Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.
Paper-Based Project and S/M list management? Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Paper-Based Project and S/M list management?

    Ok Folks, I'm trying a month of a hybrid electronic and paper based system because I was spending too much time trying out various ways and software to make my Treo, Eudora E-mail, next action, project and Someday/Maybe lists into strictly electronic forms.

    Currently what is working electronically is my calendar. Hard commitments are on it exclusively. All @phone next actions are tasks in the Treo because it is the phone and it makes sense that way. Also all my @town and @city next actions because I carry the treo whe I go to those places so having them there also makes sense.

    What is working well on paper is the tickler system and deferring stuff as needed. Filing is slowly getting under control and already my new a-z paper reference files have proved useful with less time to locate something when needed.

    I started a fresh set of paper based next action lists by context for my other contexts. (@inside @outside with help @outside by myself and @ desk/computer) That is working fairly well but I am losing track of the current active projects and also losing track of currently inactive ones that can become active now (in between a weekly review) due to outside circumstances. (Aforementioned weather or similar external events.)

    Another area where I am still very bogged down is the movement from project to someday maybe and back again. As described in other posts many of my next actions will take a long time to complete, and my projects can span years or even multiple lifetimes. My S/M list is huge but everything on it is something I am actually committed to either finishing or at least moving forward in my lifetime as part of the capture everything phase. I've weeded out the stuff I really can let go of as never going to be done and not needed for possible inspiration.

    For those who are using a paper based system:

    How do you actually document your projects?
    Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?
    How many active ones do you deal with on a regular basis?
    How do you actually document your someday/maybe list?
    Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?
    How many items are on your S/M list?

    and the most important questions:

    When a currently active project moves to S/M because you won't get to it for a while (week or more) do you re-write it on the S/M list?

    Ditto for when a project moves off the S/M list and back to an active project.

    Do you ever have projects that may move on and off those 2 lists just about every weekly review?

    Thanks for any insights

  • #2
    Glad to hear things are coming together for you! I'll try to help.

    Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
    I started a fresh set of paper based next action lists by context for my other contexts. (@inside @outside with help @outside by myself and @ desk/computer) That is working fairly well but I am losing track of the current active projects and also losing track of currently inactive ones that can become active now (in between a weekly review) due to outside circumstances. (Aforementioned weather or similar external events.)
    Can you give us some examples of exactly how you're losing track of current active projects?

    Regarding the "inactive projects that can become active," well, you may need one or two mid-week mini-Reviews.

    I'll answer the rest of your questions inline:

    How do you actually document your projects?

    I have one piece of paper, posted on my studio door, with projects for the week. I replace that list every Monday morning as part of my weekly review. I use the previous week's list, my areas of focus, and my someday/maybe list to generate each week's list of projects.

    Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?

    When I'm writing my new Projects list for the week, I usually start with my areas of focus. So, the first few items on the list are usually related to my areas of focus. That's followed by leftover projects from the week before, then new projects from Someday/Maybe. This isn't ironclad, of course.

    How many active ones do you deal with on a regular basis?

    About 7, but I limit my active projects to those that I feel I can accomplish this week. I add more as I complete projects. For example, this week I've gotten a lot done, so I'll probably go back to my Someday/Maybe list and add a couple of projects.

    How do you actually document your someday/maybe list?

    Mine is a text file on my computer, but if it weren't, I'd use a spiral-bound notebook. It's simply one item per line, such as:

    Code:
    Buy tablecloth for downstairs table
    Sand the top of bedroom door
    Test Selenium test runner on youronlinelife.net
    Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?

    Not precisely, but I do tend to keep related items together. If I come across a language I want to learn, I add it with the other languages I want to learn, not at the bottom of the list. The broad categories like that include planning trips (Japan, Africa) and projects that require significant money (building planters, renovating a bathroom, painting some areas of the house).

    How many items are on your S/M list?

    188

    When a currently active project moves to S/M because you won't get to it for a while (week or more) do you re-write it on the S/M list?

