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  • Iīm not using projects so much - heresy or can it still work?

    I've been using GTD for around 2.5 years now and like to think I'm okay at it.

    I've developed a habit over that time of always thinking of the next action for a project if I finish the last action and writing it down either in Notepad (Palm), Outlook, Keysuite Tasks (Palm) or a note in the intray.

    Also with time Iīve also seemed to have stopped writing a complete project list. Those on the list tend to be the sort of project that are slow burning move forward irregularly and therefore are more easily forgotten. Many projects never make it to the list. They start as an action and then just carry on with subsequent actions on the action list. I seem to have got pretty good at predicting when I need to have that "stake in the ground" as DA calls it and when I don't.

    Iīm not saying I never make a mistake and forget to write the next action, or fail to remember a current project but it happens rarely and the extra work in keeping a complete project list seems a lot compared to what I gain from it.

    Is this heresy? Itīs ironic because in the past the project list has been the thing I most raved about. Now it seems not so necessary to me. Has anyone had a similar experience using GTD?

  • #2
    I have been working at separating projects into easy and manageable subprojects, which I can then finish quickly. Mentally and emotionally this works very well for me and I find the master projects being completed quicker. I still write them on a project list.

    You, on the other hand, may have gotten so good at creating small doable projects, that you feel you don't even need to write them down.

    Comment


    • #3
      Seems fine to me. I suspect you've completely internalized the Projects list. You don't need to write it down.

      Of course, this doesn't work for everyone, and I wouldn't recommend it for a first-time GTD user. But you may well have evolved beyond the need.

      Comment


      • #4
        What is the purpose of the project list?

        Is an incomplete Projects List Heresy? It all depends on what you see as the purpose of the Projects List. If you only see it as the place to keep the "stake in the ground" to remind you that there is still something left to do to complete something, and you work your system in the way that you describe, where the NA list itself often becomes the stake in the ground for most projects, then it would be a waste of time to maintain a complete Projects Lists, as you have discovered for yourself - it would be extra work with no payoff.

        However, there are other possible purposes to maintaining a complete projects list, one of them being having an objective inventory of your current work load (at the level of projects), which can be a useful tool to have for deciding whether or not to take on a new project at the moment (or if it is time to park one to make room for a new one). I, myself, have a workflow situation which makes this valuable, as I suspect is the case for David Allen, and many other users of GTD.

        The Project List also helps me to evaluate and evolve my workflow in terms of the higher altitutdes - it becomes a very valuable reference point in terms of reviewing how well I'm allocating my energy and resources in terms of reaching my longer term goals, visions and higher values.

        The bottom line is to only use the tools and techniques which have a purpose that serves your purpose. As David Allen says in Ready For Anything, "Chapter 28. Form and function must match for maximum productivity. ...The difference between structures that support and those that constrict is simply their alignment with the purpose. Meetings scheduled too frequently for what they are trying to accomplish will be unattractive and unattended...."

        So, not using a complete Projects List is not heresy, as long as your methods, tools, and techniques align you with getting your things done with the minimum amount of friction and resistance.
        Last edited by Jeff K; 03-10-2008, 09:05 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          internalized = back in the head?

          Originally posted by Brent View Post
          Seems fine to me. I suspect you've completely internalized the Projects list. You don't need to write it down.

          Of course, this doesn't work for everyone, and I wouldn't recommend it for a first-time GTD user. But you may well have evolved beyond the need.

          If "...you've completely internalized the Projects list" is a way of saying "your head is successfully holding all of that again", then this isn't a particularly successful technique.

          However, if the purpose of the Projects Lists is being addressed by another application of an external system, then it is not beneficial in the long run.

          Comment


          • #6
            I think itīs more of a case of if I see the action I know what project it belongs to, even though I don't have a list. As long as I don't erase an action before I add a new one, nothing gets lost.

            I think having a project listed DOES help when it's something Iīm likely to procastinate on. It reminds me to maybe think of an action that Iīm able to accomplish sooner. Having a project on a list also means I don't lose it's current status when I somehow move an action to sometime/maybe when I really shouldnīt. It's just in most projects this isn't really an issue.

            Thanks for the replies. Interesting ideas.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jeff K View Post
              If "...you've completely internalized the Projects list" is a way of saying "your head is successfully holding all of that again", then this isn't a particularly successful technique.
              Interesting! Why did you type that?

