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Worried about having too few projects!

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  • Worried about having too few projects!

    I quote from Pg 137 of GTD: “Right now you probably have between thirty and a hundred projects”.

    When I started GTD about one and half years ago I had about 100 projects. As time has gone by using GTD I have ended up with fewer and fewer. At this moment I have only 16 and for the last few months I’ve always had less than 20.

    I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. There are many projects that are on my maybe/someday list for want of money, including plans to buy stuff and to expand my business, which makes me wonder if having few projects is symptomatic of being in a bit of a dead end or some other larger problem. My business isn't profitable enough as yet, so I may well try something new in around six months.

    On the other hand, I’m still working hard and as I complete projects I always think of new ones, usually during the weekly review. Recently I am devoting time to non-business related projects which I’m sure is a good thing.

    I am self-employed which may be a factor in this. I have no children, which I know is a big factor, though I am engaged.

    Has anyone else had the same sort of experience. I’m so used to reading posts on this forum of people complaining about a zillion and one projects that I wonder what it is that makes my situation so different. I imagine the reaction of many will be “well lucky you!”. The grass is always greener … perhaps.

    I’d be interested to hear your points of view…Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Sounds great

    Hi Tom,

    Well, your grass is looking pretty green!

    You're doing a weekly review, so that sounds better than most. You're using the system and it sounds like it's working for you. Do you feel like you have a real worry - something isn't going right and you have stuff in your head that isn't in your system? Or are you worried that "people should have X projects"? Because if it's the latter, then I suspect it's a perfect example of people wondering what David thinks is right, instead of taking his system and making it their own.

    If you feel like you need more stuff to do, gimme a shout - I have loads!

    Cheers,
    Richard

    Comment


    • #3
      Don't worry about it!

      I think your situation is one that many people would envy. If you've whittled your project list down to 16, you are likely doing one of the following:

      * getting things done at a very good rate, faster than you're adding new projects
      * focusing yourself more on a few active projects, while putting other projects in your someday/maybe list because you know you can't do everything at once
      * not putting all projects on the list -- perhaps you are only putting "official" projects and not things that should have multiple next-actions -- i.e. "buy groceries" might be a project if it encompasses multiple next-actions, such as "make grocery list", "get cash at ATM" and "go to grocery store for groceries"

      If it's one of the first two, you are doing awesome! If it's the third one, I'd say don't worry about it if your system is working. If, however, there are tasks sitting on your lists because they seem daunting, perhaps they could be broken down into multiple next actions, with the original task being added as a project. That might not be your problem, but I know that a lot of us could benefit from this.

      As for the original question of whether you're just not doing enough, I think that's largely a personal question that none of us can answer -- do you feel satisfied and happy with your work? are you making enough money to pay the bills? are there other projects you think you should be doing but instead you're goofing off?

      Anyway, congrats on getting your list down to a manageable number!

      leo
      Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.blogspot.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Altitudes Review to Generate New Projects

        I've also noticed my projects list getting smaller and smaller (in general. But I just found out I'm moving, so it about doubled overnight). I think it's a good thing. It means that you have fewer and fewer open loops and exterior commitments. Some of those initial 100 projects had probably been sitting on your plate (and in your brain) for a year or more. And with each project finished, the guilt melts away.

        If you feel like you're really missing out on doing some important projects (that you haven't thought of yet), you may need to spend some more time brainstorming your altitudes in a weekly review or a monthly retreat.

        Thinking about larger outcomes, roles and goals, etc. always helps me to generate more projects. But having more projects merely for more-projects'-sake is just plain silly.

        Comment


        • #5
          What is your definition of projects?

          David Allen describes a project as any task that has more than one action. I think that is why the number of projects is sometimes higher.

          Is this the definition that you are using?

          If I just have two actions that are related I don't normally create a project for it, especially if there isn't any sequence to completing the tasks, so I also have less than 30 projects on my list.

          When I get to zero, maybe I will start posing serious questions. But I don't see that happening anytime in the next 20 years.

          -Jeff

          Comment


          • #6
            In addition to what the others have said...

            I'll stick in my 2 cents worth, because I can never resist the temptation to offer advice.

