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  • Why I need to do some serious renegotiating with myself

    I regret to say that I have fallen in a rut. I have stopped doing my Weekly Reviews for about four weeks and I can see that I have lost the momentum of GTD: Just about the only thing that I still do successfully is to maintain an empty in tray and to meticulously write down all my next actions.

    I have too many projects recorded and I cannot cope with the volume. I believe the answer would be to renegotiate my commitments and concentrate on those projects that should be done in the near future.

    In such a case I have two questions for which I would like your advice:

    1. What should be my planning horizon regarding my projects? Should I remove projects from my projects list if I do not intend to do anything about them until the next Weekly Review?

    2. Where should I "park" the non current (removed) projects, anyway? I wouldn't like to keep them as "Someday/Maybe", because that category is supposed to be for projects that one might want to do in the future, not projects that one will have to deal with in the future.

    I'm looking forward to your comments and advice, on how to get back on track with GTD.

  • #2
    This is my personal take on it:

    If there's anything on your Project list that you haven't worked on in the past two weeks, and nothing indicates you'll be able to do more work on it this week, move it to Someday/Maybe. Be ruthless.

    There's no shame in a small Project list. Nobody else will see it, anyway.

    A Project list with only ten items that you're accomplishing is better than a Project list with fifty items when you're only accomplishing a few of them.

    Comment


    • #3
      Projects

      I had a very similar problem...too many projects and getting discouraged. I divided my projects list in 3 ways: Projects-Clients (I'm a consultant), Projects-Current and Projects-Review Weekly. I also have a Someday/Maybe list that everything else goes into. The Projects-Clents list I wanted to have separated because, obviously, it's money. The Projects-Current are ONLY things that I'm working on this week. The Projects-Review Weekly are open projects that need to be on my radar, but I'm not doing anything with this week.

      I also schedule a SEPARATE weekly review just for project planning. I think I got that idea from one of the podcasts about weekly reviews. There were tons of great ideas in those podcasts and now I find myself getting up really early on Sunday morning and actually ENJOYING my weekly review.

      By the way, I don't let either the Project Review or the regular weekly review go on for more than an hour. If I need more time, I schedule it at a later date. I just had to give myself permission to do that or I wasn't going to do the review at all! Now, it isn't such a chore.

      Comment


      • #4
        Use more than one Someday/Maybe category.

        Use more than one Someday/Maybe category:
        • S/M-W (to be reviewed during each Weekly Review)
        • S/M-M (to be reviewed during the Monthly Review)
        • S/M-Q (to be reviewed during the Quarterly Review)
        • S/M-Y (to be reviewed during the Yearly Review)

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you for the replies and the suggestions made. On reflection I think that the problem is that I don't trust myself to keep all outstanding actions within easy reach.

          I understand that it's the next actions that I should keep on hand, and I must find a way to overcome my phobia of "forgetting" the other actions. Having written this, I know that the response to it is "that's what the Weekly Review is for", but I still dread that something important (say, urgent) may slip through the cracks and be missed in the Weekly Review.

          Comment


          • #6
            Project Support Materials and Brainstorming

            Originally posted by DoingIt View Post
            Thank you for the replies and the suggestions made. On reflection I think that the problem is that I don't trust myself to keep all outstanding actions within easy reach.

            I understand that it's the next actions that I should keep on hand, and I must find a way to overcome my phobia of "forgetting" the other actions. Having written this, I know that the response to it is "that's what the Weekly Review is for", but I still dread that something important (say, urgent) may slip through the cracks and be missed in the Weekly Review.

            Part of this concern could be alleviated through brainstorming your projects at the beginning (for those major enough to require it). If you brainstorm and then organize the required next actions for a project, and then keep a list of those next actions in the Project Support File, then that makes things easier to review. At the Weekly Review, you need only pull the Project Support file and choose the next actions from the list (if that is still relevant), and update your NA Lists.

