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  • Maintaining Projects and Related Tasks

    Hi all,

    I have recently finished reading the GTD book and am very excited to start implementing it both into my personal and professional life. The general concept makes a lot of sense to me. I feel this the kind of tool/system that would allow me to grow closer to my potential, as a person.

    However, at this point in time I'm trying to wrap my head around some of the underlying mechanics that make this work.

    David Allen defines a project as “anything you’re committed to complete that takes more than one step”.

    My questions are:
    1. Does one maintain a list of to-dos/tasks/steps per project? If not, what are you supposed to do with ideas/steps that pop into your head regarding your different projects? As per David Allen's teachings, you're not meant to maintain any tasks in your psychic RAM, but to store them into your trusted system for later retrieval, at the appropriate time.
    2. Does one always have a single next action or can there be a number of them per project?
    3. Once a next action for a given project is performed, what procedure is meant to trigger the creation of the subsequent next action within the system? Is that supposed to happen during the weekly review?

    Unfortunately, I do not recall the book addressing these issues in a direct way. I appreciate anybody sharing their knowledge on this with me, or pointing me to the right location in the book or any additional reference material dealing with these questions.

    Thanks

  • #2
    Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
    [*]Does one maintain a list of to-dos/tasks/steps per project? If not, what are you supposed to do with ideas/steps that pop into your head regarding your different projects? As per David Allen's teachings, you're not meant to maintain any tasks in your psychic RAM, but to store them into your trusted system for later retrieval, at the appropriate time.[*]Does one always have a single next action or can there be a number of them per project?[*]Once a next action for a given project is performed, what procedure is meant to trigger the creation of the subsequent next action within the system? Is that supposed to happen during the weekly review?
    One of the things you'll find from the folk here on the forums is that we will likely have different answers to these questions. Here's my $0.02.

    You *can* have multiple next actions, but it's not required. All you really need is *the* next action.

    The way you store these will vary depending on your system. Those that use software may have the ability to list all the possible next actions, or a list of sequential next actions.

    Other possibilities are keeping next actions in A-Z reference, filed by project name.

    Triggering next actions can happen in the weekly review, or it can simply happen naturally as a result of doing the action listed. Of course if something pops into your head at any time, capture it, and process it into your system appropriately.

    - Don

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
      1. Does one maintain a list of to-dos/tasks/steps per project? If not, what are you supposed to do with ideas/steps that pop into your head regarding your different projects? As per David Allen's teachings, you're not meant to maintain any tasks in your psychic RAM, but to store them into your trusted system for later retrieval, at the appropriate time.
      For a given project, you should have a list of "next actions" in the order they need to be done. The first undone item, therefore, would be your next "next action." You would then have a set of Next Action lists organized by context on which these next "Next Actions" would appear. For example, if I had a project called "Get car serviced", my project page detaining the project might look like this:

      Project: Get car serviced
      Outcome: Car has 5,000 scheduled maintenance done.
      Actions:
      1. Call dealership RE schedule appointment
      2. Call Joe to pick me up at dealership on the way to work
      3. Waiting for dealership to call
      4. Pick up car at the dealership

      I would have this page in my "Projects" section of my system. I would also have the project name listed on my "Projects" list at the front of that section. Finally, I would have Step 1, "Call dealership ..." on my @Calls Next Actions list. After I called the dealership and set the appointment, I would cross that off my @Calls list, flip back to the project to get the next action ("Call Joe ...") and copy it to the appropriate Next Actions list (@Calls). After I had called Joe and arranged for a ride to work, I would cross that off my list, flip back to the project and bring the next action forward--in this case, "Waiting for dealership to call." This would go on my "Waiting For" list, a special Next Actions list where I'm waiting for someone else to perform an action. Finally, when the dealership called me at work and told me the service was completed, I would cross the Waiting For off my list and bring the last step forward, "Pick up car at the dealership." Joe takes me back to the dealership after work and I pick up my car. My project is complete. So, I cross it off my "Projects" list and file the project page in my project archive. With some projects, you may not know all the next actions, just the next one. In that case, you would only have one listed on the project page and in your context lists. For example, a project might start with "R&D". You want to do a little research on the project. That research would determine your next action. Once you've done the "R&D", you'd know your next action to write on your project page and the appropriate context page.

      Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
      2. Does one always have a single next action or can there be a number of them per project?
      You would have one Next Action for each front on the project. In my above example, I could have a subproject, "Arrange ride with Joe." It would be (1) Call Joe to see if he will pick me up at the dealership, (2) Waiting for appointment scheduled at the dealership, (3) Call Joe to arrange ride. In this case, I would call Joe, then this subproject would be in a "Waiting For" status while I made the call to the dealership to make the appointment.

      Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
      3. Once a next action for a given project is performed, what procedure is meant to trigger the creation of the subsequent next action within the system? Is that supposed to happen during the weekly review?
      See my example above for the procedure. In my weekly reviews, I review all my projects to ensure each has a Next Action. I will also do this for an individual project as I described above, but during my weekly review I'm double-checking all my projects to make sure each is moving forward with a Next Action.

      I hope this helps.

      Jon

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
        1. Does one maintain a list of to-dos/tasks/steps per project? If not, what are you supposed to do with ideas/steps that pop into your head regarding your different projects? As per David Allen's teachings, you're not meant to maintain any tasks in your psychic RAM, but to store them into your trusted system for later retrieval, at the appropriate time.
        2. Does one always have a single next action or can there be a number of them per project?
        3. Once a next action for a given project is performed, what procedure is meant to trigger the creation of the subsequent next action within the system? Is that supposed to happen during the weekly review?
        Everyone will implement it differently.

        For some projects I have a long list well planned out. Those lists are either in a physical file as project support material or sequential actions in the SW I use to manage my lists. Other projects just have a single next action and I decide what comes after that when I have finished the one I am on. If I think of something for a project I am not working on (happens often) I just note it and dump it into my inbox and then process it later.

        My rule is if there are no dependencies I try to move projects forward on all fronts. So I can often have multiple next actions all related to a single project but they could all be done, none are waiting for the other to finish.

        I trigger continued work either by being "on a roll" and moving that project forward right then and there, by hitting a wall and deciding I need to step back and re-evaluate the projects' next actions, by running out of daylight or proper weather conditions or by getting too physically or mentally tired to continue. In any case I note where I was, or the next action to do if it is clear and stop and regroup before moving to my next task. I try not to change contexts too often but sometimes I just decide to stay with a project even though I am changing contexts because it's the most important one right then.

        Yesterday was a prime example. I have had a project to get all of a particular person's lambs registered for several years. It's complicated but we've been going back and forth for nearly 3 years trying to get all the data I need to register those lambs between other people caring for animals as she worked in a different state and tags being torn and replaced, ewes stealing lambs from other ewes and that noted and so on. There were literally 4 inches of notes after she typed up the hand written data and sent it to me. Last week we'd gotten to the point that I had entered into our registry database all I could, and I had a full copy of her notes on births, deaths etc. We arranged a time to call and talk on the phone and go over the holes and ones I could not register due to lack of clear pedigree trails. My only next action was on my @phone list (weekend) call X re flock reports. The phone call took 3 hours. We went over every single animal and verified I had the full history of ear tag changes, lambing records and disposition of those lambs to sale, kept or slaughter and all dates. My notes taken during the call were cryptic at best so once we got done I just kept going and finished registering the lambs from the last 4 years while I had everything spread out over the entire desk and floor and had the results of our conversation fresh in my mind. If I had stopped I would have had to document my phone conversation more clearly so I could pick it up again later. I had next actions of enter births, enter deaths, enter sales and transfers, enter slaughter dates, print registration papers, sign and seal registration certificates, get them in an envelope to mail and so on that I never bothered to write down but just did as I came to it. I got it down to a final 3 sheep that we do not have enough data to register and sent the list of those 3 sheep off in an e-mail to her as a follow up. My next action is now on my @waiting list to Follow-up X's report on sheep tagged (federal ID numbers of the sheep involved). I changed contexts a lot but it felt good to get so many animals caught up and registered especially when it's been a multi-year process to get it all done.

        Unfortunately at the end of that my brain was toast and not much else got finished.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you gentlemen for taking the time to respond to me!