            Originally posted by tominperu View Post
            When I started GTD about one and half years ago I had about 100 projects. As time has gone by using GTD I have ended up with fewer and fewer. At this moment I have only 16 and for the last few months I’ve always had less than 20.
            That's a very good sign. It means you're getting things done (TM). No question.

            Originally posted by tominperu View Post
            There are many projects that are on my maybe/someday list for want of money, including plans to buy stuff and to expand my business, which makes me wonder if having few projects is symptomatic of being in a bit of a dead end or some other larger problem.
            How long have you been in business, if I may ask?

            Originally posted by tominperu View Post
            On the other hand, I’m still working hard and as I complete projects I always think of new ones, usually during the weekly review. Recently I am devoting time to non-business related projects which I’m sure is a good thing.
            So your system is working well, since you're completing current projects and thinking of new ones. You're also working on other aspects of your life, which is healthy. All sounds good so far.

            Originally posted by tominperu View Post
            I am self-employed which may be a factor in this.
            One project that should always be on every self-employed person's list is Marketing. Constantly. We need to constantly work on bringing in new business, rather than waiting for it to happen. It's the hardest part, for me at least. I detest all that insincerity about advertising, but the fact remains that we have to work at least as hard at bringing in the work as we do at doing the work, at least until the business has established a reputation and a regular clientele (or whatever applies in your industry).

            Originally posted by tominperu View Post
            Has anyone else had the same sort of experience.
            Kind of, but I'm curious as to why you're concerned about it. Is it that you feel that 'normal people have more projects than me'? Do you feel there's something lacking in your implementation of GTD? Or are you worried that there's something lacking in your self?

            I'm not being snarky, I'm asking in all seriousness. From the sounds of it, your GTD implementation is going swimmingly, as far as I can tell from here. If you're worried that it's you that's the problem, do you have any other reasons for this?

            I mean, if you're only worried because The David says you should have 30-100 projects, then you need not: projects are a string question (how long is a...). Particularly since The David works mainly in a different industry from me, and probably you too. Different environment, different projects of different length, etc.

            Remember, too, that Buddha would have no projects, since he'd be completely content with his situation and at one with the universe. We mere mortals have projects because there's things we want to achieve or investigate or fix or experience.

            Comment


            • #7
              Seems like a luxury problem to me. Or like someone saying "I don't have any fat around my belly. But the diet speaks of losing an average of 2 pounds of fat per week! Now what?"

              Comment


              • #8
                You run your own business, you're engaged, and you only have sixteen projects?? Being engaged should spawn about fifty projects all by itself... Without seeing your project list I can't say, but I suspect you're defining project as "real big things" instead of the GTD definition of "anything with two or more steps".

                Do you ever take your fiance out on a date? That's a project -- NAs are "find out when she's free", "Book table at restaurant", "book babysitter (if appropriate)", "get tickets to event", "get suit drycleaned", "get haircut", etc. etc.

                Do you & your fiance celebrate any anniversaries, or birthdays? Those are projects -- NAs might be "arrange party with her friends (probably a subproject itself)", "decide on gift", "get gift", "book table at restaurant", etc.

                Do you and she ever get away for a romantic weekend or a vacation? That's a project: NAs might be "agree on getaway activity", "book hotel room", "pack", "prep car" or "book airline tickets", "ask Joe to drop us at airport", "stop mail", "ask Mary to feed cat", etc.

                And I won't even get started on planning the wedding itself, which probably spawns 20 or 30 major projects such as: "set budget", "agree on guest list", "book catering hall", "decide on what kind of service we want", "book church (or JP or whatever person you want to officiate)", "get best man, bridesmaids, etc.", "book photographer", "arrange for flowers", etc. And of course the honeymoon is a project (see "vacation" above).

                And then there's after the wedding: "buy house", "get life insurance", "set up joint bank accounts", "make a will", etc.

                Trust me, you have plenty of projects!

                Good luck!!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks for the replies

                  Thanks for the replies. There are some interesting ideas. In general I'm reassured that people don't automatically assume I'm doing something wrong and that don't people think that having few projects is a problem per se.

                  I going to try and reply to people one by one which might be tiresome to read but it's quicker for me than trying to summarise a response.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by richard.watson View Post
                    Hi Tom,

                    Well, your grass is looking pretty green!

