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  • Need help with implementation

    Hi,

    I have read the book and read posts, but I am still unclear on implementation. Lets assume I am going to do all my tracking in a word document.

    I will have one section with only projects:

    Projects:
    - Clean garage
    - Clear out Mother's house before sale
    - Finish beta write-up

    For each project should I have either an entry on my action list or on my Waiting For list

    Next Actions
    - [Clean Garaga] Buy shop vac from hardware store
    - [Clear out Mother's house before sale] Call to rent U-Haul

    Waiting For
    - [Finish beta write-up] Wating for comments from joe

    Here are some questions:

    1) When I have 70 projects and they can have each have a task, waiting for, or a calander item how do I keep it in synch?


    2) for project "Clear out Mother's house before sale" I have three steps that have to occur by a given day (get UHaul, get storage, arrange for friend to help unload). Can I have three next actions?


    3) for many projects I have thought about the next ten actions, where to I capture this. If I put it in the project list it gets cluttered, on paper is a pain since eventually it is needed on list.

    Thanks
    [/b]

  • #2
    Re: Need help with implementation

    CAUTION: RESPONSE BELOW UNEDITED FOR SUCCINCTNESS

    Let me first start out by saying that the whole GTD methodology is a personal thing. There's no point in following DA's suggestions if they don't sync with you. We're not all presidents of consulting organizations...

    So, my comments below are for how I am following GTD in my daily life. It might not be 100% by-the-book, but it works for me. And it's pretty darned close to catholic, regardless.
    Originally posted by Newbe
    For each project should I have either an entry on my action list or on my Waiting For list

    Next Actions
    - [Clean Garaga] Buy shop vac from hardware store
    - [Clear out Mother's house before sale] Call to rent U-Haul

    Waiting For
    - [Finish beta write-up] Wating for comments from joe
    Two notes here: first, the standard implementation does not tie next actions to projects directly. That metadata is implied but not stated in the list. More on this later.

    Secondly, next actions isn't a single list, it's a series of lists. There are five broad categories of lists: Projects, Agendas, Next Actions, Someday/Maybe and Waiting For. The longest and most detailed set of lists are obviously Next Action lists, which are contextual. Meaning that the list is of next actions that are related to your location/ context. I have Next Action lists for 'Home', 'Church', 'Office', and 'Errands' among others. When I'm at home, I can safely ignore the list for my office, and vice versa. I'm never free from the 'Anywhere' list, curse its immortal soul.

    Here are some questions:

    1) When I have 70 projects and they can have each have a task, waiting for, or a calander item how do I keep it in synch?
    The Weekly Review, of course! On a day-to-day basis, there's little need for Project-level thinking. It's all about Next Actions. In the Weekly Review you can go over each project and make sure that you have captured the appropriate NAs, and that they're all still appropriate as Projects (and not Someday/Maybe fodder).

    2) for project "Clear out Mother's house before sale" I have three steps that have to occur by a given day (get UHaul, get storage, arrange for friend to help unload). Can I have three next actions?


    3) for many projects I have thought about the next ten actions, where to I capture this. If I put it in the project list it gets cluttered, on paper is a pain since eventually it is needed on list.
    Some have argued that each project can have only one Next Action associated with it at one time, which seems silly to me. I frequently have three (or more) Next Actions associated with a project, and on the appropriate list(s). In my book, so long as they're all really next actions (each having no unfulfilled prerequisite), then they actually belong on the NA list. If the path is cleared so they can be performed immediately, then they go on the list.

    For some larger projects, I have also mapped out the steps beyond the immediate next actions. They're things which can't be done yet because I don't yet have the tools, or information, or whatnot. These get squirreled away in a "project support" location.

    I have some of my project support in a free-form database on my computer. I have a few as MS Word docs on my hard drive. And a few more as ShadowPlan files on my Palm. In those files I have things like a couple of paragraphs describing a wildly successful outcome of the project, what steps I'll need to get there, and what obstacles I foresee. In an ideal world, I'd probably have all these planning documents in one location, but I am currently comfortable with this level of distribution. Most of the time, however, the value of the document is in the making: I have little need to find and study them again.