            Sometimes, if I randomly think of a next action for a project I'll write it on a scrap of paper and then throw that right into my Project File, to then be added to the project actions if required at the next review.

            Hope this helps,

            Adam

            Comment


            • #7
              Are they all projects on the project list?

              To throw a curve ball are all the items on the project list actually projects? Or are they a combination of routine items plus projects?

              Routine items/tasks are best handled by a check list ... schedule some time and crank through them. That reduces the "size" of the project list to a more manageable length!

              If your going to park projects and don't want to use the S/M list create a new category: deferred projects etc. That way they have not gone but are out of your direct sight. As to an event horizon try a month ... if it can be completed within the current month then it's active all else gets parked. Review during the weekly review.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by DoingIt View Post
                1. What should be my planning horizon regarding my projects? Should I remove projects from my projects list if I do not intend to do anything about them until the next Weekly Review?
                I never take it to this extent but I do ask myself every weekly review whether the project is really active or not. In other words... um in DA's words, actually... "am I still committed to doing this and doing it soon?"

                There are always projects that just hang around on my list because I'm waiting for something or someone else is working on it and I just have to keep an eye on things by keeping it in the front of my mind. But projects that are lying fallow where I'm really not doing anything and may not do anything about it for a long, long time, those go back to the SM list.

                Usually I can keep my project list down to a very managable number by doing this because, if nothing else, it forces me to re-evaluate what I can and can't really get done. After that its just a matter of getting tough and trimming the fat.

                Good luck.

                Tom S.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The "trusted system" works both ways

                  Originally posted by DoingIt View Post
                  I understand that it's the next actions that I should keep on hand, and I must find a way to overcome my phobia of "forgetting" the other actions. Having written this, I know that the response to it is "that's what the Weekly Review is for", but I still dread that something important (say, urgent) may slip through the cracks and be missed in the Weekly Review.
                  If you're not doing your weekly review, you're doing exactly what you dread. Get back into the weekly review habit -- put it on your schedule if you have to, but get back to reviewing.

                  The trust between you and your system must work both ways, and it must be earned. In order for you to trust that all your actions and items are in the system, the system has to trust that you will collect, process, organize, and review so it has all the appropriate things appropriately organized for you.

                  Keep project support materials (like your brainstorming notes, mind maps, project plans, random notes, or whatever) somewhere you can find them, and drop all your thoughts about future actions into those support materials.

                  Review those materials as often as you need to -- this may mean weekly, and this may mean more often. As long as you do your part by making decisions and parking reminders in the right places in your system, your system will do its part by making those decisions and reminders available to you when you look for them.

                  Trust grows slowly -- between you and your system just as between people.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    More wise thoughts, ideas and practices. Thank you, again.

                    I'm thinking of doing a mindmap of all my projects. Having everything laid out on a sheet of paper should help me see the complete picture and assess the importance of every project. If I try and look at them one by one (which is what I normally do in the Weekly Review) I tend to get bogged down to the details of a project and I start "doing" instead of sticking with "reviewing".

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      First, regarding falling off the wagon, realize that GTD, like any significant change requiring new habits, takes time to adopt. I recommend clients consider it a process of mastery, be patient, and stick with it. (You may enjoy George Leonard's fantastic little book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment.) Also, give yourself credit - getting this this point is very big progress!

                      Luckily, getting back on top of your commitments, communication, and information is the same as the initial process you started: Collect everything together, go through each item one-by-one, decide action(s), and store the results in the right place in your system. After that, maybe try a "mini" review in which you get your projects list up-to-date, and ensure each project has an action.

                      > 1. What should be my planning horizon regarding my projects?

                      I sometimes recommend a 60 day horizon: If it doesn't need to start or finish in that time, put it in Someday/Maybe (which you really need to get into the habit of reviewing again.)

                      > 2. Where should I "park" the non current (removed) projects...