    Actually, I keep all Someday/Maybe projects on my Someday/Maybe list until they're complete. When I put them on my Projects list, I keep them on Someday/Maybe. I remove them from Someday/Maybe during my weekly review, if they're complete.

    Ditto for when a project moves off the S/M list and back to an active project.

    Yeah, in that case I just delete it from my Projects list. It's still on Someday/Maybe.

    Do you ever have projects that may move on and off those 2 lists just about every weekly review?

    No; that smells like a project that I'm resisting for internal reasons. I'll reframe it, or banish it to Someday/Maybe for an extended period (a month, maybe) while I rethink it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Though I don't use a paper-based system, I'd like to offer some perspective. On the Palm I just change categories from Projects to Someday-Maybe, but if I did it on paper I would cross-off on one list and rewrite it on the other.

      Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
      How do you actually document your projects?
      Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?
      How many active ones do you deal with on a regular basis?
      I put a reminder for every single project on my one and only Projects list.

      Any documentation that I create (mind maps, brainstorming notes, etc) or use (articles, brochures, etc) to support the project goes in one or more reference files (I may have paper and electronic files, sometimes even favorites in my web browser).

      I make no distinction or groupings of my projects by area of focus. A project is a project. My brain connects actions to projects and projects to areas of focus. The brain connects the dots fine; it just can't remember the dots very well (this is why we distribute cognition).

      I typically have 20-40 active projects at any given time.

      Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
      How do you actually document your someday/maybe list?
      Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?
      How many items are on your S/M list?
      When a currently active project moves to S/M because you won't get to it for a while (week or more) do you re-write it on the S/M list?
      Ditto for when a project moves off the S/M list and back to an active project.
      I document my S/M list same as my projects list with no groupings, and no areas of focus. I still keep reference/support files for such projects in case I do activate them.

      I have over 100 items on my S/M list, and not all of them are projects. Some are loose actions that I'm not ready or able to perform yet. For example, I like to bring ready-made food gifts to my acupuncturist who works an hour away from my home. I only have an appointment every few months, and I'm not making a special trip, so I put the reminder that I want to bring her something on my S/M list so I don't forget to bring it the next time I have an appointment.

      If I decide to move an active project to S/M, I delete all of the associated actions on my next action lists and move the project to S/M. I'll decide the next action again once I reactivate the project.

      Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
      Do you ever have projects that may move on and off those 2 lists just about every weekly review?
      No, not every week. I don't usually move projects to my S/M list unless I can't see myself working on it in the foreseeable future, or unless I'm unsure that I'm really committed to completing it. Sometimes, though, I do move actions to S/M if my lists grow beyond a manageable size. I find if my action lists get too big, it's hard to decide which one is the best to do.

      I hope that helps.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Brent View Post
        Can you give us some examples of exactly how you're losing track of current active projects?
        I have a current active project that is to make a replica of a particular historical clothing item. The next action right now is find fleeces that match some specific criteria. I find the fleeces by working on the "skirt fleeces" next action of another project, get all 2008 wool ready to sell. If I forget to reference my list of the specific types of fleece I am looking for for all the various on-going projects and customers with specific needs before I start working on skirting I find myself having to go back to ones I've done and re-check them for the specific characteristics I need. I've lost track of my personal on-going projects that require specific fleece types and also the customers who are also looking for fleeces with specific characteristics or who want a fleece from a specific animal. I need some sort of way to cross across all those projects to be sure I am watching and aware of all those needs when I work on the skirt fleeces action.

        That is also an example of a single next action that takes a long time. I've spent about 20 hours on it so far and have about another 20 or so before I am done. I do the task in bursts in between other tasks that are more time dependent.

        About 7, but I limit my active projects to those that I feel I can accomplish this week.

        Are you able to complete your active projects in one week?

        Most of my projects will take a long time to complete, some take months or years and even a single next action may take several weeks or longer.

        I do tend to keep related items together. If I come across a language I want to learn, I add it with the other languages I want to learn, not at the bottom of the list.