    So I suppose that my answer is that you'll have a difficult time keeping everything in just one Word file. It's probably do-able in one monster outline, where you collapse your planning information, but it sounds like it'll be unwieldy very quickly.

    As far as keeping projects and Next Actions synced, I really don't think it's necessary for a vast majority of the time. It's actually something I struggle with, and I'm recently coming to the conclusion that having the information linked is a crutch. It's something I do in place of actual work -- playing with "my system" in some vain attempt to reach the nirvana of organization: things are so clear that the work actually does itself. Or maybe it just doesn't seem so unpleasant to me.

    But the unpleasant work remains unpleasant, regardless of how organized I've made my organization. And then I'm emotionally shackled to a system that has a heavier maintenance burden associated, with no additional return.

    Let me put it this way: when the task on your errands list is "buy shop vac from hardware store" you'll know, without any fancy linking system, that you need it to clean your garage. You made the connection when you wrote it down on your list (either in your Weekly Review, or even midweek, when the NA presented itself to you mentally), and the connection will remain patiently in your psychicRAM (though consuming no cycles), until you are considering the actual completion of the task.

    Let's pretend for a minute that you have something on your list which seems to be divorced from any project. Pretend that your "calls" list says "Call William to get updated sales numbers", and there you are, in call-mode, ready to dial William's number, and you can't remember why you actually needed those sales numbers. There's two solutions: you can quickly go over your Projects list (even at 70 items, it would be a 30-second exercise) or you can assume that if you can't recall what project to which it related, then it wasn't all that important. And you cross it off and move onto another NA. That's pie, either way.

    At your Weekly Review (which I personally try to perform valiantly on Friday, and then again if necessary on Wednesday) you'll go over your list of Next Actions and your list of Projects and make sure that you're completely covered each way. That you have the appropriate projects for your lately-added Next Actions, and that every project has at least one NA associated with it.

    It's surely faster at that stage to have projects and NAs linked together, but I'm not convinced that speed is a virtue in that setting. Of course we want to avoid 6-hour Weekly Reviews, but the brief time it takes to copy down the list of projects and all next actions and sync them up on disposable paper is shorter than you think. The copying itself is perhaps a 10 minute exercise, and offers rewards that well outstrip the investment in time. The intimacy you'll gain with your lists by writing them out by hand is well worth every second with a pencil, making that redundant list.

    Or at least that's been my experience. As always, this is how I have chosen to do it. Others methods might be different and, for them, more effective.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Need help with implementation

      First, I agree with tercerio and commend him/her on a well-written post!


      Originally posted by Newbe
      Hi,

      For each project should I have either an entry on my action list or on my Waiting For list

      [2) for project "Clear out Mother's house before sale" I have three steps that have to occur by a given day (get UHaul, get storage, arrange for friend to help unload). Can I have three next actions?


      3) for many projects I have thought about the next ten actions, where to I capture this. If I put it in the project list it gets cluttered, on paper is a pain since eventually it is needed on list.

      [/b]
      You can have three or more next actions as long as each in not dependent on another action.

      I have found that there is confusion over the terminology "next action." It should mean NEXT action, the single, very next thing to be done. However, I and many others don't stop our thinking at one action. I usually come up with several, related in a series-parallel fashion. That is, some actions belong in one thread, others in another parallel thread. These are best captured in project support material. I use a variety of techniques to capture them. Some I write down along with the next action, e.g. "arrange for friend to help unload - then call mom to let her know." Some I write as notes under the project (I use outlook and the GTD add-in). Some I keep as hard-copy in project support folders, e.g. I have some year-long projects as work with full gantt charts. Some I keep as outlines in word documents. Some I enter as tasks in outlook and use the priority property to indicate "future" (priority = low).
      I have my outlook views configured to show me all actions in one view, only next actions in another, etc.

      At best, I can say I use different techniques to match the requirements of the project. At worst, I can say I am still experimenting and haven't found the one universal technique yet.

