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Some GTD implementation questions

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  • Some GTD implementation questions

    So I am starting to implement GTD and am using GTDInbox for processing with Gmail. A few questions I had:

    1. Should all actions in a project get identifed at the start, when you identify the project, or just the next action?

    2. Also, do someday / maybe projects need next actions? Or they just get labelled someday / maybe and then later on, if you decide you want to move on them, that's when you put the next actions on.

    I realize that GTD is different for each of us, but am interested in hearing your guys' opinions on the matter

  • #2
    It's important to distinguish the project plan from the next action.

    It is perfectly acceptable (and in many cases desirable) to plan out as many actions as you can think of for a given project. But only the immediately actionable items should go on your list of next actions.

    Someday/maybe items, by definition, do not have next actions associated with them. This is not to say that they don't have a project plan - just that there is nothing that needs to be done now.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by regoarrarr View Post
      1. Should all actions in a project get identifed at the start, when you identify the project, or just the next action?
      I'm sure the answer to this varies but I never plan a project off the cuff any further than I have to. I think project planning deserves time for concentrated thought and is best done during the weekly review. If I put it off until then I also have time to collect random thoughts that occur to me with time.

      So I put down just enough to get me to the weekly review and make sure anything that occurs to me between now and then ends up in my inbox and from there to the project folder for use during planning.

      2. Also, do someday / maybe projects need next actions?
      I think this is a pretty definite no. I have always understood these action lists to be pretty much for "To be done ASAP" items. If there is doubt about whether you want to do it, why put it on a list?

      Tom S.

      Comment


      • #4
        If a project is someday-maybe, that means you've determined that it is not a priority at this time. Therefore, you would not want Next Actions for it cluttering up your lists and possibly distracting your from actions associated with projects you *do* want to move forward.

        With both someday-maybe and active projects, you can plan as much or as little as is comfortable to get the project "off your mind". But as others have said, only currently actionable next-actions for your active projects should go on your lists-- (generally no more than one per context list).

        When you complete that action and are choosing another to write down (either right away, or at your weekly-review or mini-review) it helps to look at the project outline you put down before, but think about whether it is a next action (and not a sub-project, or an action with pre-requirements) and whether it's the next action you want to put down.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by regoarrarr View Post
          1. Should all actions in a project get identifed at the start, when you identify the project, or just the next action?
          This is a 'piece of string' question: depends on the size of the project, and a few other variables. What I do: I write down the things I need to remember about the project (such as what completion looks like, and any steps I may otherwise forget) on a project sheet. Most projects just have a short list of attributes: for my back garden project, for example, the list is 'increase size of middle bed, lay brick pavers as edging around new and current beds, plant pretty things along side fence, prune everything that needs pruning, cover with straw'. I just put enough so that I can identify what I want the project to achieve. Then when I start doing things, I put as many NAs as I am able to do immediately (as in, they don't need another NA done first) on my context lists, and away I go.

          Originally posted by regoarrarr View Post
          2. Also, do someday / maybe projects need next actions? Or they just get labelled someday / maybe and then later on, if you decide you want to move on them, that's when you put the next actions on.
          Exactly. This is one of the few invariants of GTD: other aspects may be tinkered with to suit your personal tastes, but this one is fixed. If you haven't committed to it, you don't need to invest any time and brain cells in it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
            Exactly. This is one of the few invariants of GTD: other aspects may be tinkered with to suit your personal tastes, but this one is fixed. If you haven't committed to it, you don't need to invest any time and brain cells in it.
            I think the question is when you're not 100% sure you haven't committed to it. Then, I think putting a "brainstorm for 10 minutes about X" NA in the right context is ok. For that, I'd suggest using an actual timer (your cellphone usually has an alarm), setting it for 12 minutes (so you get 10 minutes of acutal thinking), and then deciding to either write a NA or put it back on the someday/maybe list.

            For example, this week I've collected a reasonably large list of potential destinations for weekend getaways. They're all by definition S/M, because the true NA is to spend time researching high-mileage/low-price airfare deals (which could end up being to someplace completely different). But for a couple of them where I have a higher probability or interest of ending up at some point, I'll schedule a NA to flesh it out a little bit before it lands on the S/M list.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Chicagoan View Post
              I think the question is when you're not 100% sure you haven't committed to it. Then, I think putting a "brainstorm for 10 minutes about X" NA in the right context is ok.
              I agree that it certainly is OK. But I usually go over my SM list during the weekly review and use that time for things like this.

              Tom S.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tom Shannon View Post
                I agree that it certainly is OK. But I usually go over my SM list during the weekly review and use that time for things like this.
                I can see that approach working pretty well for many people. But I'm so new at this that if I did that, my weekly review would take an entire day!

                Right now, I have 24 of these brainstorming actions scattered across my NA contexts, out of 172 total NAs. I'm going to be interested to see the ratio of NAs vs. SMs vs. ignores come out of those 24.

                Four examples at random:
                - brainstorm about how to build a consulting initiative around two ideas that my manager has (he knows I'm the creative guy - this is a pure "go off and think about this" assignment from him)
                - brainstorm about what my goals are with respect to a particular extended relative of mine, based on the current state of our relationship
                - brainstorm about possible locations to relocate where I store my laundry
                - brainstorm about what I want the design influences to be as I start to add real furniture to my living room instead of the stuff I brought from the apartment

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chicagoan View Post
                  I can see that approach working pretty well for many people. But I'm so new at this that if I did that, my weekly review would take an entire day!

