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  • What to do about 2-step projects

    Ok, so I'm trying to get back on track after being on maternity leave for 3 months. I've been cleaning out files and doing mind sweeps. Here is a nagging question: what do I do about 2-step tasks... specifically:

    In the mind sweep, I have a number of items that are things like:
    - get windows washed
    - contact Company X about sponsorship
    - etc.

    These are really only 2 step projects:

    - Step 1: get the contact information
    - Step 2: contact the person/organization

    Now... from my reading of GTD, I know I can't put "get windows washed" on my calls list (because that's not the next action), but it seems really ineffective to have this on my projects list (specifically, it feels ineffective to me to have 2-step projects next to meatier projects).

    Any suggestions?

    thanks -- mb

  • #2
    Here's what I do. Each item on my next actions list is the title of the project in all caps, followed by the next action. For you, that would be:

    WINDOWS WASHED: call xyz.

    If there are a couple more next actions that will follow and I don't want to forget them, I'll put them in the "note" for this next action, like: "Then call Joe, then send email to Jon."

    The purists will tell you to put it as a project because it is more than 1 step, but I don't know about that.

    Hope that helps a bit.
    TG

    Comment


    • #3
      On rare occassions, when I know for sure something is really only going to be two steps and won't blow up into 9 or 10, I might put "get # for xyz company" on my call list in my palm, then attach a note with the next and last action without it ever going on my full projects list.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: What to do about 2-step projects

        Originally posted by Mary Beth

        These are really only 2 step projects:

        - Step 1: get the contact information
        - Step 2: contact the person/organization
        There's a difference, possibly, between "steps" and outcomes...I would have to ask a client, in this situation, Step 2 will lead to what?

        - Finalize Sponsorship...
        - Complete window cleaning...

        Until the project is complete, the Outcome list (Project list) is there to re-mind me of what I commited. This is not always just to get it off the list, but it's sometimes maintained so that in the rush of life, I don't eagerly agree to pick up too many projects. I rarely (if ever) say no to my company (or wife, or family, or friends...) but often, when I'm weekly reviewing, I move things off that I thought I could have time to manage. For example, mid-September, two weeks ago, I reviewed my upcoming month of calendar and moved at least 9 projects to the someday maybe list. Only spending 8 nights at "home" this month forced me to make some decisions about what I'll manage through October. So, "Set up home office" even though it has a couple of steps, went to the Someday/Maybe list...the next actions, deleted completely.

        When I get back to a schedule of being "@Home," I'll just put that project back into play, and decide then...

        What's the next action?

        Clients we work with resist the project list, and I'm still trying to figure out why. I encourage a complete collection and processing of the "Outcomes" (however many steps involved, whatever time involved) on one list in your system.

        A good rule of thumb? Walk around your office, home, car, life, and fill in the blanks...

        What am I managing that begins with...

        apply
        build
        buy
        clarify
        complete
        create
        deliver
        design
        ensure
        establish
        finalize
        find
        finish
        handle
        identify
        implement
        increase
        install
        interview
        invent
        lead
        learn
        look into
        minimize
        obtain
        optimize
        organize
        own
        publish
        reorganize
        resolve
        revise
        roll out
        send
        set up
        simplify
        solve
        stop
        store
        streamline
        structure
        submit
        systematize
        test
        understand
        update


        Acquire
        Activate
        Adjust
        Administer
        Apply
        Approve
        Arrange
        Assemble
        Assist
        Attain
        Budget
        Build
        Catalogue
        Classify
        Compile
        Complete
        Conduct
        Consolidate
        Control
        Coordinate
        Define
        Deliver
        Demonstrate
        Design
        Develop
        Diagnose
        Direct
        Eliminate
        Empower
        Enlist
        Establish
        Finalize
        Forecast
        Gain
        Generate
        Guard
        Head
        Hire
        Implement
        Improve
        Increase
        Index
        Inform
        Install
        Interpret
        Introduce
        Invent
        Launch
        Lead
        Maintain
        Manage
        Merge
        Modulate
        Motivate
        Negotiate
        Observe
        Operate
        Organize
        Oversee
        Participate
        Perform
        Persuade
        Plan
        Prepare
        Present
        Produce
        Program
        Propose
        Recommend
        Release
        Render
        Renegotiate
        Renovate
        Reorganize
        Repair
        Report
        Research
        Review
        Revise
        Secure
        Select
        Sell
        Setup
        Simplify
        Solve
        Sort
        Stimulate
        Strengthen
        Summarize
        Teach
        Train
        Use