      Some general comments:

      1) I use next actions sorted by context just like in the GTD book. I tried some other ways but find this to be best.
      2) I have to struggle to prevent myself from spending too much time on the system and not enough on my real projects. For example, I have a PDA and am very tempted to try Life Balance, ShadowPlan, etc. but have resisted the temptation since I know each will consume my time for many hours before I know whether I will get any real payback. I have found that sticking with the plain vanilla palm, and the plain vanilla GTD add-in to be best. I can get help from other users easily, and I don't have to be my own tech support dept, which can happen with a highly customized software system. By following the pda and gtd systems laid down by others, I get 80% of the value while spending only 20% of the time.


      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      Comment


      • #4
        Project - next action missing link

        The need of automatic linkage between each project and its next action(s) is stressed in many posts on this forum. I agree with this idea and I do not agree with terceiro that
        As far as keeping projects and Next Actions synced, I really don't think it's necessary for a vast majority of the time. It's actually something I struggle with, and I'm recently coming to the conclusion that having the information linked is a crutch. It's something I do in place of actual work -- playing with "my system" in some vain attempt to reach the nirvana of organization: things are so clear that the work actually does itself. Or maybe it just doesn't seem so unpleasant to me.
        Many people are afraid that they may loose links between projects and next actions. This does not allow them to fully rely on the "external memory system" (which is essential for GTD). So the open loop is created "I must remember the links, I must remember the links..." and the their mind is not free.
        In my opinion software implementation of GTD needs a very easy to use three dimensional database of next actions, where:
        - 1st dimension is project name of the next action;
        - 2nd dimension is context of the next action;
        - 3rd dimension is time (for timed next actions).
        The software should have easy data filtering feature that would allow user to examine all next actions for a given project, context, or time and general search facility.
        Regards,
        TesTeq

        Comment


        • #5
          Not to be a Luddite but....

          in fairness to Newbe, the book does say that the organized system is just lists and files. To give the system a decent shot, I think a beginner should try to implement it as written, with paper, if necessary, then port that basic system into electronic form, if desired. But the database approach with all of its technical noise should not interfere with learning to use the system as it was intended. Once you are familiar with the concepts and you have your own ideas of special features based on real needs, then the database/linking/filtering approach can be tried - based on experience with the basics.

          I never learned to play the piano properly because I wouldn't practice my scales. Now I play by ear and, perhaps, quite well considering the lack of formal training, but I will never be a pianist.

          Andrew

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Project - next action missing link

            Originally posted by TesTeq
            Many people are afraid that they may loose links between projects and next actions. This does not allow them to fully rely on the "external memory system" (which is essential for GTD). So the open loop is created "I must remember the links, I must remember the links..." and the their mind is not free.
            I hear you, TesTeq, and I feel your pain. I've spent considerable time (way too much time) trying to solve this problem before I discovered it was actually an issue of trusting the system. Once I learned to trust my system (OK, _as_ I'm learning to trust my system), I could eliminate the extra work and I didn't have things become "unlinked" in my mind. Admittedly, it *could* have happened, but the practical experience has shown that it simply doesn't happen.

            As you mention, people are afraid that they may loose the links between actions and projects. In my experience, the fear itself is real, but its basis is ungrounded.

            Well, that's not entirely true. It has happened where I've looked at a list at my weekly review and realized that there was something on my list and I couldn't remember exactly why. There must have been something, at some point during the week, which made me want to discover the weight of an ice cube (or whatever) but there I sat at my weekly review without any clue as to what it was. At that point, does it matter? Apparently not -- the task has ceased to have any importance and can be simply purged. No guilt, no stress.

            [I should perhaps say that I make a point to add projects to my list as soon as they appear. I use the built-in ToDo app on my Palm and will always indicate a project by starting it off with a "+". Of course they're in their own category, but this way when they are listed under "All" they're easily identified (and, frankly, usually ignored in that context). Similarly, I identify Someday/Maybe items with an initial "-". Just a visual reminder. The point is that they're added immediately, and thus my list of projects is always as current and complete as possible.]

            I mention this because in my weekly review I would surely discover a project "+Research properties of water" which would apply to my ice cube task. Since I'm reviewing both in my review, they would mentally meet up.

