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  • Tying NAs to Projects

    I'm new to GTD and have just completed my 3rd weekly review and keep having a problem. I have a list of next actions and a list of projects. When I review my list of projects I can't always remember if I have a next action for the project or not. Sometimes I will go search through my next actions seeing if I can find it but it is such a time consuming process (I have over 100 NAs). Sometimes I just add a new NA and then realize sometime later that I have duplicates.

    So any tips or tricks to knowing that I have a NA for every project?

    I have a similar problem with duplicates on my project list and someday/maybe lists but I don't think that really matters.

  • #2
    Project list is a kind of checklist. Use it to generate new NAs during Weekly Review or as soon as you feel a need for it. Don't bother about duplicated NAs on your action lists. If you find a duplicate when doing just mark it complete - it will take a milisecond. And if you see too duplicates on the same list it just shows that you didn't touch this NA for a week or more so start with it

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    • #3
      Perhaps I should the project list like a checklist and actually check off items on the list as I confirm that I have a NA tied to them. I'm thinking that perhaps my project list is too long (87 items) and that's also why I can't seem to recall if I already have a NA tied to them.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Moose408 View Post
        I'm thinking that perhaps my project list is too long (87 items) and that's also why I can't seem to recall if I already have a NA tied to them.
        Yes, I'm thinking that too. I cheat a bit, and only have items on my project list if I think I'm going to be able to work on them during the next week. All other projects hang about in an Ignoring folder/list/tray. Otherwise, I get too baffled by the sheer size of my committments, and tend to give up. And with the weekly review, I can then shuffle my projects onto and off the Current list, so that things do get done: it's just that I for one can't focus on more than a certain number of projects over the course of a week.

        I'd give it a try if I were you. With 87 currently active projects and several hundred NAs, it's no wonder you can't keep track of it all!

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        • #5
          Following unstuffed's advice from previous threads I also have a 'two tier' projects list, things I can get done in the next couple of weeks and those that will take a little longer. This helps me to not get overwhelmed when I see how much there is to do.

          Another thing I do is number the projects then put the project number next to the NA's as I list them. With the work I do many of the projects have a number of the same or similar NA's so this helps me identify which project each NA belongs to. I find it easier to scan my list of NA's to see that all Projects are covered too.

          Kim

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          • #6
            1. How do you know guys when you complete the project: in a week or in a month - are you the Gods? For example, if I have a project I can move it or not. But I can't say when I finish it anyway. That doesn't depend on me.

            2. I prefer to have many options nowadays. I feel uncomfortable if I have no Next Action in any particular context at any given moment. It means I have nothing to do and that's scary... So you better have more options to choose from then none.

            Regards,
            Eugene.

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            • #7
              I Use OneNote

              I use OneNote to track my Projects. Each Project has its own page in OneNote and any next actions are recorded on that page, tagged with the appropriate context. I can then go through each project and see if any need NAs forming, but can also just search my tagged notes by context to generate a NA list.
              I'm currently blogging about my set up if you are interested.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi Eugene,

                I'm not sure whether you're asking these questions in general, or of a particular person (who might be me). But I'll have a go at answering them for me at least.

                Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                1. How do you know guys when you complete the project: in a week or in a month - are you the Gods? For example, if I have a project I can move it or not. But I can't say when I finish it anyway. That doesn't depend on me.
                Does this refer to my suggestion to restrict the active projects list to projects that can be moved on over the next week? Because I'm not saying anything about when the projects will be finished, just saying that I'll only commit to as much work as I think I can handle in a week. If I'm already committed to a lot of projects, then I know that realistically I'm not going to get much done on any extra projects. So I shelve them for a week, and concentrate on the ones I've committed to.

                Note that if I race through all, or most, of my committed-to, active projects in less than a week, it's simple to pick up a few from the shelf to add to the active projects. I do this during the nightly review (really brief, just setting myself up ready to go the next day). But in my experience, it's rare that things get done faster than I expect: normally what happens is that unforeseen stuff crops up, which I then have to handle.

                Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                2. I prefer to have many options nowadays. I feel uncomfortable if I have no Next Action in any particular context at any given moment. It means I have nothing to do and that's scary... So you better have more options to choose from then none.
                Yes, we all work differently, and respond to situations in different ways. But the original poster had far more projects and NAs than he was comfortable with, and that was deterring him from working, so he's probably best to reduce his options, at least temporarily. I don't think he was in any danger of having no NAs in a particular context at any time.

                It sounds as though nothing deters you except having too little to do, Eugene, so I think you're a human dynamo.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                  If I'm already committed to a lot of projects, then I know that realistically I'm not going to get much done on any extra projects. So I shelve them for a week, and concentrate on the ones I've committed to.

                  Note that if I race through all, or most, of my committed-to, active projects in less than a week, it's simple to pick up a few from the shelf to add to the active projects. I do this during the nightly review (really brief, just setting myself up ready to go the next day). But in my experience, it's rare that things get done faster than I expect: normally what happens is that unforeseen stuff crops up, which I then have to handle.
                  Hi, Unstuffed! Can you give me any kind of algorithm that allows you to calculate if you've taken enough active projects and others should wait for a week or so on SM list?

                  PS Thanks for the compliment!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                    Hi, Unstuffed! Can you give me any kind of algorithm that allows you to calculate if you've taken enough active projects and others should wait for a week or so on SM list?

                    PS Thanks for the compliment!
                    No worries, Eugene. I've often thought, when I read your posts, that you've got far more work than I could deal with.

