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The Danger of the Project List

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  • The Danger of the Project List

    I've been stuck on a bunch of different projects lately. Just not felt like moving forward on many fronts.

    This coincides with an experiment of mine to keep my Projects list open all the time (I use text files on my computer for all my GTD lists). The theory was that the Projects list would remind me of my destination, so I wouldn't focus exclusively on the weeds.

    Unfortunately, instead I focused only on my destination. I became too distracted by the cool, interesting, fun Projects in the list that I ignored the others. This wasn't a problem when I just have a list of Actions in front of me; some might be more interesting than others, but it's much easier to push myself to do a short, unpleasant Action than a long, unpleasant Project.

    So, beware too much attention on the Project list. It can be a siren's song.

  • #2
    That adds to my theory of GTD that all Projects and Next Actions are rather equal by priority as nobody knows what's the right thing to do now to get the maximum pay-off tomorrow.

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    • #3
      I agree with Borisoff. Though some projects like "finalize income taxes" stand out as higher priorities by nature, most of my projects are just "work" and seemingly equal in priority. They just need to get done as soon as possible. Likewise, it does my psyche more harm than help if I look at that list more than once or twice a week. I lose focus and perspective.

      I learned the hard way that it's impossible to know for absolute certain that you are doing exactly what you should be doing all the time. I searched for the "silver-bullet" to that equation and wasted years in the process. I've finally accepted that anytime you take action, it's a calculated leap of faith guided by your own intuition. Without a reliable personal management system like GTD, it's only a blind leap or a shot in the dark.

      Sometimes I do still get hung up on making an action choice, particularly when my lists get very long. My @Home list, for example, has over 50 items on it. When that happens, I scan the list from oldest to newest, and I do the first item that I know I have time and energy to tackle. That way I at least get SOMETHING done rather than burning energy and getting NOTHING done.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
        When that happens, I scan the list from oldest to newest, and I do the first item that I know I have time and energy to tackle. That way I at least get SOMETHING done rather than burning energy and getting NOTHING done.
        Yes, me too. Oldest first (when intuition is apathetic otherwise). It's one of 2 "deals" I added to GTD for me (The other one being working on the most important project each and every day.)

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        • #5
          The danger is not the project list, but your inability to make decisions. I have so many projects on my list that is is impossible to have next actions for all of them on my TODO list. So, I need to make decisions about them during the weekly review. Some have been on my someday/maybe list for years. I have others that I classify "as soon as possible", but they too have been on the list for a while. However, the NextActions do not appear on the TODO list.

          The task management software I use (MyLifeOrganized) allows me to block out whole branches in the task/project list and it is simply to mark a project as "do not display" in the TODO list. You can also configure the projects so that the tasks need to be done in order. When you finish one, the next one becomes the NextAction and appears in the TODO list.

          I would definitely agree with ellobogrande that it is a leap of fair, but that is something I got directly from David's books. The key issue is being able to reduce the choices so chances of choosing "wrong" are limited. If you do no have time or energy for one task, it is not "wrong" to do something else. So, when I have only 30 items on the TODO list, it is a lot easier to see which need to be done sooner or "get the maximum pay-off tomorrow."

          To be honest, up to now, I often choose the more interesting tasks, but I think that "oldest first" is a much more effective over the long term. I waste energy thinking "Oh man, that's *still* there", and I am sure it is similar for others. All other things being equal, I think we are better server getting to the oldest first.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jimmo View Post
            The danger is not the project list, but your inability to make decisions.
            Look, this direct way, starting your post with an accusation, is what gives us Germans the image of being impolite. Off course over here we see it as being uncomplicated and honest, but in the civilized world this is just to harsh.

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