            The real question is, to me, about the value of having the project name omnipresent within the task itself. It seems like an additional distraction, an unnecessary waste of space (and reading time, as I look over my list and see potentially hundreds of words that are not task-related). It makes my lists no longer purely Next Actions. They're instead Next Actions and Projects, which is not the same thing.

            The thought process is different as well. I might say to myself when I quickly review my list, "Ah ha -- I see I need to 'create a 2 page summary of Ezekiel'" because one of my NA lists would include, in this example, 'Create 2 page summary of Ezekiel'.

            If, instead, my list said 'Create 2 page summary of Ezekiel (+Bible As Literature Class)' -- where "+Bible As Literature Class" is a project -- my thought process would be much more complex. As I surveyed my list at 3:15 on a Tuesday afternoon, I might say, "Ah ha -- I see I need to 'create a 2 page summary of Ezekiel' for my class, and oh yes, I have that paper on the Prophets due in a couple of weeks, and, dang, what was that girl's name, who said she'd study with me for the test..." Suddenly I'm spending time doing what should be performed in my weekly review, instead of writing my 2 page summary.

            That might not come across as clearly as it is in my mind -- alas the weaknesses of punctuation. Regardless, my weakness is that, when tied to projects, my Next Actions become only signifiers of the project, instead of just Next Actions. They force me to spend time thinking about the projects instead of doing the actions -- and for a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator like myself, an in-my-face linking system is just one more way to avoid the task at hand.

            One final reiteration: I have gone through the work of creating a super-linked meta-list of projects and Next Actions, and even related them to higher level goals and roles in my life. It was automagically linked to everything in the world on my Palm by using the amazing ShadowPlan -- but I've since realized that I was procrastinating by using the list. It was a tool for me to spend time thinking more about creating some perfect system and less about getting things done.

            So I still use my Palm, but I don't try to keep things linked over the week. At my weekly review I'll re-link tasks and projects, by listing them on paper, with a pencil, like some pre-technology luddite. And, amazingly, I feel more synced with my lists, and more control over the whole process. It does take more work -- since I'm copying down, by hand, everything I painstakingly already wrote into my Palm -- but not overwhelmingly so. I consider this a part of DA's "You have to think about stuff more than you are but less than you fear you might" axiom (which I do realize I butchered). And the rewards are rich and measurable.

            I'm sure, TesTeq, that you do not need these remedial measures, which is why you and I have different methods. I really love that GTD allows for personalization at such a fundamental level, and yet we can still relate and share experience that will enhance each other's abilities.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Re: Project - next action missing link

              Thanks, terceiro,
              Some people need next action - project link to feel comfortable. And maybe you would link your next actions with projects if Palm todo application would be equipped with enhanced 2D categorization of entries. In standard todo you can link an entry with one of 16 categories by selecting the category from a drop down list. These categories are often used as DA's contexts. But imagine that you have the second drop down list with your projects. So you could view your next actions list by project (for all or selected context), by context (for all or selected project) or all (unfiltered view). Linking next action to project would be as easy as linking it to context.
              By presenting my todo application enhancement idea I am only trying to say that we simply haven't got a software which makes it nice and easy to link next actions with projects. Since I am software developer I'll put this enhancement on my someday/maybe list .
              Regards,
              TesTeq

              Comment


              • #8
                I used to record tasks in separate categories for the related project and context. This works fine in Outlook and pocket ppc. However, I found I was tending to do my project planning in my next action tracking system, which was getting confusing.
                There is another dimension which I do track, and that is any person/ team/ regular meeting concerned with the action. As I don't want to set up a category for each person, I just start the title with their name.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Project - next action missing link

                  Originally posted by terceiro
                  Regardless, my weakness is that, when tied to projects, my Next Actions become only signifiers of the project, instead of just Next Actions. They force me to spend time thinking about the projects instead of doing the actions -- and for a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator like myself, an in-my-face linking system is just one more way to avoid the task at hand.
                  Terceiro,

                  This is quite an insightful observation. I never looked at it that way, but when I think about it, it really makes sense. Like many others, I've been thinking about this linking problem, trying to find the elusive solution that gives both the advantages of actions linked to projects and ease of maintenance. But this post finally gives me a good argument against this linking... Thanks!

