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  • Help with Next Actions

    Hi All

    I'm new to GTD and am in the process of implementing it with Outlook 2007 and ClearContext. However, where I'm a bit stuck is NextActions. I understand that each project should have a next action to move it forward.

    What I'm doing right now is creating a Task in Outlook. Naming it "[Project A] Send proposal" and assigning it to my @projects context.

    I'm sure this is wrong. Many times it will be "Call XYZ" so it should go under @phone, but then it's lost the link to the project (except in the subject line), which means I can't group by "all projects" or specific projects.

  • #2
    Why not call it "Project A: call mr. Bean" and put it into @Call or @Office instead of @Projects? Plus add "Project A - Hire mr. Bean" to your Project list. Thus you have next action and it's connected to the project. But you have to use a script or a search function if you want to see all your next actions for any individual project.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by mark_anderson_us View Post
      Many times it will be "Call XYZ" so it should go under @phone, but then it's lost the link to the project (except in the subject line), which means I can't group by "all projects" or specific projects.
      Why do you think you'll need to group by all projects or specific projects?

      Comment


      • #4
        One thing that Outlook allows that is helpful is for tasks to belong to multiple categories. So I create the standard categories (@ Calls, @ Computer, @ Errands, ...) and also a category for each project (Backyard Landscaping, Sell Baseball Cards, ...)

        Now when I create a task, I assign it to the correct Context (@ Calls) and also to the project if it belongs to one. This is some extra overhead, and Dave recommends not adding the extra overhead, but if it is a feature that you decide is worth the extra overhead and that it won't be a hinderance to using the system, then go ahead and do something similar.

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Guys

          Thanks for the suggestions.

          Brent pointed me to the GTF guide for IMS that shows you how to get Topics in the regular task list, so it won't be a problem on my desktop. I'll be getting a new phone/PDA in the next 4 weeks, so I may have to revisit this.

          I did try the multiple categories, but the thing I didn't like in Outlook 2007 is that when you're viewing the task list it doesn't show all the categories assigned in the categories column. Also, as one of you mentioned there's quite a significant overhead (in Outlook 2007): you need to go to all categories to select multiple, or even select one.

          Right now I have major contexts as categories, so the list is short and they're all visible, and the topic assignment (most of my e-mails which become tasks are AutoAssigned to the topic). So now I can click Task, select the Context and Save.

          Thanks for all the help

          Regards

          Mark

          Comment


          • #6
            Mark,

            Welcome to the learning experience that is GTD. It sounds to me like you're in the "I have to tie next actions to projects otherwise I can't do my weekly review properly" place. Many have been there and many still are. Others have moved on.

            I too felt a strong need to tie next actions and projects. I used different tools and different notations. Eventually I followed the wisdom of others and settled into a regular weekly review. If you do this you'll quickly find that you do not need to tie NAs and projects. They will be tied in your head and that's enough. The fear of missing something proves unfounded.

            Keep on this path for a while. I think it's an important part of learning what GTD can do for you.

            Regards,

            David

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by quantumgardener View Post
              Welcome to the learning experience that is GTD. It sounds to me like you're in the "I have to tie next actions to projects otherwise I can't do my weekly review properly" place. Many have been there and many still are. Others have moved on.
              I didn't realize that advanced GTDers do not need to tie in NAs to projects. I often wonder why I need a reason for all my NAs - I implemented the "full" GTD system this past summer. Most of my NAs belong to projects and some are single NAs. My context lists include the project name. How do you handle larger sets of tasks that I, for example, would put into a project? Some more complex projects would be written out in advance with the NAs in proper order. I assume you must do that though; you just don't need to visually see the project tie-in the context list? Is this how others do it?

              My question for this is rather important. One of my goals this year is to "just do it and not think about it too much." GTD is integral, since I can put everything down and review it weekly.

