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'end results' -- the missing link?

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  • 'end results' -- the missing link?

    Projects have end results.

    Action items are doable visualizable simple tasks.

    Often, an action item is just a 'placeholder' or 'bookmark' -- the initial action that will kickoff a series of actions that will get you a few steps closer towards completing a 2-month project.

    That initial action may be doable, it may be simple -- but, because it is so far removed from any desirable end result, it is not inspiring.

    The end result of the project is often too far off and too big to have any magnetic affect on me. The end result of my day, on the other hand, is close enough to draw me -- but it isn't defined.

    I am thinking that if I captured something like, "What needs to be accomplished to make me consider today a success", that might be a magnetic motivator.

    But it isn't an action item, and I don't think it is a project. What is it, does it have a place in GTD, and what is that place?

    Thanks,
    Arc

  • #2
    The Printable CEO

    Hi Arc,

    One tool that I know some people use for this type of thing is David Seah's Printable CEO. Basically, this assigns point values to certain classes of activities, and gives you a method of quantifying the output of your actions. It also comes with a handy tracking sheet for tracking your daily point totals.

    Now, while you may want to rewrite the basic action classes to suit your work, something along these lines could be used to measure your day and set a goal. For instance, you could say "I consider today to be a success if I earn 17 points" Then, as you complete actions from your lists, you earn points towards that End Point for the day.

    As some other ideas, you could even award higher points to unlikeable tasks, essentially rewarding yourself for doing the things that have perhaps been dragging on your lists. That's an idea for overcoming some personal procrastination. . .

    Hope this helps!

    Adam

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks Adam,

      I've used approaches like that, often with success.

      But it kinda makes me feel like an automaton -- keep your head down, keep moving, and if you move fast enough and often enough, it is a good day.

      And more and more, I am resenting and resisting that feeling. I am thinking that if I tie my action items into a desired end result that shows that my efforts make some kind of difference, that might be more motivating.

      Comment


      • #4
        Ahh there's the rub. That is indeed the challenge. I see what you mean now, you're basically trying to find a qualitative measure to drive the quantitative progress, is that correct?

        One idea would be to add more levels of projects, or goals. This could increase overhead, but productivity gains may still be a net positive.

        Each week during you're weekly review, review your active projects and try to estimate what you feel wild success for THAT WEEK would be. Essentially, in order to wildly succeed in the end project, what would this ideal week be? Then, track those, and then at a certain time or times each day, review those end states, and evaluate if you've moved forward. If not, perhaps choose one and find an NA that can help take that step.

        You could theoretically choose new milestones (or foot-pebbles) daily, but I wonder if they would not be grand enough to inspire action?

        Comment


        • #5
          Sometimes, putting your head down and doing the work is actually what you need to do, though.

          If I want to write 100,000 words, there aren't many measures of progress that beat tracking daily word count. If I want to reach out to potential customers, there's something to be said for picking up the phone a whole bunch of times. It may not be inspiring or motivational, but it's got to be done.

          That's why connecting actions to projects to larger goals is important: that link is where motivation for the daily grind comes from.

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            Somebody (is it Mike Williams?) actually gives his action items hierarchical names that link them to projects -- something like goal.project.action_item -- when I first heard it, I thought it might be a little much -- but maybe I should revisit that idea.

            Katherine, I confess I have to agree with you But, if I must put my head down and swim toward my island of choice for the day, I think I would feel better if I climbed a small tree first and verified how far away the island is and where it is located. Maybe a weekly project review is not enough. Maybe I don't have to climb the tree every day -- maybe a periscope might be enough. I guess I am looking for something that allows me to estimate effort and effect (end results) for the day.

            Comment


            • #7
              Daily Intentions?

              Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
              But it isn't an action item, and I don't think it is a project. What is it, does it have a place in GTD, and what is that place?
              So you wanna have an intention and fulfil it daily ?!

              Two things I'd recommend:

              First:
              Define work packages, chunks of work that are bigger than a single action and smaller than a milestone and far smaller than a project.
              Schedule one or two hours per day for at least one work package per day.
              In your GTD-system this work packages would live somewhere at the 2,000 or 3,000 feet level and would be written in the form of checklists.
              Choose the size of each work package (that is the number of actions in it) big enough to give it some meaning or relevance and small enough for feasibility.
              Your intention would be to make progress on least one work package per day.
              (In this regard here, your success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal, the accomplishment of your work package.)