              The purpose of the Projects list is to get goals out of your head so that you won't forget them, right? So that Projects won't fall through the cracks. Looks like tominperu's not having a problem forgetting Projects.

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              • #8
                The purpose of the Projects list is to get goals out of your head so that you won't forget them, right? So that Projects won't fall through the cracks.
                Yes, to keep from forgetting them, but also to keep the head from having to hold on to them, to liberate it for its higher creative functions.

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                • #9
                  My interpretation is that it is okay to remember things as long as it doesn't take effort, which is the case here. After all, I donīt think that DA is asking us to forget things just for the sake of it like.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jeff K View Post
                    Yes, to keep from forgetting them, but also to keep the head from having to hold on to them, to liberate it for its higher creative functions.
                    Yes, I would say that GTD frees you to forget projects and actions, if you so desire. You can trust that they are in your external system, so that you don't have to remember them all the time. This is what gets rid of the stress. (This doesn't mean that you have to forget your work all the time, however.)

                    Tominperu: If you trust your system and aren't worried about losing track of anything, then you are fine. If, however, there's a nagging voice reminding you not to forget projects you haven't written down, then you may want to consider a projects list.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I second this.

                      Originally posted by tominperu View Post
                      My interpretation is that it is okay to remember things as long as it doesn't take effort, which is the case here. After all, I donīt think that DA is asking us to forget things just for the sake of it like.
                      Ram Dump is a misleading term. I would prefer Brain Backup.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jeff K View Post
                        Yes, to keep from forgetting them, but also to keep the head from having to hold on to them, to liberate it for its higher creative functions.
                        Agreed. If what he doing is working, it is working, but perhaps if he gets that stuff out of his head, he will discover the advantages of letting his brain have energy to work on other things.

                        "Originally Posted by tominperu
                        My interpretation is that it is okay to remember things as long as it doesn't take effort,"

                        I would argue that we are not always a good judge of how much effort our brain is expending, especially so since this process occurs unconsciously.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A Related Post...

                          You might try reading this article. It formalizes somewhat the process it seems you have arrived at for tracking your next actions.

                          http://www.marktaw.com/blog/CascadingNextActions.html

                          Best Wishes,
                          Gordon

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thatīs interesting.

                            The odd thing is yesterday I had a meeting with loads of next actions and new projects coming out of it and I felt I really had to write down the projects as well. But, I can't say I'm really sure of the reasons why I should feel it was necessary for those and not for other projects that are ongoing.

                            It may be to do with ones familiarity with the projects. I have lots of actions in my action list at the moment where it is obvious to me what the project is. Some like for instance "Ring F&C and ask them to send me info on the Childrenīs fund FTSE Tracker" or "Ring direct line and get breakdown cover quote 0845 246 0142". It's pretty obvious to anyone reading what the project is about and thinking of a new action when itīs done will not be difficult. And those project won't get lost.

                            But other projects are new and not so obvious from the action that would represent them. An example from my meeting would be "Look for IDB contact number in the project file". I need a reminder of for what purpose we need to speak to the Internal Drainage Board and this will come with a good project description on a project list.

                            The idea of writing the project name or purpose on the task is an interesting one, but to me a project list is the best method if it's necessary for that reminder.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Something no one has mentioned is the fundamental Outcome/Next Action partnership. While the Next Action is a critical component, so is a clear Outcome. The Project list can provide those clear Outcomes, and the following might illustrate how.

                              Years ago I started writing my Projects in past tense, beginning with a noun. For example, a "normal" Project name would be:

                              Submit proposal to Internal Drainage Board

                              To make this Outcome clearer, imagine yourself beyond completion, then describe what you see in past tense, starting with a noun:

                              Internal Drainage Board proposal approved

                              Subtle difference, but an important one. First, I almost always realize I have forgotten a couple steps at the end (was the goal to submit, or get approved?). Second, beginning with a noun differentiates these from simple Next Actions, which usually start with a verb. Lastly, when determining the next Next Action such as during a Weekly Review, simply add a mental question mark to the Project name/Outcome description. "Internal Drainage Board proposal approved?" It will immediately trigger the mental response of "yep" or "nope", and the subsequent Next Action (if needed) will pop into your head.

                              The Projects list can be a pain, but this is one way it really helps me.

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