        So my understanding is that your larger S/M list text file is loosely organized by area of focus.

        188
        big difference I think I have something like 600 or so on mine

        Actually, I keep all Someday/Maybe projects on my Someday/Maybe list until they're complete. When I put them on my Projects list, I keep them on Someday/Maybe. I remove them from Someday/Maybe during my weekly review, if they're complete.

        This helps a lot. I was deleting the stuff off of S/M and then having to add it back. Painfully slow and irritating.

        that smells like a project that I'm resisting for internal reasons.

        Well in my case here is an example. I have a project to get winter pens ready to bring the sheep in and start feeding hay. One sub project is scrape the manure out from last winter. My personal next action was on my list of outside with help as it's not a one person job. The big tractor broke, we need a new tool to perform the repair, none of the tools are in the local town and we won't be down to the city where we may find the tool for a while. The entire winter pens project has been replaced by fix the tractor and all its various next actions but get winter pens ready will be going back on the projects list as soon as we can. In this particular case that one project has been on and off the list for equipment breakdowns, weather, conflicts with other projects that are more time critical like haying etc. etc. for about 3 months. I'm not really resisting it but events have conspired to prevent it being completed in anything like a normal timeframe. It goes on and off the active list regularly based on what's just happened.

        Comment


        • #5
          How do you actually document your projects?
          Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?


          I have one Projects list with 62 Projects on it.

          How many active ones do you deal with on a regular basis?

          I relate to all of them as I scan and review them, but particularly in my Weekly Review. I keep all active Projects on one list and do not filter by how many I may get done in a seven day period.

          How do you actually document your someday/maybe list?

          I hold them in OmniFocus although I will be thoroughly refining these lists and moving them to my paper planner.

          Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?

          Someday/Maybe - Me
          Someday/Maybe - Job


          How many items are on your S/M list?

          190

          When a currently active project moves to S/M because you won't get to it for a while (week or more) do you re-write it on the S/M list?

          Yes

          Ditto for when a project moves off the S/M list and back to an active project.

          Yes

          Do you ever have projects that may move on and off those 2 lists just about every weekly review?

          No. I'm quite familiar with the projects I'm dealing with so S/M items usually are there b/c I know it will be a while (1-3 months) before I move them.

          Comment


          • #6
            How do you actually document your projects?
            Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?


            I have a simple project list which I list together by area of focus (categories). I have 8 areas of focus that pertain to different aspects of my business and my personal life. I began this, because I wanted to make certain I was active in each of these areas.

            How many active ones do you deal with on a regular basis?

            Between 30 to 40. Right now its 37.

            How do you actually document your someday/maybe list?

            I have spreadsheets in google docs. I experimented back and forth a lot, but have so far stuck with this way the longest - about 6 months.

            Are they grouped by areas of focus or in any other way?

            More or less. I have a few s/m lists, but I know exactly which one is for what. I'm thinking of consolidating some though.


            How many items are on your S/M list?

            I should count, but I'll say more than 250.

            When a currently active project moves to S/M because you won't get to it for a while (week or more) do you re-write it on the S/M list?

            Yes

            Do you ever have projects that may move on and off those 2 lists just about every weekly review?

            I currently have one project that I really should do, but I cannot seem to get to it. I now moved that back to s/m. Otherwise, no.

            Comment


            • #7
              Glad I could be of help! To further discuss:

              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
              I have a current active project that is to make a replica of a particular historical clothing item. The next action right now is find fleeces that match some specific criteria.
              No offense, but I don't think that's an action. That's a goal. It's a Project, really.

              A Next Action is sort of like a bookmark, reminding you of the next physical, visible, external behavior that you have to do on a Project. It's there more to motivate you to work on a Project ("Oh, I can look over the fleeces real quick.")

              I get suspicious if I have a Next Action that takes more than, say, 20 minutes. That's not atomic enough for me.

              In my opinion, a Next Action should be something that provides immediate gratification, so you can say "Ah, good, I've at least gotten something done." The more atomic, the better.

