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How to measure individual load?

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  • How to measure individual load?

    It's not possible to finish all projects you have. You'll never have only one project on your plate of projects. My question is how to measure individual load? When much is too much? Any ideas?

  • #2
    Ideally I think if every project on your list that was in your court (i. e. not stuck up on a delegated action) has moved in the last week to your satisfaction, then it's just the right amount of projects. Of course there is an implicit assumption here that one is not procrastinating. And then let's have a little more on the projects list, just to stretch our capacity, and to take advantage of unexpected situations and contexts. The satisfaction mentioned above is not just for that project isolated, but viewed as a part of the entire inventory.

    Regards,
    Abhay

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    • #3
      I've been wondering about that a bit lately.

      2-3 days a week I'm running just to keep up.

      2-3 days a week every project on my list gets some attention and moves forward. Those 2-3 days also serve as clean up for the other 2-3 days.

      Right now, that seems about right. There's a little room to add on, but not so much that I'm bored.

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      • #4
        Good questions! The question "How much is too much" depends on the person; different people can handle different loads.

        I use this metric: At the end of the week, do I have any active Projects that I've made no progress on at all? If so, I evaluate, and lower my number of active Projects if appropriate.

        I measure this using a highlighter. If I make progress on a Project, I highlight it in yellow; if I finish it, I also highlight it in red. So, at the end of the week, I can see all Projects that weren't highlighted.

        Personally, I phrase all my Projects as one-week goals. Projects that take longer remain on my Someday/Maybe list, and I break them down into one-week pieces. I then limit myself to 7 Projects per week. I usually finish about half, and make some progress on the rest. That works for me.

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        • #5
          Evaluation

          Originally posted by Brent View Post
          I use this metric: At the end of the week, do I have any active Projects that I've made no progress on at all? If so, I evaluate, and lower my number of active Projects if appropriate.
          Brent,

          How do you factor in situations where you could have worked on a project but didn't because you simply chose to do extra work on other projects?

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          • #6
            If you have too many projects

            Here's a little technique that works quite well:

            Go through your active projects list and identify the bottom 25% of the projects on that list based upon priority. Decide to cancel them. Their payoff is so low that they likely shouldn't even be on your list.

            Next identify the bottom 1/3 of the remaining projects (the remaining half of the original bottom 50%). Move these projects to someday maybe.

            Focus on the remaining 50%. Identify the top 3-5 projects on the remaining active projects list and put time on your calendar (block time) for yourself to work on those projects.

            Evaluate the load for one week. If you are not making significant progress on your top priority projects, review the active project list again (perhaps remove an additional 25% of the remaining active projects). Do this until you are rapidly completing several PROJECTS each week.

            You may only start a new project when you finish another one. Continually evaluate your rate of project completion. Keep reducing your number of active projects until your rate of project completion starts to drop.

            One important distinction. Don't ever let your boss see that you have so few projects on your "active projects" list. He needs to see the whole list including what is on someday/maybe related to work. However, if your boss comes in with a new assignment show him your active projects list (at least the ones for work) and let your boss know these are your current priority commitments for this week and that the others (on your someday/maybe list) are lower priority and ask how this new project fits into that list.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis View Post
              How do you factor in situations where you could have worked on a project but didn't because you simply chose to do extra work on other projects?
              I don't see how that matters. The Project in question isn't getting done, whatever the reason, internal or external to me.

              Moving this project to Someday/Maybe will help me to re-evaluate the importance of the Project, and whether I want to re-commit to it.

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              • #8
                I recall David Allen posting a suggestion that "active" projects include those that you're committed to completing in the next 9 months. That is, however, a very general guideline and varies because there are projects that can last for years. Also, priorities often force one to renegotiate his/her commitment to finishing that project within that time.

                As long as I have at least one next action identified for an active project, I don't move it to Someday/Maybe just because I know I won't be able to make progress on it for one or more weeks. For example, I could have to wait multiple weeks for a backordered item that I need to complete a particular project. I don't move the project to Someday/Maybe; I leave it on Projects and the only next action is a @Waiting For. Or perhaps I may need to put the project on hold because something of greater importance showed up, but I know how to kickstart the project I pended when I'm ready because the next action is there on a context list.

                However, after seeing no progress after a few weekly reviews, I really need to make sure I'm honest with myself about why that project has not moved forward, and make the decision as to whether or not I'm truly committed to finishing it.
                Last edited by ellobogrande; 07-02-2008, 11:43 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                  I recall David Allen posting a suggestion that "active" projects include those that you're committed to completing in the next 9 months.
                  Probably, and in the book I think he narrows it down to a few months. Which is fine for him.

                  For me, well, consider these two scenarios:

                  1. A Project is on my active Projects list for six months without change, then done in a week

                  2. A Project is on my Someday/Maybe list for six months, then moved to my active Projects list and done in a week

                  The result is the same. But in scenario 1, my Projects list is cluttered for six months with another Project that's not getting done, which is depressing to me. I'd rather keep my actual active commitments clear and focused.

                  But, again, that's just what works for me.