                  Right now, I have 24 of these brainstorming actions scattered across my NA contexts, out of 172 total NAs. I'm going to be interested to see the ratio of NAs vs. SMs vs. ignores come out of those 24.
                  I see your point.

                  I don't have nearly as many of these kinds of things but I usually don't bother to put them on the SM list. I just put in the actions that you described. If it involves extensive research, I consider them to be projects and then either scrap them or keep them when I've got the information needed to make the decision. Or if I'm not ready to make a decision and no other action is required, I move them to the SM or make a tickler to remind me to reconsider within the week.

                  I consider the SM list to contain things that are just incubating. Nothing really needs to be done. Every week I figure I should look at the list and say to myself, "Hmmmm. Am I ready to do this or am I ready to scrap it?" It only takes less then a minute for each item and no other action is required. If the answer is, "No." to both questions I just move on.

                  In my own case, I figure that if I'm going to work on it, even if it just involves research or brainstorming, its a project. If I'm not committed to doing anything about it, then it doesn't go on an action list and its a SM or a near future tickler.

                  Again, this is just me. I sometimes have a very black and white outlook. Everyone does what works, right?

                  Tom S.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I had the same question

                    http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7034

                    I had the same question about how many next actions to add to a context list. See the link if you have time to kill; if not then file it away for reading and reviewing.

                    It seems the moral to the story is this:
                    1. write down only the next possible action(s) you could take on your context lists. Don't write down actions that depend on other actions.
                    2. When you finish a next action go back to your support material for the project to decide what next action(s) you can write down now.

                    This works well for 90% of projects. For the other 10% like planning a wedding or writing software you have to do something else, something else possibly involving checklists and gantt charts.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gtdlater View Post
                      It seems the moral to the story is this:
                      1. write down only the next possible action(s) you could take on your context lists. Don't write down actions that depend on other actions.
                      2. When you finish a next action go back to your support material for the project to decide what next action(s) you can write down now.

                      This works well for 90% of projects. For the other 10% like planning a wedding or writing software you have to do something else, something else possibly involving checklists and gantt charts.
                      I think you're mixing up two things: putting NAs on the context lists, and planning the project.

                      For putting NAs on the context lists, it's a definite rule: only put on the context lists actions that you could do immediately. That's why they're called Next Actions. If you can't do it until you've done something else, it's not a Next Action.

                      However, that is entirely separate from planning a project. Remember that a project is any task that will take more than one action to complete, so some projects can be planned in about 3 minutes by simply writing down the few things you need to do to accomplish them.

                      Some projects are large and complicated, and will need some brainstorming at the very least. Some may need a lot of planning: for example, a large software project needs some fairly heavy lifting in this area. But again, it may not be necessary to plan the entire project in gory detail before you start working on it. Indeed, sometimes that's a waste of time, because the project may take a turn different to the one you'd anticipated.

                      So when we said that you should only put on your context lists the NAs that you could do immediately, that didn't mean that you had to avoid planning, it simply meant that planning projects and putting NAs on context lists are quite independent.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        vertically challenged

                        Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                        planned in about 3 minutes by simply writing down the few things you need to do to accomplish them.
                        The few things go in the project support material folder/bucket, right?

                        Ok I think I understand what you are saying. I'm mixing processing (project planning in this case) with doing when I should just concentrate on doing.

                        I feel horizontally a lot more organized, and I have gotten things done the past few days that would have gone undone; however, vertically I don't feel so organized.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gtdlater View Post
                          The few things go in the project support material folder/bucket, right?
                          Yep.

                          Originally posted by gtdlater View Post
                          Ok I think I understand what you are saying. I'm mixing processing (project planning in this case) with doing when I should just concentrate on doing.
                          Not exactly. I think you're mixing processing (assigning NAs) with doing (project planning). At least to the extent that assigning the NAs is a step you do during the processing stage, whereas project planning may take some actual doing: brainstorming ideas, working out requirements, setting timelines etc. Note that the planning is something you won't have to do for every project, only the bigger ones. Smaller ones can be assigned an NA on the fly, because you know exactly what needs to be done and in what order.

                          Originally posted by gtdlater View Post
                          I feel horizontally a lot more organized, and I have gotten things done the past few days that would have gone undone; however, vertically I don't feel so organized.
                          It's excellent that you're feeling an improvement. Remember that changing your habits and the way you work is something that will take time. If you've been disorganised (or not organised enough) for several years, you'll probably have to work through a bit of backlog, and get comfortable with the basic daily/weekly habits, before you can progress up the altitudes.

                          David Allen says something like this in his books. He recommends starting at the runway level, and getting that working, so as to clear your mind of the everyday stuff that's demanding your attention. Only then will you have the clarity of focus to start thinking at the higher altitudes (longer term).

                          Merlin Mann, quoting a reader/writer/someone, says that the goal should not be to become instantly perfect: we should merely aim to suck less. I love this idea, because it means that we recognise every bit of progress we make, and don't feel discouraged that we don't instantly achieve organisational nirvana.

                          So basically, you're doing good. Keep it up!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gtdlater View Post
                            http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7034
                            This works well for 90% of projects. For the other 10% like planning a wedding or writing software you have to do something else, something else possibly involving checklists and gantt charts.
                            Actually every project I have ever seen so far boils down to the NAs at the operational level. You might be big enough and complex enough to need full project planning tooling and administration to define the thing (I do because it is my job to manage large projects) but at the sharp end you are still just finding the relevant NAs and doing them.

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