                  Marc.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My solution to the linkage problem has been to prefix Tasks with a (short) identifier. So for the project you describe I might have:

                    @Home
                    ----GARAGE - set up pegboard
                    @Mall
                    ----GARAGE - buy ShopVac
                    @Phone
                    ----GARAGE - call to reserve UHaul
                    ----GARAGE - call Joe to ask for help on Saturday

                    And yes, I would have all four of these tasks present, since they are independent. But I wouldn't overload the @Home list with all of the other tasks that need doing as part of cleaning up the garage.

                    I would have a "Garage Master Plan" file for jotting down thoughts, possible next action choices, etc. As part of the Weekly Review -- or when other tasks have been completed -- I would refer to the Master Plan file to determine what the next action is.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Concur w/ both the motivation and technique in guest's immediate previous post...this allows me to adopt a single project focus more easily when I need to surge through a project, while still operating from my GTD lists. I've already done some up fron thinking on perhaps several independent next actions, so I can move quickly through several of them without having to think whether the action supports that project, or getting distracted by N/A's unrelated to the project at hand. YMMV.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        my solution - outliner

                        I found Outlook and PPC not flexible enough to satisfy my GTD needs.

                        I use an Outliner.

                        This enables me to do both projects planning and view NA list in one place.


                        For projects planning - I am able to see the whole project stages, and figure out the next action needed. The NA then listed in the outliner, below the relevant project, and being given the category NA.

                        When I want to concentrate on my NA, I go from default view of the outliner to view by category (among my categories are NA W/F, etc).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I agree with terceiro in that I've found, for me, linking projects and NA's to be unnecessary and overly complicated. I've found that instead of helping the system, linking has actually bogged it down.

                          At first I was very fearful of not having my NA's tied to their respective projects, and I tried several different ways of linking them. After several attempts - without satisfactory results - I just gave it up! I sat back one day and gave it some thought, and I came to the conclusion that the link really doesn't serve a purpose. If you look at a project with a list of it's respective NA's filed beneth it (a la Project view in GTD for Outlook), what does that really tell you?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The Irony of this posting....

                            Everytime I see a new post on this topic - I sit back and chuckle a bit.

                            It started with a self-admitted "newbie" asking a question for clarity, because he was afraid there was a complexity in David's original materials that he was not embracing - or something that he was missing.

                            What it has turned into (at times) is a competition of how we've each added our own "spin" to the GTD foundation, almost one of "competing complexities."

                            If I were this newcomer - i would have been frightened away by all this detail to digest a long time ago!

                            Have we all really "created a successful outcome" in answering this person's question, and creating clarity for them? Or have we been serving ourselves ?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: The Irony of this posting....

                              Originally posted by intrigueme@aol.com
                              Everytime I see a new post on this topic - I sit back and chuckle a bit.

                              It started with a self-admitted "newbie" asking a question for clarity, because he was afraid there was a complexity in David's original materials that he was not embracing - or something that he was missing.
                              Well, I think that part of the problem is the lack of clarity regarding this topic, even amongst the "adept". Each of us has a different "spin" on how to handle this situation (linking NA's to projects), and we each offered a viable solution. You can't really offer a clear solution to a question about a fuzzy topic.

                              What it has turned into (at times) is a competition of how we've each added our own "spin" to the GTD foundation, almost one of "competing complexities."

                              If I were this newcomer - i would have been frightened away by all this detail to digest a long time ago!
                              How's it a competition? I took it as a discussion as to how each of us has handled similar situations and melded the GTD system to fit our own individual needs. The original poster's first question is one to which there isn't a clear-cut answer, and there are several different schools of thought that exist. I think that the point of the discussion was to offer different solutions in an attempt to achieve some kind of clarity.

                              Have we all really "created a successful outcome" in answering this person's question, and creating clarity for them? Or have we been serving ourselves ?
                              Well, what has your post served here? Did you contribute to the discussion or attempt to answer the original question? If so, I missed it. I'm not really sure what the point of your post actually is...

                              Comment

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