              Comment


              • #8
                Projects and NAs tied in the head

                Originally posted by quantumgardener View Post
                Mark,

                Welcome to the learning experience that is GTD. It sounds to me like you're in the "I have to tie next actions to projects otherwise I can't do my weekly review properly" place. Many have been there and many still are. Others have moved on.

                I too felt a strong need to tie next actions and projects. I used different tools and different notations. Eventually I followed the wisdom of others and settled into a regular weekly review. If you do this you'll quickly find that you do not need to tie NAs and projects. They will be tied in your head and that's enough. The fear of missing something proves unfounded.

                Keep on this path for a while. I think it's an important part of learning what GTD can do for you.

                Regards,

                David
                Completely agree with you, David! Was it you who had written on similar lines two/three months ago? It really caught me, and then within a few days I was a convert! Earlier I used Thinking Rock and then a little script of my own just for this connection. But now after trying out the "connection in head only" game, I realized that connecting projects and NAs externally is really a drag.

                In fact this way, some tiny projects never come onto my list. If a tap is broken at our office, the next action is 'ask the admin assistant to get it fixed' and then it becomes a 'Waiting for' item till the tap is fixed.. No extra entry in projects is required! Of course not true for even a little larger projects.

                Since I review all my NAs once a day, I can immediately say whether there is an NA associated with a project whenever I look at a project. In fact this has even simplified my weekly review!

                The actions have to be a little more descriptive sometimes, though. Not just 'call ABC', but 'call ABC re XYZ', since it is possible that after a few days I forget what was the call for, and may recall it only when I look at the projects list. But typing is never a problem for one who has learned it, and the time required to type such a whole sentence is less than that required to take the decision of how much to type.

                It was really a feeling of moving on, dropping my own script. Now I use KOrganizer, a PIM that comes with Fedora, a linux distribution. I use categories to separate different lists. But it really does not matter which PIM, as far as it provides a calendar and lists which can be categorized. (It may call it a To-Do list, but never mind!)

                Abhay

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sdann View Post
                  I didn't realize that advanced GTDers do not need to tie in NAs to projects. I often wonder why I need a reason for all my NAs - I implemented the "full" GTD system this past summer. Most of my NAs belong to projects and some are single NAs.
                  I can't say that all advanced GTDers don't tie but it seems to be a mark of a level of advancement towards black belt. I know from various comments that David Allen doesn't.

                  Originally posted by sdann View Post
                  My context lists include the project name. How do you handle larger sets of tasks that I, for example, would put into a project? Some more complex projects would be written out in advance with the NAs in proper order. I assume you must do that though; you just don't need to visually see the project tie-in the context list? Is this how others do it?
                  My context lists do not include the project. If I have a large project it's often smaller projects that can run concurrently. I'll create a project item for each. If they have one action there will be one NA. If there are multiple concurrent actions (keyword is concurrent) then there will be multiple NAs. I have learnt to trust my intuition to tell me what's right at the time. The problem I found with planning too far in advance was that later tasks changed and became irrelevant. I was left thinking of what to do next (now I let that just come to me) and having to reconcile what I no longer needed to do but thought I did. That resulted in 2-3 times extra thinking.

                  Originally posted by sdann View Post
                  My question for this is rather important. One of my goals this year is to "just do it and not think about it too much." GTD is integral, since I can put everything down and review it weekly.
                  I remember a conversation in mid-August 1990. I was sitting with a girl in the student common area of my university. I told her to trust her intuition. 17 years later she's still my wife.

                  Learning to put trust in your intuition is one of the most powerful things you can do.

                  David

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by abhay View Post
                    Completely agree with you, David! Was it you who had written on similar lines two/three months ago? It really caught me, and then within a few days I was a convert! Earlier I used Thinking Rock and then a little script of my own just for this connection. But now after trying out the "connection in head only" game, I realized that connecting projects and NAs externally is really a drag.

