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confused newbie questions

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  • confused newbie questions

    A couple of questions I am sure many others have asked.

    I am just starting, and have created my list of projects. (The first thing is that it strikes me is that I have a shockingly large number of projects!)

    This might sound a little dense, but is the idea of GTD that you don't do anything that isn't written down as an action?

    I (like most people) will plan to work on a project for a day, let's say (I am a music producer). In my head I know that the day will consist of many actions, and I know a lot of them ahead of time.

    So if my project is: Record song for client X

    The next action might be something like: Turn on equipment in the studio.

    This in itself could be broken down to: Turn on the first piece of equipment.

    Or even more basically: Show up at work

    So is the next action for a project just sort of a starting point, or trigger for the whole series of actions that will be performed sequentially?


    Another related question: Once I have generated a list of projects, is the idea that each project has a NA associated? Litteraly can I just write down the action right on the same list? Something Like:

    Fix Car-call garage
    Keep finances in order- Get copy of last months bank statement
    Finish Album- make up bridge for song X
    Sell House- research For Sale By Owner Process.

    Oy, I think my confusion is obvious.

    Thanks for reading,
    Brian

  • #2
    Yes, your next action can be a trigger point for a whole series of actions. Yes you can do items that are not on your list.

    You don't have to write down the whole series of actions triggered by the first one. When you stop or are interrupted, you do want to write down the next "next action", so you know where to continue.

    If the series of tasks that you do that's started by "turn on the equipment" is something you could do in your sleep with your eyes closed, then that's all you need. If you are new to the series of tasks, or routinely forget one item, or are changing it up, then you may want to consider having a checklist of all the items that you can just run through.

    Turn on the equipment may need to go on your calendar. I'm assuming you must start a given amount of time before the Client shows up for the session - or once they show up.

    One of the benefits of GTD is that if you do choose to do something completely different that isn't written down, you know what is on your list that you've chosen not to do.

    Based on your example:

    The idea is not to have the next items buried in your project list, but to have them on appropriate context lists.

    You need to identify (to yourself) whether "Get copy of last month's bank statement" is a phone thing, an internet task or a rummage through the desk task. Let's say it's an internet task. Also, look up the number of the garage as you're processing.

    @Phone
    Call Garage to make appointment nnn-nnnn (Fix Car)*
    [This may not be the first task - the first task may be to figure out a day or time that will work for you to take it in. Or the first task may be to call and get a quote.]

    @Computer/Internet
    Print last month's bank statement (Finances)
    Go to "For Sale by Owner" site and find out their process (Sell House)

    @Office
    Make up bridge for song x (Album X)

    On Calendar
    1:00 pm Set up studio for recording session/Checklist Z (Record song for Client X)

    Hopefully that gives you the idea.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by briandaly View Post
      I am just starting, and have created my list of projects. (The first thing is that it strikes me is that I have a shockingly large number of projects!)
      Hi Brian, welcome to GTD. Yes, you will have boggins of projects, at least for a while. What I (and some others) do is to strip the Current Projects list down to those projects that you think you'll be able to work on this week, and put the rest into Someday/Maybe. This lessens the overwhelm, and helps keep your focus sharp.


      Originally posted by briandaly View Post
      This might sound a little dense, but is the idea of GTD that you don't do anything that isn't written down as an action?
      Not exactly. The magic of the Next Action is twofold: firstly, it lets you hit the ground running, without having to faff around remembering where you were up to on that project; secondly, by breaking things down into small tasks, lets you keep lots of projects moving and make the best use of your time. It also helps beat procrastination, because having something like "Look up Donald Trump's phone number in the phone book so I can call him for tips" doesn't induce much resistance, whereas "Become a millionaire" is a big task that's pretty offputting.


      Originally posted by briandaly View Post
      So if my project is: Record song for client X
      The next action might be something like: Turn on equipment in the studio.
      This in itself could be broken down to: Turn on the first piece of equipment.
      Or even more basically: Show up at work
      You don't need to specify that degree of detail. What you do need to do is make sure that your Next Action is achievable without you having to do any other work first. So, for instance, in your example you'd only be allowed to write "Record song for client X" if you'd already written the song, got their in-principle approval, and booked the studio. If any one of those things wasn't done, that would be the NA before "Record song".


