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  • Never Ending Projects

    I'm having trouble categorizing a particular kind of project that I call the "never ending project," and I wonder if you all have any advice. The specific thing that brought this problem to mind was going to the gym. I go to the gym for a number of reasons. It's a stress relief, a nice break from work, and so on. But mostly I go to the gym to stay in shape. I have no illusions that I'm going to run a marathon or develop 6-pack abs, but I do want to remain reasonably fit. So the project that I want to write down is "staying in shape."

    But of course, staying in shape is a project that never really ends. I know what being in shape looks like, but I can never say that I'm "done" getting in shape the way one is supposed to be able to envision "done" with other projects. Staying in shape is a process that will last for the rest of my life.

    How should I deal with this sort of item?

  • #2
    These kinds of repeating tasks usually don't fit directly into GTD as actions. Rather, they often show up as checklists - daily, weekly, or monthly. These, combined with the creation of the habit to check often enough, are what help establish new behaviors. That said, there are lots of different ways to do this. Time blocking (i.e., scheduling regular chunks of time in your schedule) is one popular way...

    Related: What about routines?

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    • #3
      "Stay in shape" is not really a project (at least not by my definition) because, as you stated, you can never say you're done. It is really more of a goal or a value (or as DA calls them, higher elevations).

      Projects or routines with specific next actions may derive from this goal/value.

      My suggestion? Move it off of your Projects list; put it on one (or more) of your higher elevation lists.
      Last edited by jknecht; 05-19-2007, 04:15 PM. Reason: spelling

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      • #4
        This is understandibly one of the most frequently asked questions on the forum, and there are many threads discussing projects and focus areas involving recurring actions, the most recent of which is here.

        As jknecht said, "Stay in shape" isn't really a project. The thread linked above and the one Cornell cited go over different strategies to keep the plate spinning.

        While you may not be able to define staying in shape as a project, you can certainly define get in shape as a project if you have a concrete outcome in mind.

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        • #5
          "Staying in shape" may be never-ending, but it's also easier to do if you have concrete goals. The goal could be as simple as running a given number of miles, or achieving a given time, or as complex as competition at a high level, but it helps to have one.

          And once you have a goal, you have a project, and can deploy all your favorite tools to stay on track.

          Katherine

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          • #6
            re: Project-Staying In Shape

            One of the most difficult things to learn in GTD is getting more specific about outcomes. The less specific we are, the less our minds and bodies have the ability to step toward and act on those things. If you really want to see progress on this project, you'll need to do two things:

            1. Clarify the outcome vision in vivid detail. Describe what 'Done' would look like. Imagine wild success! What new things would success on this project make possible? Write down as much as you can think about. Go for quantity, not quality.

            2. Review this outcome vision weekly along with your weekly review.

            Once you've got (1) and (2) ready to go, change the name of your project to more accurately reflect the outcome. So, for example, change "Project-Staying in Shape" to "Project-I'm Maintaining 180lbs of lean muscle mass and running an hour a day". Or whatever is more reflective of your outcome vision. Once that's done, the review will remind you regularly of all of the wonderful things you envision for yourself. And that more frequent motivation will give you the traction you need to keep the project going.

            Hope that helps.

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            • #7
              I would say "staying in shape" is the purpose of the project. The answer to the first question in the natural planning model.

              Comment


              • #8
                I would agree with Katherine:

                "Staying in shape" is an area of responsibility - something that goes on the higher levels of GTD (i.e., the altitude metaphor in the book).

                "Go to gym 5 days a week for 3 weeks in a row."
                "Lose 10 pounds."
                "Run a mile in under 5 minutes 30 seconds."
                "Run a 10k race."

                These are projects because they have specific outcomes. You can then plan your next actions accordingly.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I Call Them Activities

                  Originally posted by dantheman View Post
                  I'm having trouble categorizing a particular kind of project that I call the "never ending project,"
                  I have lots of them. I call them "Activities." For me, an activity is a set of actions that maintain a desired outcome, like staying fit. On the other hand, a project is a set of actions that attain a desired outcome, like joining a health club. (This example highlights that fact that high-level outcomes oftentimes spawn both projects and activities.)

                  The key difference is that in managing an activity, you are comparing your current state of affairs against one or more standards on an ongoing basis, and adjusting the duration and frequency of the work in order to keep things where they need to be. In the case of fitness, your standards may be your weight or how fast you can run a mile, or some other criteria. If your fitness slips, you can exercise more - or more often - to get yourself back to where you want to be. Similarly, if you find yourself significantly more fit than your targets, you can adjust things downward so that you can put the time and effort to better use elsewhere.

                  To take another example, I have an outcome that the lawn is a "carpet of green." In addition to projects, like adjusting the soil pH and putting down fertilizer, I have an ongoing activities like mowing the lawn. In the spring, I mow at least every week because it's cool, moist, and the grass is growing like mad. In the heat of summer, I mow a lot less because it is hot, dry, and the grass is growing more slowly. In winter, I watch TV.
                  Last edited by Scott_L_Lewis; 05-21-2007, 08:17 AM. Reason: Corrected spelling error.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis View Post
                    I have lots of them. I call them "Activities." For me, an activity is a set of actions that maintain a desired outcome, like staying fit. On the other hand, a project is a set of actions that attain a desired outcome, like joining a health club. (This example highlights that fact that high-level outcomes oftentimes spawn both projects and activities.)
                    Very interesting distinction! I think I'll have to experiment with an "activities" list of my own.

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                    • #11
                      Check out joesgoals.com - it's perfect for training your daily/weekly habbits

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by madalu View Post
                        "Staying in shape" is an area of responsibility - something that goes on the higher levels of GTD (i.e., the altitude metaphor in the book).
                        I would call the areo of responsibility somehting like "physical", "health" or "fittness".

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