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To be a Project, or not to be a Project.

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  • To be a Project, or not to be a Project.

    I’ve been struggling with trying to implement GTD for the last year or so. I’ve read the book twice and listen to the abridged tapes twice. I’m not sure what the problem is but I’m glad that I found this forum and hopefully I can learn something here to help out.

    One of the problems that I struggle with is “What is a project?” It seems that the answer is that a project is anything that has more than one “next-action”. Would you agree with that?

    I have a Project called “Home”. What I do then is put all my to-do’s that I want to get done around the house there. But this is frustrating because this “Project” is never going to be complete! There is always going to be things to do around the house. Thus, this doesn’t seem to fall into the category of a Project. What do people think?

    On a related issue, if we say there is no Project called “Home”, then what projects do next actions go into, if they are a single next action? Let’s say I have a next action that I put in the @home context that is “wash load of whites”. If there is no Home project, where would this go?

    Thad

  • #2
    Be careful not to confuse a "project" with a "context."

    A context is basically a set of resources needed to complete those actions. @Phone is a list of phone calls. @Errands or @Home Depot is a list of general errands or things to buy at Home Depot, respectively. So @Home is anything that can only be done at home: Run a load of laundry, change the litter box, mow the lawn, etc.

    Most of these examples are single next actions, not projects. That's fine. While every next action should have a context, there's no requirement that an action be associated with a project. (Some software tools may impose such a requirement. That's a tool limitation and not part of GTD. You may need to create a placeholder project in that case.)

    A project is any defined outcome requiring more than one action. For example, if you don't actually own a lawnmower, "mow the lawn" might become a project:
    @Library: read Consumer Reports on lawnmowers
    @Fred: arrange to borrow truck to pick up mower
    @Home Depot: buy lawnmower, gasoline can
    @Chevron: fill gasoline can
    @Home: assemble mower, mow lawn

    Hope this helps,

    Katherine
    Last edited by kewms; 01-15-2009, 04:10 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      re: What is a Project?

      Yes. A project is, roughly, anything that requires more than one step to complete. Of course, if you take it to its logical extreme, making a peanut butter sandwich is a project: (1) Open refrigerator, (2) get jar, (3) get two slices of bread, etc. You don't need to even put this project on your lists since it is easy to both remember and do. What goes on your Projects list, then, are more-than-one-step actions that require further clarification and whittling down to the very next action. You can put more-than-one-step things on your action list if they don't require too much thinking (e.g. get a haircut). It's fairly easy to move through the steps as needed - look up number, call for appointment, etc. Bottom-line, then, is more-than-one-step outcomes that require more thinking, clarifying, and organizing, go on your Projects list.

      With respect to your "Home" project -- this is not really a project as much as it is a location. A project would be "Get a new washer and dryer". The next actions would be "@ Online: look at a selection of options", "@ Online: Decide which washer and dryer to buy", "@ Appliance Store: Buy new washer & dryer", "@ Home: Do the laundry", etc. You would put each one onto your Action List as you complete the earlier task.

      Hope that helps.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Thad View Post
        What do people think?
        I call those things projects. Lots of projects never get done or are repeating. I have some that repeat every month and some yearly. They are still projects.

        Put it in a place or call it whatever makes you comfortable.

        I have a top level area of focus to keep a comfortable house and all that sort of stuff goes there.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Thad View Post
          One of the problems that I struggle with is “What is a project?” It seems that the answer is that a project is anything that has more than one “next-action”. Would you agree with that?
          More accurately, a project is an actionable that has more than one next action. Even better, a project is a definite outcome, or something about which you can ask "is it done?" meaningfully (and it is not going to be complete in one action).

          I have a Project called “Home”. What I do then is put all my to-do’s that I want to get done around the house there. But this is frustrating because this “Project” is never going to be complete! There is always going to be things to do around the house. Thus, this doesn’t seem to fall into the category of a Project. What do people think?
          The way you have put it, it is a context and not a project, as pointed out by Katherine. An example of a home related small project would be 'fix the dripping tap in the kitchen' or 'buy a bigger refrigerator'.