                    You're doing a weekly review, so that sounds better than most. You're using the system and it sounds like it's working for you. Do you feel like you have a real worry - something isn't going right and you have stuff in your head that isn't in your system? Or are you worried that "people should have X projects"? Because if it's the latter, then I suspect it's a perfect example of people wondering what David thinks is right, instead of taking his system and making it their own.

                    If you feel like you need more stuff to do, gimme a shout - I have loads!

                    Cheers,
                    Richard
                    I don't assume I should follow DAs advice too slavishly. It was more the idea that there could be a reason that most people should have a certain number of projects. To be honest, for ages I thought I remember reading some statement by DA on the lines that "if you haven't identified at least 40 projects then I doubt you have captured all your closed loops", but I've scanned the book recently and all I could find was the quote I mentioned earlier. I guess it was my imagination or perhaps he was talking about something else, not projects.

                    Anyway, thanks for your good natured response.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jaylperry View Post
                      I've also noticed my projects list getting smaller and smaller (in general. But I just found out I'm moving, so it about doubled overnight). I think it's a good thing. It means that you have fewer and fewer open loops and exterior commitments. Some of those initial 100 projects had probably been sitting on your plate (and in your brain) for a year or more. And with each project finished, the guilt melts away.

                      If you feel like you're really missing out on doing some important projects (that you haven't thought of yet), you may need to spend some more time brainstorming your altitudes in a weekly review or a monthly retreat.

                      Thinking about larger outcomes, roles and goals, etc. always helps me to generate more projects. But having more projects merely for more-projects'-sake is just plain silly.
                      Great response! I'm really glad that someone else has had the same experience. And interesting what you say about moving house generating loads of projects. The issue may be that we have more projects when we are in a process of change - change for whatever reason. Things are rather static for me at the moment, more static than I would like. I am stuck in the low season for teaching English (my business) and in many ways I need to just wait for the high season, give it another bash, and then decide if I carry on or try something else. I rack my brains for things I can do but to a certain extent just a case of waiting and being patient.

                      I have been focussing on altitudes to deal with this. Though I must admit I have tended to focus on outcomes and goals and not so much on roles. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

                      I like the idea of a retreat!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jeff Kelley View Post
                        David Allen describes a project as any task that has more than one action. I think that is why the number of projects is sometimes higher.

                        Is this the definition that you are using?

                        If I just have two actions that are related I don't normally create a project for it, especially if there isn't any sequence to completing the tasks, so I also have less than 30 projects on my list.

                        When I get to zero, maybe I will start posing serious questions. But I don't see that happening anytime in the next 20 years.

                        -Jeff
                        That is the definition I use.

                        I suppose I do have some recurrent projects not listed that are indeed two actions, but these are usually pretty uncritical projects. For instance I often have an action "drop laundry off" and then when that's done; I have another action "pick up laundry". I wouldn't worry about not having a stake in the ground for those. I don't think this accounts for many projects.

                        Again I feel reassured that there's someone else with less than 30 projects so thanks.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by unstuffed View Post


                          How long have you been in business, if I may ask?
                          It will be three years in September.


                          Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                          One project that should always be on every self-employed person's list is Marketing. Constantly. We need to constantly work on bringing in new business, rather than waiting for it to happen. It's the hardest part, for me at least. I detest all that insincerity about advertising, but the fact remains that we have to work at least as hard at bringing in the work as we do at doing the work, at least until the business has established a reputation and a regular clientele (or whatever applies in your industry).
                          I couldn't agree more. I've had various projects relating to marketing recently, as I realise it's something I'm neglected in the past. In fact finishing them recently has pushed the list down to under twenty. Having spent a lot on marketing last month I've now decided to wait until the low season's over before spending more. I wish I was more creative and innovative with marketing but I'm improving I think.

                          Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                          Kind of, but I'm curious as to why you're concerned about it. Is it that you feel that 'normal people have more projects than me'? Do you feel there's something lacking in your implementation of GTD? Or are you worried that there's something lacking in your self?

                          I'm not being snarky, I'm asking in all seriousness. From the sounds of it, your GTD implementation is going swimmingly, as far as I can tell from here. If you're worried that it's you that's the problem, do you have any other reasons for this?
                          I'm happy not being "normal"!