              Here are some examples of my Projects and Next Actions:


              Project: Get a basic understanding of the jQuery programming library
              Next Action: Google "jquery tutorial"

              Project: In garden trim hedges, gather seeds, and plant bulbs (I have a small garden, so this entire project will take about an hour; otherwise I'd split it out)
              Next Action: Trim bushes next to fence out back (this is a ~15 minute task)

              Project: Post drawing of Soo Rin character for comic series
              Next Action: Sketch a possible top for Soo Rin


              That is also an example of a single next action that takes a long time. I've spent about 20 hours on it so far and have about another 20 or so before I am done. I do the task in bursts in between other tasks that are more time dependent.
              I suspect that a lot of the things you've identified as Next Actions are really Projects.

              Are you able to complete your active projects in one week?
              I usually accomplish most of them. Of course, life sometimes interferes, or I change course mid-stream. So I don't feel that I have to finish all of them.

              So my understanding is that your larger S/M list text file is loosely organized by area of focus.
              Not really, no. I consolidate many items that are all related. That relationship may or may not be an area of focus. I don't have a conscious area of focus to learn lots of languages, or to do a lot of home renovations. I just happen to have a lot of Someday/Maybe items about that.

              One could argue that areas of focus emerge from that list; that those groups really are areas of focus that I just haven't consciously acknowledged yet.

              Well in my case here is an example. I have a project to get winter pens ready to bring the sheep in and start feeding hay. One sub project is scrape the manure out from last winter. My personal next action was on my list of outside with help as it's not a one person job. The big tractor broke, we need a new tool to perform the repair, none of the tools are in the local town and we won't be down to the city where we may find the tool for a while. The entire winter pens project has been replaced by fix the tractor and all its various next actions but get winter pens ready will be going back on the projects list as soon as we can. In this particular case that one project has been on and off the list for equipment breakdowns, weather, conflicts with other projects that are more time critical like haying etc. etc. for about 3 months. I'm not really resisting it but events have conspired to prevent it being completed in anything like a normal timeframe. It goes on and off the active list regularly based on what's just happened.
              That's perfectly reasonable, then. If external factors are directly causing it to jump between Someday/Maybe, then I see no problem. It's when a Project jumps for no external reason at all that I get worried with myself.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm going to discuss further all in-line. This is really helpful, I appreciate the time you are taking to talk about this.

                No offense, but I don't think that's an action. That's a goal. It's a Project, really.

                I'd consider Skirting all the 2008 fleeces a project but the next action is to actually skirt one. It can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes. But while skirting I have to be aware of and know that I am looking for fleeces of specific types for specific needs and customers. Once a fleece is skirted the final thing to clear the table and get ready to skirt another one is to get it labeled and packed for shipment . Getting back at it to see if it has the proper characteristics for a particular project is very difficult. The parts you need to look at to determine the quality for particular needs are inside once it's rolled for shipment and you can't store fleeces loose, they have to be rolled and bagged.

                A Next Action is sort of like a bookmark, reminding you of the next physical, visible, external behavior that you have to do on a Project.

                ok so yes then skirting a fleece is a next action. You can't look them over real quick And it's very physical.

                I get suspicious if I have a Next Action that takes more than, say, 20 minutes.

                I don't think you'd consider my actions that can take years to be fine enough for you. But a typical long term next action is say weaving. Everything from the humidity to the temperature will affect how much you can do in a given time frame. And I don't really see how to break things down more finely than say "Weave the fabric". The actual action of weaving may take years. It's not like there are any other physical pieces to do. You throw the shuttle, pack the weft, treadle to the next pattern and repeat. Periodically you'll have to refill the shuttle with a fresh quill and advance the warp but it's all a flow, like doing a king fu pattern. Stopping can happen at the break points (new quill, advance warp). My biggest problem is getting into the physical actions so much that I can find myself several hours later and suddenly come out of the trance wondering what I was supposed to be doing next. Or more typically realizing it's way past time to feed critters and start dinner. Weaving is very meditative.