          On a related issue, if we say there is no Project called “Home”, then what projects do next actions go into, if they are a single next action? Let’s say I have a next action that I put in the @home context that is “wash load of whites”. If there is no Home project, where would this go?
          Not every action needs to go under a project. This action just belongs to the next actions list at home context. An outcome that is not achieved in the first action needs to be a project, simply to remind you that it is not yet complete.

          Regards,
          Abhay

          Comment


          • #6
            What is a project?

            Originally posted by Thad
            One of the problems that I struggle with is “What is a project?” It seems that the answer is that a project is anything that has more than one “next-action”. Would you agree with that?
            NO!

            Project must:
            a) have a defined outcome;
            b) consist of more than one action.

            In "Making It All Work" David Allen defines projects as outcomes that can be finished within a year that involve more than one action.

            Originally posted by Thad
            I have a Project called “Home”. What I do then is put all my to-do’s that I want to get done around the house there. But this is frustrating because this “Project” is never going to be complete!
            What is the "Home"'s outcome?

            Will you finish "Home" within a year?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
              Project must:
              a) have a defined outcome;
              b) consist of more than one action.

              In "Making It All Work" David Allen defines projects as outcomes that can be finished within a year that involve more than one action.
              I have a real problem with the 1 year timeframe. Projects with defined outcomes and consisting of more than one action can often take much longer than a year to complete. Some individual next actions (concrete definable physical actions) can take more than a year of elapsed time to finish!

              As to when a project like "keep a comfortable home" is "done" For me home being done means I can invite friends over for dinner without any notice and not worry about how the house looks. Even vague projects can have a criteria for the desired outcome even though they will constantly need work/actions to keep in that state.

              That's where I include Flylady's routines in with GTD myself but the goal is the same.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Thad View Post
                One of the problems that I struggle with is “What is a project?” It seems that the answer is that a project is anything that has more than one “next-action”. Would you agree with that?
                Yes, I would agree with that, but keep in mind that there other levels of work beyond what one would call a 10,000 ft project. Whether or not you call something a project or a goal depends on how you chunk it. One might call "Organize home" a project, but in my case that's simply too big to manage as a project. I would create a project for each room or space I want to organize (but not activate all of them at the same time--only one or two), and label "Organize home" as a 30,000 ft goal related to a 20,000 ft area of focus and responsibility--my home.

                Originally posted by Thad View Post
                I have a Project called “Home”. What I do then is put all my to-do’s that I want to get done around the house there. But this is frustrating because this “Project” is never going to be complete!
                EXACTLY! There are some things that you are NEVER done with. You're never done taking care of a house, your body, your mind. You NEVER finished moving in (at least, according to David Allen--he said this in the seminar I watched). Don't try to manage these things as projects--give yourself a game you can win.

                "Home" is not something that can be checked off as a completed project. Other than a context (a specific place where you perform next actions), your home is a 20,000 ft area of focus. At any time you'll have multiple projects related to your home (organizing a room, fixing a leaky toilet, painting a bedroom, etc).

                Keeping a home neat and clean is a challenge, and I find that I don't usually put regular or recurring cleaning tasks on my @Home list. I have a checklist to follow regarding cleaning, but usually things get cleaned or added to the @Home list when the scuz factor reaches a certain level.

                Best of luck!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                  I have a real problem with the 1 year timeframe. Projects with defined outcomes and consisting of more than one action can often take much longer than a year to complete. Some individual next actions (concrete definable physical actions) can take more than a year of elapsed time to finish!

                  As to when a project like "keep a comfortable home" is "done" For me home being done means I can invite friends over for dinner without any notice and not worry about how the house looks. Even vague projects can have a criteria for the desired outcome even though they will constantly need work/actions to keep in that state.

                  That's where I include Flylady's routines in with GTD myself but the goal is the same.
                  I do the Flylady routines as well. But no routine home cleaning activities ever make it to my project list and USUALLY don't make it to my tasks lists either. This is ideal use of a checklist and, in FlyLady speak, that's pretty much what she's espousing by using her "Control Journal".