                          Something lacking in my implementation? There could be. I agree I'm not doing too bad. We can always improve.

                          Lacking in my self? I do sometimes get over critical and lack confidence in myself, but the truth is I don't see this as a probable big problem. But it is an interesting one for me.

                          I don't think "I" am the problem. I'm interested in the idea that having very few projects, even when you're doing GTD well, may be indicative of something. As I have mentioned earlier I think now it may indicate things are rather static in one's live. Maybe that is also something GTD can remedy, in which case, I suppose my GTD wouldn't be perfect, because it isn't. But then we're going round in circles... But no, I am not the problem.

                          Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                          I mean, if you're only worried because The David says you should have 30-100 projects, then you need not: projects are a string question (how long is a...). Particularly since The David works mainly in a different industry from me, and probably you too. Different environment, different projects of different length, etc.
                          I don't think DA does say that. But anyway, I'm not worried that much.

                          Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                          Remember, too, that Buddha would have no projects, since he'd be completely content with his situation and at one with the universe. We mere mortals have projects because there's things we want to achieve or investigate or fix or experience.
                          I like this! Very interesting. Yes this is a sort of extreme example of one's live being static, but in a positive way. Or at least theoretically positive. Like you I am not Buddha. I need new things to achieve, experience etc. Thanks for that unstuffed.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mephisto View Post
                            Seems like a luxury problem to me. Or like someone saying "I don't have any fat around my belly. But the diet speaks of losing an average of 2 pounds of fat per week! Now what?"
                            I'm not so sure it is a luxury at all. If my business was going better then I'd be expanding more quickely and have more projects.

                            I'm not sure, but I reckon a subsistence farmer in Peru (where I live) might have few projects if he did GTD. He has a certain amount of repetitive tasks that he needs to do but generally he would have few projects due to few opportunities and lack of capital and income.

                            Maybe we need GTD because we have so much luxury. Luxury of choice, opportunitis, money and because we live in an affluent developing world and therefore changing world. (Well I live in the capital Lima which is a bit more affluent and developing than the rest of Peru).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mikeobrien58 View Post
                              You run your own business, you're engaged, and you only have sixteen projects?? Being engaged should spawn about fifty projects all by itself... Without seeing your project list I can't say, but I suspect you're defining project as "real big things" instead of the GTD definition of "anything with two or more steps".

                              Do you ever take your fiance out on a date? That's a project -- NAs are "find out when she's free", "Book table at restaurant", "book babysitter (if appropriate)", "get tickets to event", "get suit drycleaned", "get haircut", etc. etc.

                              Do you & your fiance celebrate any anniversaries, or birthdays? Those are projects -- NAs might be "arrange party with her friends (probably a subproject itself)", "decide on gift", "get gift", "book table at restaurant", etc.

                              Do you and she ever get away for a romantic weekend or a vacation? That's a project: NAs might be "agree on getaway activity", "book hotel room", "pack", "prep car" or "book airline tickets", "ask Joe to drop us at airport", "stop mail", "ask Mary to feed cat", etc.

                              And I won't even get started on planning the wedding itself, which probably spawns 20 or 30 major projects such as: "set budget", "agree on guest list", "book catering hall", "decide on what kind of service we want", "book church (or JP or whatever person you want to officiate)", "get best man, bridesmaids, etc.", "book photographer", "arrange for flowers", etc. And of course the honeymoon is a project (see "vacation" above).

                              And then there's after the wedding: "buy house", "get life insurance", "set up joint bank accounts", "make a will", etc.

                              Trust me, you have plenty of projects!

                              Good luck!!

                              At last someone willing to say I indeed have too few projects! I can understand that, as I find it surprising myself.

                              I don't think confusing actions and projects is the problem though.

                              You are also making some assumptions. You may be surprised to know that I have previously come up with projects for dates and for my future wedding. But the weddings still a long way off so I've already done all of what I can do at this moment.

                              I don't deny that I could look futher ahead and I might be avoiding facing up to things or there could be stuff that should be on my project list but isn't. This was the basic origin of my post. But, no, it's not as simple as you imply. Thanks for the reply though.

                              Comment

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