                    As for an algorithm, well, not exactly, but when I worked in software development, we asked our boss how to estimate project completion times. The boss gave us an algorithm, which was:
                    1) Guess it;
                    2) Double it;
                    3) Increase the units.

                    So if we guessed it would take us 6 days, we'd double it, to get 12 days, then increase the units to get 12 weeks.

                    Admittedly, it was a joke at the time, but it turned out to be useful. In our guess, we'd try to be fairly realistic about how long it would take to complete, given that we didn't even know whether it could be done (this was research software, not shrinkwrapped).

                    Then, there are always interruptions and other projects, and we couldn't guarantee that we'd all be on the project at once. Also, hideous problems often come up, which would take a lot of work to handle, and even if they didn't, we really needed to allow plenty of time for testing and debugging and so on.

                    So it was a pretty good algorithm, all things considered. Once we started using that, we always delivered on time and up to specifications, and with no extra stress or overtime.

                    The moral of this story is that I guess. From experience, and an understanding of how much work is involved (much easier these days than with research software), I can make a pretty good guess. If I overestimate, then I can easily add another few projects from the stack during the week, and if I underestimate, then I'm kept busy working on those projects into the next week.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                      1) Guess it;
                      2) Double it;
                      3) Increase the units.
                      This cracked me up. :-0 As a project manager, my rule of thumb when getting an estimate from a developer instead of a manager is to double it. And they're still often struggling to get it done in the time. Maybe I need to increase the units also!

                      Actually, when people break down the work into everything they need to do - not just the "write the code" part, they're amazed at how quickly that six day estimate works its way up toward six weeks.

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                      • #12
                        Pure Gold

                        Originally posted by unstuffed View Post

                        As for an algorithm, well, not exactly, but when I worked in software development, we asked our boss how to estimate project completion times. The boss gave us an algorithm, which was:
                        1) Guess it;
                        2) Double it;
                        3) Increase the units.

                        So if we guessed it would take us 6 days, we'd double it, to get 12 days, then increase the units to get 12 weeks.
                        I'd just have to say that that is pure gold. Its one of those things that seems light and facetious at first, but when you actually then think about it, its pretty accurate.

                        Thinking about it, it does a pretty good job of accounting for interruptions, meetings, problems, and the like.

                        A great big thanks from here!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                          No worries, Eugene. I've often thought, when I read your posts, that you've got far more work than I could deal with.

                          As for an algorithm, well, not exactly, but when I worked in software development, we asked our boss how to estimate project completion times. The boss gave us an algorithm, which was:
                          1) Guess it;
                          2) Double it;
                          3) Increase the units.
                          Unstuffed, your algorithm is of big interest here. Probably it's time to publish it Unfortunatelly it doesn't answer my question. Let's try again

                          Imagine (better visualize) you have 100 projects on the plate (active+sm). Next week You can put 1 of those projects onto the active Projects list and do it 100% or you can put i.e. 50 and do each of them approximatelly (100/50=2) 2%. How do you calculate (what kind of guess methodology you use ) if you should take 100 projects, 50 projects or only 1?

                          Waiting for your reply.
                          Regards,
                          Eugene.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                            Imagine (better visualize) you have 100 projects on the plate (active+sm). Next week You can put 1 of those projects onto the active Projects list and do it 100% or you can put i.e. 50 and do each of them approximatelly (100/50=2) 2%. How do you calculate (what kind of guess methodology you use ) if you should take 100 projects, 50 projects or only 1?
                            Hi again Eugene,

                            Okay, if I have 100 projects, this is what I'd do:

                            1) First, I'd sort out which ones really need to get done soon: they go in my Current Projects list.

                            2) Then, I usually find some that I'm not really committed to doing immediately, whether that's because my work hasn't reached that stage, or because I don't feel like it, or whatever. They go straight into my Someday/Maybes.

                            3) I'm left with a bunch of things that I am committed to, but that aren't imminent. These form my Pending list (I actually call it my Ignoring list).

                            4) Then I may move a few from my Pending list to my Current list, depending on the state of my Current list. The algorithm for this is probably what you're looking for, and it's a bit complex, depending as it does on my energy level, other committments, and what's flared up in the meantime. But here's a rough guide:

                            a) I won't ever have more than 14 major projects on the go at one time, because I don't feel that I can give enough attention to a major project if I can't spend at least a few hours in the week on it. For my purposes, a major project is one that will require something of the order of days/weeks/months to complete, and the work on these tends to be doable in blocks. So if I can't give most of a morning or an afternoon to it, I'll put it on hold for that week.

                            b) My personal preference is for 5 - 7 major projects in a week. That gives me variety and concentrated focus time.

                            c) I also like to have a bunch of minor projects, that can be knocked off completely in a short time. This gives me something to do when I don't feel like intense work: I'll just crank through a few short tasks and feel like I've achieved something. Note that some of these minor projects can be sub-parts of larger projects, but I'll only put the minor part on my Current list, because that's what I'm focusing on.

                            The real key is thinking about what you have to do, and estimating how long those parts will take. Once you've done that, it's just a matter of deciding for yourself how many things you're willing to commit to in one week, and how widely you want to spread your focus.


                            And webR0ver, I should also point out that we had in-house and client time estimates: only the one we gave the client used this algorithm. Perhaps your developers are giving you the in-house estimate?


                            AdamMiller81, yes, I laughed a lot when I first heard it, but it really is surprisingly useful. It allows substantial time for all the aspects of development besides just cutting code, and it provides a reasonable estimate really quickly.

                            It works, and it's fast: what more can one ask for?

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                            • #15
                              Ok, now I see your formula: not more than 7-14 projects per week At least it looks like a simple formula

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