    1) The focus seems to be on the first action required . . . but what about if, even at the very start, you know what steps 2, 3 and 4 should be...do you not note those down too?

    2) GTD seems to focus mainly on how to organize, prioritize, sort and sift through all the "stuff" and "projects" in your life. But what does GTD actually have to say about working the project itself? Unless I am missing something, it seems like a big hole in the process...at work I literally have 15 or so projects of varying complexities that I need to be working on, what does the GTD system actually have to offer in terms of getting those done, on time with superior results?

    Thanks for any insights you can offer to clear up these confusing points for me!

    Steve

  • #2
    Originally posted by scrow9 View Post
    1) The focus seems to be on the first action required . . . but what about if, even at the very start, you know what steps 2, 3 and 4 should be...do you not note those down too?
    Sure. Why not?

    However, if the future actions are not immediately doable, they go in project support, not on your Next Action lists.

    2) GTD seems to focus mainly on how to organize, prioritize, sort and sift through all the "stuff" and "projects" in your life. But what does GTD actually have to say about working the project itself? Unless I am missing something, it seems like a big hole in the process...at work I literally have 15 or so projects of varying complexities that I need to be working on, what does the GTD system actually have to offer in terms of getting those done, on time with superior results?
    GTD's position is that it is impossible to do projects, only actions. It is not a project management tool as such. However, if you are working through your actions in a focused and effective manner you are, by definition, making steady progress on the projects to which those actions belong. If you are doing a consistent Weekly Review you are, by definition, checking up on your projects to make sure that they are all moving smoothly.

    You might also want to review chapters 3, 10, and 13 in the GTD book, which deal with projects and project planning.

    Katherine
    Last edited by kewms; 02-16-2007, 03:43 PM.

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    • #3
      Hi Steve,

      Congratulations on your start - good for you.

      Originally posted by scrow9 View Post
      1) but what about if, even at the very start, you know what steps 2, 3 and 4 should be...do you not note those down too?
      Good question. I've found that these often come to mind when people are capturing projects - it's natural to want to capture some of that thinking, and it's a great practice as well. After all, writing things down so they don't bother you later (and free your mind) is a central idea.

      I'd suggest you go ahead and capture what comes to mind (store these "project plans" in the project folder), but don't spend a bunch of time on it if you're trying to get through the initial "push." Move on as soon as possible - there's usually a lot of backlog to process.

      Note: A great next action is "plan project x," at which time you'll do more of this kind of thinking, using whatever tools you prefer (mind map, legal pad, note cards, etc.) If more thoughts come to mind as you're processing, simply make a note of them on a blank page to add to the plans later.

      Originally posted by scrow9 View Post
      2) GTD seems to focus mainly on how to organize, prioritize, sort and sift through all the "stuff" and "projects" in your life. But what does GTD actually have to say about working the project itself?
      The book addresses this pretty well - maybe a re-read is in order. Briefly, as Katherine says, you can't "do" a project, only its associated actions. Thus the rule: Every project must have at least one next action "active" in the master actions list.

      During the day, you'll be looking at your calendar, then your actions list to figure out what to do next. The projects list doesn't usually enter into it until the weekly review.

      Comment


      • #4
        I had a similar problem when I was began trying to capture Next Actions from my completed Project List. I had the tendency to sequence tasks so they were no longer truly "Next" Actions. Two clarifications helped me break the habit:
        1. Are any of the tasks that I am listing going to take me less than two minutes to complete. This was frequent for low-complexity projects with multiple steps. Only a few tasks on these projects truly required more than two minutes.

        2. For the higher-complexity projects I began with a Next Action to break the project into smaller tasks/deliverables. This project breakdown was stored in a specific file for project related information (my files are primarily electronic).

        Once I had captured some of the sequenced steps, they were off my mind and I was better able to focus on the next actionable items.

        Hope this helps.

        Comment


        • #5
          Excellent post, cornell! Just wanted to add something:

          Originally posted by cornell View Post
          During the day, you'll be looking at your calendar, then your actions list to figure out what to do next. The projects list doesn't usually enter into it until the weekly review.
          David Allen has mentioned recently that he's finding the Projects list to be the key to effective work. I've been revisiting my Projects list about once a day, and found it helpful. Frequent reminders of what I'm trying to accomplish overall motivates me more than the day-to-day "runway view." After all, if you're trying to get a plane off the ground, you don't look down at the runway; you look up at the sky.

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