      Originally posted by briandaly View Post
      So is the next action for a project just sort of a starting point, or trigger for the whole series of actions that will be performed sequentially?
      My best metaphor is that the NA is something like a bookmark: it lets you know exactly where you left off last time, so you don't have to wiffle around finding your place each time. Of course, once you do start working on that project, you don't need to have all the steps written down as NAs, just as you don't need a whole bunch of bookmarks: you only write down the next NA when you stop working on that project without finishing it.


      Originally posted by briandaly View Post
      Another related question: Once I have generated a list of projects, is the idea that each project has a NA associated?
      Each project in your Current Projects list should have an NA associated with it: if not, that means you have no way of working on that project, so it's not really current. Then it belongs in the S/M list until you decide to make it active.


      Originally posted by briandaly View Post
      Litteraly can I just write down the action right on the same list? Something Like:
      Fix Car-call garage
      Keep finances in order- Get copy of last months bank statement
      Finish Album- make up bridge for song X
      Sell House- research For Sale By Owner Process.
      Oy, I think my confusion is obvious.
      Hey, we've all been through these stages, so we know what it's like. I'd suggest you go with the strict GTD model, at least to start with, and keep your NAs separate from you projects. Part of the reason is that you can then group your NAs by context: all of your phone calls on one list, all of your online stuff on another, errands on another, and so on.

      Another part of the reason is that doing this will show up a few gaps in your implementation. For instance, on which list would you put "Research For Sale By Owner process"? Remember, the crux of an NA is something you can do without having to do any more thinking, so it helps to be as specific as you need to. I'd probably rewrite this one as "Google 'for sale by owner'", or "Call Real Estate Institute to see if they have handouts about the legals" or something similar: you want something that you can dive right into, and that can be ticked off as being done. The verb 'research' here is just too vague.

      Similarly 'make up bridge for song X' - you might use more specific, actionable verbs such as 'brainstorm for 10 minutes', 'listen to connecting bits and write down everything that wouldn't work here', 'try every 3-chord run in E that I know', or whatever. The reason for this, particularly with longer, more creative projects, is that you're able to track what didn't work, so you don't cover the same ground twice.

      Hope I haven't wiffled too much. And let me know if I haven't answered your question: I've had a busy day here, and my brain's partly fried.

      Comment


      • #4
        Knowing what you're not doing

        Originally posted by briandaly View Post
        This might sound a little dense, but is the idea of GTD that you don't do anything that isn't written down as an action?
        Hi Brian,

        The answers above are very thorough, I just wanted to add one quick note that struck me when I read that question.

        I can't remember the exact story, but I know it was mentioned either in GTD or RFA (or both) that one of the other benefits to GTD is that if you do decide to do something that is NOT on your lists, that's okay, because then you at least know what isn't being done. I think DA had related a story about how he spent an entire morning working in the garden or pruning the hedges or some such (I know, I know, I'm about due for a re-reading ) and that wasn't on his lists. However, he knew that he didn't have anything else that was a higher priority, so he was able to enjoy that fully, without worrying that something is slipping through the cracks.

        This basically allows you to be present in everything that you do. Without that nagging thought in the back of your head that something is missing, you can devote your mind fully to the task at hand, whether that came from the lists or not.

        Hope that helps,

        Adam

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks so much everybody for the succinct answers, that helps a lot.

          A quick follow up question for WebRover: I noticed you have what looks like "projects" in parenthesis after your example NAs. Is that how you actually do it, or was it just for illustration?

          Brian

          Comment


          • #6
            It was partly in response to the way you had your tasks expressed, partly because being able to connect the task to the project is usually the second question that gets asked, and yes, if it's not going to be obvious to ME what project I'm doing the action for, I'll put something in the item to tell me.

            For example on my @Computer list right now I have
            Update Conquer the World Schedule
            Update Invade North Pole Schedule
            Email Debbie requirements
            Email John requirements

            (OK, just kidding, those aren't the real project names)

            Without the reference to the project I wouldn't be able to tell the Update Schedule actions apart. I didn't need to identify the project for the requirements because I know what it is based on the person I'm contacting.

            Hope that helps.

            Comment

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