                The project description of which this is a piece is to end up with 10 yards of 2:2 twill fabric from 2 ply 20wpi yarn and there would have been many other next actions to get to the point of weaving (get the yarn spun, your quills wound up, the loom warped and the treadling written down etc.) Some of those are projects in themselves. Getting the yarn includes finding appropriate fleeces, washing and either combing or carding, spinning, plying, blocking or setting twist and more but weaving is a single action. That it may take 6 years of weaving to get it all done is irrelevant in that it is still the next discrete physical action that moves the project forward.

                I suspect that a lot of the things you've identified as Next Actions are really Projects.
                Perhaps. But I also suspect that due to what I work on a lot of my projects have long next actions that don't lend themselves to the typical knowledge worker GTD flow. But that doesn't mean that using many GTD concepts can't improve my performance.

                Take weaving as an example. Only by emptying my head of all the potential things I want to weave and seeing them all in black and white on a list am I able to see that I have a bunch that are all similar. That will allow me to combine them and for example, warp up the loom with 20 yards that can be used with minor tie up changes and different weft yarns to do say 4 or 5 things in sequence. If I didn't have the GTD mindset of seeing everything I think I might want to do I'd not notice I can combine projects on one warp. This makes me more efficient as one of the most time consuming things in weaving is warping and threading the heddles. If I can do it once and then just change treadling and wefts for several projects I can get more done in the same amount of time. If I jump from first a rug warp to a garment warp then a tote bag then curtains I waste time and energy and yarn in the loom waste. If I combine projects and plan all my rugs at once I can warp up for all of them and get them all done both faster and with less waste. I can then switch to say a garment warp. So while I am doing very different sorts of projects the GTD mindset/workflow is still helpful.


                It's when a Project jumps for no external reason at all that I get worried with myself.
                That makes sense. I can't think of any that have jumped on and off without there being significant external factors involved.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Since I really wanted the electronic Palm based system to work I've got a few questions about your implementation. Again for ease I'll ask them in line with what you wrote.

                  On the Palm I just change categories from Projects to Someday-Maybe

                  Are your projects and someday/maybe's in the memos or in tasks?

                  I have the maximum number of categories already. I tried to combine so I had 2 free ones in both tasks and memos but so far haven't managed that. I use my Treo for so much and as a reference that I ran into limits in the memo field for maximum number of characters and the categories as well as just plain memory limits.

                  I put a reminder for every single project on my one and only Projects list.
                  Are your reminders outcome based?

                  I'm trying to make sure that for all projects and for all my Someday/Maybe's I know what done looks like and indicate that in the project title. While I have not gotten that finished for all the items on those 2 lists for those I have it has really helped clarify my thinking about those projects.

                  I make no distinction or groupings of my projects by area of focus. A project is a project.
                  Do you have any projects that are all similar in that knowing you have 10 in a particular area or with specific prerequisites or tools needed you can combine them for more efficient completion? IOW it might be more efficient to activate a whole group of projects at once rather than one at a time but if they are scattered in a huge list you might not see they are related. See my weaving example in another message. Those kinds of projects are common for me.

                  If I decide to move an active project to S/M, I delete all of the associated actions on my next action lists and move the project to S/M. I'll decide the next action again once I reactivate the project.
                  How do you avoid reinventing the wheel? If you've thought of appropriate next actions or even a series of actions you will need to do why delete that and have to rethink it? That was one of the frustrating things for me with a Palm system is that, I need to get rid of the next actions related to projects that go back on the S/M list but I sure as heck don't want to lose the thinking that went into creating those or I'll have to do it all over again when those get activated. And re-activating a S/M back to a Project may happen quickly or in a few cases it may take a year or more before that one gets back to active due to season or weather conditions necessary for it to be worked on.

                  I find if my action lists get too big, it's hard to decide which one is the best to do.

                  Palm based stuff did seem to suffer more from long lists getting unwieldy. Part of why I am trying a paper system because I can't ever see myself with small project, someday/maybe or next action lists.

                  Comment

                  Working...
                  X