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm going to agree here.

                    "Home" is really a too broad concept to set as a project. As a location or context @home is fine, but as a project it is not finite. You need to have a successful outcome. There is no successful outcome, because it is an eternal situation.

                    You can put the concept "home" into a higher level, such as a goal "maintain a comfortable, clean home" or as a role "family leader" or "family person". From both a goal and a role, many projects can follow. One example: "clean & prep home for superbowl party." That's finite and you definitely have an outcome.

                    I also don't have a project list for regular home cleaning tasks I perform. I will, however, open projects for something more specific, such as "reorganize bookshelf" or "sort, archive, or trash boxes in garage."

                    Separately one can have non-project single next actions. I have about 10 right now. One of these is a task I noticed just now "dust ceiling fan in den."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Barb View Post
                      I do the Flylady routines as well. ... This is ideal use of a checklist and, in FlyLady speak, that's pretty much what she's espousing by using her "Control Journal".
                      Well the task that makes it to my Next Actions list daily is "Spend 15 minutes on Control Journal Cleaning"

                      My CJ is a notebook with pages in page protectors and little checkboxes I can cross off with a dry erase marker so I see what's not yet done for the week or month. So far most of them are getting done at least every other month doing it this way. Still working on a few tasks like that I hate to do.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Daily Checklist

                        Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                        Well the task that makes it to my Next Actions list daily is "Spend 15 minutes on Control Journal Cleaning"

                        My CJ is a notebook with pages in page protectors and little checkboxes I can cross off with a dry erase marker so I see what's not yet done for the week or month. So far most of them are getting done at least every other month doing it this way. Still working on a few tasks like that I hate to do.
                        I actually have a "Daily Checklist". It reminds me to take my medications, drink enough water, exercise, CLEAN A LITTLE, check to see if I need to thaw out anything for the next days' dinner, charge my cell phone, etc. This is the only checklist I have on an Excel spreadsheet, just so I can check off things as I go. At the top of my calendar for each day, I have a recurring entry that simply says "Daily Checklist". This has been working very well for me, and keeps my contexts lists clean.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Can you give me an example, please?

                          Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                          Some individual next actions (concrete definable physical actions) can take more than a year of elapsed time to finish!
                          Can you give me an example, please?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Thad View Post
                            One of the problems that I struggle with is “What is a project?” It seems that the answer is that a project is anything that has more than one “next-action”. Would you agree with that?

                            I have a Project called “Home”. What I do then is put all my to-do’s that I want to get done around the house there. But this is frustrating because this “Project” is never going to be complete! There is always going to be things to do around the house. Thus, this doesn’t seem to fall into the category of a Project. What do people think?

                            On a related issue, if we say there is no Project called “Home”, then what projects do next actions go into, if they are a single next action? Let’s say I have a next action that I put in the @home context that is “wash load of whites”. If there is no Home project, where would this go?
                            I think a lot of the answers to your questions depend on the system you are using: i.e. paper vs. computer (and the software you use).

                            As others have pointed out "home" is a context not a project.

                            In my system "wash load of whites" would be a recurring item that is part of a project called "keep laundry under control", and would take place in the @home context.

                            The "keep laundry under control" project would sit in a folder called "home", in the software I use (omnifocus) but note that this is not the same as the context. The folder could easily be called something else like "keep home running smoothly".

                            - Don

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                              Can you give me an example, please?
                              Spinning enough 40 WPI Z spun singles for weaving 15 yards of 60 inch wide 2/1 twill fabric to be woven at 21 EPI and 20 PPI. I need approximately 75,000 yards of the singles to do the job. Since I have other jobs to do and am not a spinster that alone may take several years to complete. Even if I was a full time production spinner that is a job that would take between 3-5 months of full time work.

                              That is a single concrete definable action with a clear ending but it will take a long time to get there.

                              I have a lot of projects where the next actions are of that type.

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