                    In fact this way, some tiny projects never come onto my list. If a tap is broken at our office, the next action is 'ask the admin assistant to get it fixed' and then it becomes a 'Waiting for' item till the tap is fixed.. No extra entry in projects is required! Of course not true for even a little larger projects.

                    Since I review all my NAs once a day, I can immediately say whether there is an NA associated with a project whenever I look at a project. In fact this has even simplified my weekly review!

                    The actions have to be a little more descriptive sometimes, though. Not just 'call ABC', but 'call ABC re XYZ', since it is possible that after a few days I forget what was the call for, and may recall it only when I look at the projects list. But typing is never a problem for one who has learned it, and the time required to type such a whole sentence is less than that required to take the decision of how much to type.

                    It was really a feeling of moving on, dropping my own script. Now I use KOrganizer, a PIM that comes with Fedora, a linux distribution. I use categories to separate different lists. But it really does not matter which PIM, as far as it provides a calendar and lists which can be categorized. (It may call it a To-Do list, but never mind!)

                    Abhay
                    Hi Abhay,

                    It could have been me. If so it was only repeating what I'd learnt from others who came before. Thank you for suggesting that, it's kind.

                    You're right with getting things specific. That makes all the difference. Reminds me I was going to suggest to Mark that he really works on getting his project names right. I now use Mike Williams' Complete, Finalise, Look into, Resolve and Monitor structure that's been suggested I wrote about it here.

                    Cheers,

                    david

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sdann View Post
                      I didn't realize that advanced GTDers do not need to tie in NAs to projects. I often wonder why I need a reason for all my NAs - I implemented the "full" GTD system this past summer. Most of my NAs belong to projects and some are single NAs. My context lists include the project name. How do you handle larger sets of tasks that I, for example, would put into a project? Some more complex projects would be written out in advance with the NAs in proper order. I assume you must do that though; you just don't need to visually see the project tie-in the context list? Is this how others do it?
                      That's how I do it.

                      If you can't tell *why* the NA is on your context list, you haven't worded the NA properly. Proper wording might include a project name, but doesn't have to.

                      Katherine

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the feddback guys

                        Regards

                        Mark

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by sdann View Post
                          How do you handle larger sets of tasks that I, for example, would put into a project? Some more complex projects would be written out in advance with the NAs in proper order. I assume you must do that though; you just don't need to visually see the project tie-in the context list? Is this how others do it?
                          Maybe I'm misunderstanding your question. If so, ignore me...

                          If you have a list of actions that must be done in a certain order for a project, those should NOT be on your context lists. This is a project plan, and it should be with your project support materials. Only the very next thing you could possibly do for a project should be on your context list.

                          I suspect that if you have full project plans on your context lists, this may contribute to the need to have the project tied to the next action... there is just too much stuff to keep track of! Cutting your context lists back to only the very NEXT action for each project will help keep things linked together in your mind, and you won't have to manage that connection directly in your system.
                          Last edited by jknecht; 01-16-2008, 06:04 AM. Reason: clarification

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks for he reply. I do have a seperate project plan (in MS Project). However I have several concurrent tasks;thus, several next actions per project, which is I why I wanted to allocate to a project show project name.

                            Regards

                            Mark

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
                              Maybe I'm misunderstanding your question. If so, ignore me...

                              If you have a list of actions that must be done in a certain order for a project, those should NOT be on your context lists. This is a project plan, and it should be with your project support materials. Only the very next thing you could possibly do for a project should be on your context list.

                              I suspect that if you have full project plans on your context lists, this may contribute to the need to have the project tied to the next action... there is just too much stuff to keep track of! Cutting your context lists back to only the very NEXT action for each project will help keep things linked together in your mind, and you won't have to manage that connection directly in your system.
                              Yes, I'm sorry I misspoke. I create a list of tasks for a project and then I only take the very next action and put that into the context list. But I do still feel I need to tie in that very next action to my project on the context lists.

                              Comment

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