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: What to do about 2-step projects

          Originally posted by "Jason Womack
          Clients we work with resist the project list, and I'm still trying to figure out why. I encourage a complete collection and processing of the "Outcomes" (however many steps involved, whatever time involved) on one list in your system.
          I have resistance to the project list for at least two reasons:

          1) I feel overwhelmed when I see a list of 300 projects so I would rather avoid it and
          2) because I feel that many of my projects are sub-projects and I get lost in trying to think through the inter-relationships and determine whether a project is stand-alone or belongs "under" another. I use the GTD add-in and one of the most lacking features is the ability to create sub-projects. I have some work-arounds, but they require me to think a lot about the tool, instead of thinking about the work. If I create all the sub-projects as projects, I end up with a mix of project titles since I can't remember exactly what I called the other sub-projects. For example, if I have a project "Acme machine installation" I might have other projects called "Prepare Acme specification" and "Calculate power requirements for Acme" These do not sort near each other since they are not starting with the same letter. Each has independent next actions that I like to keep associated with the sub-project, not lumped together under one master project. This is somehow very annoying to me. Also, in the heat of battle I might receive an email and assign it to a new project "Acme power calculation" not realizing that this should be part of "Calculate power requirements for Acme."

          BTW, my work involves projects that are often 9-12 months in duration, with 7 figure budgets and tens of people working on them. I use a GANTT system to plan the project, but the tie-in to GTD is weak due to the lack of sub-projects. It seems a lot of typing to make each project like this "Acme Machine installation, Calculate power requirement for Acme, Define motor list" (a sub of a sub) and most of the add-in display boxes would only show the left part of the project name anyway.

          I am only sharing this in an attempt to put into words why I have project list avoidance. I am a firm believer in the GTD system and am patiently waiting for someone to invent a better way to handle the sub-projects. Regarding 1) above, I realize that this is not rational and I am able to overcome my reluctance to the list at work and produce the correct behavior. In fact, I doubt any of my colleagues have a clue to my project list feelings.

          I find that a regular weekly review helps smooth out the rough edges and allows me to catch duplicate projects, etc.

          -Ken

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: What to do about 2-step projects

            [quote="Jason Womack"] So, "Set up home office" even though it has a couple of steps, went to the Someday/Maybe list...the next actions, deleted completely.

            Jason , Great advice --the word list was very helpful for "triggers"

            One question -- you said "next actions deleted completely" I've always thought that the method was to only list one next action for each project--this is one area that I have trouble following.

            I no longer plan out projects entirely like I used to --but I still tend to list more than one next action on my lists --especiallly if the actions are in different contexts. ex. one call , one web reseaarch etc.

            What's your feeling on this ?

            thanks for you help,

            Paul

            Comment


            • #7
              Ken wrote:
              I am a firm believer in the GTD system and am patiently waiting for someone to invent a better way to handle the sub-projects.
              Ken, if someone were to come up with a sub-projects method, how many levels of "subs" do you think (realistically) would be needed?

              Comment


              • #8
                I currently have a complicated software project that is exactly three (project) levels deep.

                Deliver X Application (Project)
                ....Deliver X Form (Project)
                ........Deliver X Subform (Project)
                ............Code X algorithm / functionality (Next Action)

                I could imagine that I could have infinite depth and manage it with GTD technology.

                Were I to use the vanilla Palm approach, I would have only Deliver X Subform on my Projects list (if the above was complete list). In the memo for each project, I would list the superprojects and subprojects. If Code... had chronologically dependant tasks, I would put those in either it's memo or the project's memo that has it, depending on my personality. That is, if I had everything out of my head.

                In this way, the vanilla Palm system covers infinite levels of subprojects. It all has a place, anyway.

                The GTD system, of course, is depth-independent and is unaffected by limitations of the Palm.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Bill:

                  I could probably live with three levels

                  -Ken

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