                      Actually, I would suggest thinking of S/M as more dynamic, and more flexible than that. It's not a "black hole," due to regular reviews. Some people like separate work and home folders for S/M, if that helps.

                      Cheers!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Great idea!

                        Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                        The trust between you and your system must work both ways, and it must be earned. In order for you to trust that all your actions and items are in the system, the system has to trust that you will collect, process, organize, and review so it has all the appropriate things appropriately organized for you.
                        ...
                        Trust grows slowly -- between you and your system just as between people.
                        Great idea - it really should work both ways.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          One weekly review generates one week's actions

                          I had this problem as well, a mass of stuff which never got done, just fretted over. I know what to do but realised that I needed a way of deciding when to do it.

                          I now use the next week as the planning period. The weekly review plans just a week ahead. "Current" projects are defined as those on which action can be taken in the next 7-10 days. All others are "Later" or "Someday" or "Maybe".

                          Each NA is assigned to a day in the next week or so (just a day, not a time). Similar tasks such as errands are grouped in context at this point.

                          Details in http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6641

                          Regards
                          T

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I had that problem too, and here's what I've been doing about it.

                            I have a single page for each project (the lowest level projects, that is) which I keep in a folder. I scribble all the ideas I have on that piece of paper, so that I won't lose my place when I've done a Next Action. Often, it's just a cursory list of actions that need to be done to complete it.

                            Every night, I compare my Next Actions lists with these project sheets: things I've done get marked off, and a new NA gets added for any projects that need one. That keeps me aware of where I am with what I'm doing.

                            I'm restricting myself to projects that I can complete within a week, and a subset of all my projects such that I'm able to complete them all within a week. I do this because I had an immense list of NAs which made me want to just pull the doona over my head and ignore them until they went away.

                            Then, I have a Pending list. At the moment, because I'm in crisis, I'm doing a modified version of GTD, so my Pending list is really an Ignoring list, and contains everything that I don't have to think about in the next week, but usually it's a little more complicated.

                            I can go through my In Tray nightly (with my Tickler file for the next day), because not much stuff has accumulated, and my decisions are simple: in Crisis, I only ask myself "Can I ignore this for the rest of this week?" If I can, it goes into the Ignoring tray (unless it's a bill or similar, in which case it goes into the Tickler straight away).

                            Then, when I do the weekly review, I just dump the Ignoring tray back into my In Tray and process as normal. During Crisis mode, I ask the same single question, but when I shift back to Normal mode, I do the regular list of questions.

                            That means that I'm doing a mini-weekly review at the end of each day: I remind myself of where I am, and notice if I need to hurry in order to get the project finished by the end of the week. I do this same thing in Normal mode, too, because it's very helpful to have an idea of where I am during the week, and if I need to get a wriggle on.

                            The reason for keeping the week's projects near at hand is that it helps me focus. I tried doing it the vanilla way, and found that I had huge NA lists, and boggins of ongoing projects, neither of which were going anywhere. It's a similar effect to the NA idea, I think: narrow your focus to specific projects or sub-projects that you can achieve within a defined, short-term, time frame. Helps enormously, I've found. I don't have stale NAs or projects hanging around, I'm getting more things done, and I'm much more aware of where I am and where I need to be (in project terms).

                            If your projects are sufficiently large that you can't reasonably complete them within a week, then break them down into sub-projects. There's almost nothing that can't be broken down like this, and it gives you a near-term deadline and a goal that you can accomplish and feel good about, as well as taking all those looming things out of your peripheral vision so you can concentrate on what you're doing.

                            Hope that helps.

                            Alison

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Backlog

                              Originally posted by DoingIt View Post
                              2. Where should I "park" the non current (removed) projects, anyway? I wouldn't like to keep them as "Someday/Maybe", because that category is supposed to be for projects that one might want to do in the future, not projects that one will have to deal with in the future.
                              Call it what it is: Backlog! Write a list of your backlog projects and deal with them as time permits.

                              Rainer

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