              Second:
              Read the book "Do It Tomorrow" by Mark Forster. This book is about knowing what it means "to have a day's worth of work" and how to diagnose your problems when you can't accomplish that day's worth of work. The author says you should use a daily closed list. Translated into gtd-language this means that you have a daily @work-next-actions-list, and you have to do a daily review, daily.

              Those work packages that I mentioned above would be
              a) checklists of actions in your gtd-system , and
              b) part of your daily @work-next-actions-list in the form of the default next action "start working on checklist XYZ" or "continue working on checklist XYZ".

              Define your gtd-contexts broad enough so you don't have to change the context while you are working on a certain checklist. If necessary use only these two contexts: @work and @home.


              Hope this helps!

              Rainer
              Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 10-12-2007, 04:58 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Great question. First, I'd look at why you're not having positive feelings associated with accomplishing your actions. Maybe the project's outcome isn't motivating enough (it's a "should do" or "have to do" for example). Also, if your personal energy is low (e.g., diet, sleep, other issues) it's hard to make progress.

                Second, to get a feeling of accomplishment, there are a few tricks. I'm learning more about Kaizen (esp. Robert Maurer's "One Small Step Can Change Your Life"), and one idea I got from it is to do at least one small high-value task a day. Call a client, do some writing, etc. More here, if you're interested: Small steps to big results: Do one High Value Task a day

                Finally, regarding how this fits into GTD, I think a daily checklist of actions is a fine idea. However, be careful: Create the list from your actions list, be ready to change it as important work shows up, and tear it up at the end of the day! Otherwise you risk your master list of actions becoming out of date, and you're back to less productive practices.

                I also like Mark Forster's idea of a "current initiative" - one project you focus on to make steady headway.

                Hope that helps..

                Comment


                • #9
                  I just make my Projects relatively small. If it'll take more than a couple of weeks, it's too big for my Projects list.

                  (Larger Projects are kept in Someday/Maybe or Project Support Materials.)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
                    "What needs to be accomplished to make me consider today a success", that might be a magnetic motivator.

                    But it isn't an action item, and I don't think it is a project. What is it, does it have a place in GTD, and what is that place?
                    Arc,

                    Maybe work backwards...Start by blocking some time at the end of each day (GTD hard landscape) to answer the question:

                    Was today a success?... and then if so, why? ... and if not why?

                    After doing this for a week or two, it seems like this might help you to identify those type of actions or activities that constitute success for you.

                    - Don

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
                      I am thinking that if I captured something like, "What needs to be accomplished to make me consider today a success", that might be a magnetic motivator.
                      What about starting your (work)day with a little brainstorming session?
                      1. Empty your head (just quick, no long debates with yourself)
                      2. Quick daily review.
                      Okay, now you are up-to-date.
                      3. Answer your question, write it down as your daily goal. This should be a mix of having some NAs on it, special actions you came up with, your hard-landscape, a milestone. A whole little project. Whatever. Have a daily plan. Why not?

                      At the end of the day you can check your accomplishments against the plan and decide "hop" or "top".

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm not really sure what a hard landscape is. Please define.

                        Thanks,
                        Arc

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Arc Caster, the hard landscape is things that you're committed to during the day, usually at specific times. Meetings, medical appointments, anything that chops your time into pieces. This is not 'want-to-do' or 'hope-to-do' stuff: this is fixed and immutable pre-determined appointments.

                          On your original post, one thing that might be of interest to you is a post from Zen Habits called Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task. You might find other posts of his useful too: look in the Productivity and/or GTD categories.

                          Forgive the spiel, but one of the things I like most about his posts is that he looks into the "Why?" of problems we have, rather than the "What?". I mean that he thinks about the psychological/personal causes of our issues, rather than simply checking whether we're doing it right. And he's very keen on the need to simplify what we do and how we do it as a result.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Nice pointer -- thanks. Defining one (or three) MITs might add just the sense of purpose I am looking for.

                            Comment

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