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                  • #10
                    Brent, I like your idea of having 5 active projects always moving and uncluttering the Project list. But in my situation if I make them only 5 or even 10 it would be artificial. Others will not stop calling on me if I move the project to SM folder So how to understand if I'm overcommitted or not?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brent View Post
                      For me, well, consider these two scenarios:
                      [...]
                      But, again, that's just what works for me.
                      Brent, cool analysis. It think the reason for the difference between your view and DA's is just the difference between the free-lancer you are and the office-slave DA apparently had in mind when he wrote the book. It just comes out on the other side of the equation. You just thought it through cleanly and there you are.

                      If you are an office-slave with a hard-landscape full of stupid meetings and senseless other talk at the phone or the runway, than you need the project on your project list to have the NA on your action list. Because only then it is there the moment you have some "discretionary time" and you can use that time. On the other hand, if you are free, you can just decide what to work on between 10k and 20k and there you are.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                        It think the reason for the difference between your view and DA's is just the difference between the free-lancer you are and the office-slave DA apparently had in mind when he wrote the book.
                        You have a point. OTOH, I had a similar rule when I worked full-time in an office. Back then, I kept 17 active Projects total (7 home and 10 office).

                        If you are an office-slave with a hard-landscape full of stupid meetings and senseless other talk at the phone or the runway, than you need the project on your project list to have the NA on your action list.
                        But a meeting's not a Project, right? Nor is a call on the phone, really. Not that I'm trying to split hairs. I just found that most Projects I really wasn't actively working on every week. But I could still quasi-track them as Someday/Maybe.

                        Originally posted by Borisoff
                        Others will not stop calling on me if I move the project to SM folder. So how to understand if I'm overcommitted or not?
                        I'm confused. You don't move something to Someday/Maybe so you can stop other people from calling you, or to pretend that you don't have to do it. It's an acknowledgment that you don't have time for a particular Project right now, or that you're not focusing on it right now. If you put it on Someday/Maybe, and they call you, no problem! Put it back on active. But that does increase your workload, and you now probably don't have time for one of your other active Projects.

                        Maybe an example would help to illustrate how this worked for me.

                        I ran a weekly status meeting on some data migration. I dialed into the telecons, asked people about how far along they were, updated the status spreadsheet, pushed people for estimates and deadlines, and emailed the minutes to everyone. I also migrated certain parts of the data.

                        The status meetings were not Projects. I created a checklist of things to do before and after each meeting, and blocked off one hour for each 20-minute meeting. I then prepared, ran the meeting, and typed up and sent off the minutes during that one hour time. I didn't need a Project.

                        When I was migrating the data, that became a separate Project.

                        We also had folks working on long-term data migration, and every few weeks I'd get a phone call from them with a problem or question. That was a Someday/Maybe project, which I'd flip over to active if the problem or question required more than a few minutes to resolve.

                        But, again, this was just what worked for me. Other people have very different work and environments.

                        I will say that, if you have so many Projects that some of them will have no progress in the next few weeks, then you should be aware of it, your boss should be aware of it, and your peers (that are involved in those Projects) should be aware of it. And ideally, you should renegotiate those Projects with your boss and peers.

                        Several times, I sat down with my boss, showed him the work I had, told him that I felt overwhelmed, and asked if I could renegotiate this work somehow. We found other folks to do some of it, and in discussing other peers' workloads found things that I could help them with ("Oh, they're trying to build that? I can do that in ten minutes.").

                        If you have 50 "active" Projects, and you'll probably only get to 30 in the next week or two, then the folks involved in the other 20 really need to know that there'll be no more progress on those 20 Projects for the next couple of weeks. You'll get no work done on them anyway. This way, at least everyone knows it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Brent View Post
                          I don't see how that matters. The Project in question isn't getting done, whatever the reason, internal or external to me.
                          1. Important detail: yeah, why should an external impulse be worth more than an internal plan?

                          but,

                          2. How that matters (IMHO off course): Mathematics. What is bigger? a) the gain in efficiency because the NA was there on the list and you did 5 phone calls instead of two. or b) the gain in efficiency because you advanced a more focused work-load much further (and only have to deal with much shorter lists)?

                          On this forum I have found opinions for either way.

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                          • #14
                            Now we discussing what's better to have: less projects with greater focus or more projects with less focus. But can we come back to my original question how to understand at least very very very approx when many is too many? Is there any technique that allows to understand that I have way too many projects on my list and should stop creating new ones to focus on doing what I have?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                              But can we come back to my original question how to understand at least very very very approx when many is too many? Is there any technique that allows to understand that I have way too many projects on my list and should stop creating new ones to focus on doing what I have?
                              Sure. If you think you have too many projects, you have too many projects.

                              Everyone's different, and everyone can handle different numbers of projects. It's all about when you feel overwhelmed. At that point, you have too many projects for you.

                              Look at it another way: You can always add more projects to your list if you complete everything on your list by Tuesday. If you're looking at your projects list, and you at all feel like you can't accomplish it, why not leave it shorter, and add more later in the week as you accomplish stuff?

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