          I currently lead a very nomadic lifestyle, as I live in 2 different places in the city of Toronto, while trying to get my business off the ground and I travel back to California on a regular basis!

          So as you can imagine, my Blackberry is my one constant companion in all of this. I maintain my emails, contacts, calendar, make and receive calls and messages and sometimes even browse the web with it. So it would make sense to try and find an application that would plug right into the heart of all this data flow, in order to minimize double-entries and the number of in-baskets. Hence I've been evaluating 2 GTD apps for Blackberries: NextAction and ToDoMatrix by RexWireless.

          Of the 2, ToDoMatrix is offering the more comprehensive, robust and surprisingly less expensive solution. The only drawback to the TDM solution is that because of the flexibility and versatility of the program, it seems to be slightly more complicated for a novice GTDer to get started on. But due to my above-mentioned living conditions, I feel this is the best option for me at this point and I'm determined to jump in with 2 feet and make it work.

          All of which brings me back to the point I was trying to make. Given my situation and implementation options, it seems to me I would first need to understand the ideal implementation as stipulated by its conceptual creator, and how all the parts are meant to fit and interact with one another from his perspective. Only then will I be able to adapt the system and make a unique implementation of it, while maintaining the overall coherence of it.

          So that's where I stand, at this point of my quest. I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me to understand how this is supposed to be done from David Allen's point of view.

          Thanks again,

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
            Hi all,
            1. Does one maintain a list of to-dos/tasks/steps per project? If not, what are you supposed to do with ideas/steps that pop into your head regarding your different projects? As per David Allen's teachings, you're not meant to maintain any tasks in your psychic RAM, but to store them into your trusted system for later retrieval, at the appropriate time.
            2. Does one always have a single next action or can there be a number of them per project?
            3. Once a next action for a given project is performed, what procedure is meant to trigger the creation of the subsequent next action within the system? Is that supposed to happen during the weekly review?
            My answers below.
            1. I only maintain project plans (which may include a list of future actions that I can't do right now) if I need to do so for a particular project. If you get ideas about a project, capture them like anything else and get them into your inbox. When you process an item that represents a future action (one you can't do right now due to some dependency) for a particular project, you add it with your project support material. Lots of times for me it's the "notes" field of the Outlook "task" that holds the project reminder.

              NEVER add anything to your action lists that you can't do given appropriate context, time, and energy (i.e. an action that can't be done until something else is done first or something that has to happen after a specific date).

            2. You can have more than one, as long as you can do them all given appropriate context, time, and energy.

            3. Often times your mind will trigger what to do next upon completion of an action, or it will trigger a reminder to check your support material for the next action. If your mind does not trigger something on its own, it will during the weekly review.

            Good luck!

            - Luke

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
              All of which brings me back to the point I was trying to make. Given my situation and implementation options, it seems to me I would first need to understand the ideal implementation as stipulated by its conceptual creator, and how all the parts are meant to fit and interact with one another from his perspective. Only then will I be able to adapt the system and make a unique implementation of it, while maintaining the overall coherence of it.
              DA has said that there is no ideal implementation. GTD is tool-agnostic. Use what works for you.

              Katherine

              Comment


              • #8
                I also use my Blackberry extensively. If you are using ToDoMatrix, I highly recommend IdeaMatrix and RexConnect. These can be bought as a bundle. Although it is expensive for a bundle of Blackberry apps, the ability this suite of apps give you as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

                Rexconnect may be the most useful app of the whole bunch, as it give you the ability to have your apps share info. In other words, you can take an email and inject it into your calendar as an appointment or all day event, you can take a contact and make a ToDo with the contact info in the body of the todo. This gives the BB a functionality that you used to only get through Outlook or Lotus Notes. I can't recommend RexConnect enough!

                Once you have your BB tool configured to handle the workflow, you can set up your folders accordingly. The RexWireless people have a white paper about implementing GTD using ToDoMatrix...its a several weeks phased approach, but if you are just starting out w/ GTD, I would have a look at that. Here's the link:

                http://www.rexwireless.com/bestpract...ractices1f.pdf

                Good Luck!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by koloftoo View Post
                  I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me to understand how this is supposed to be done from David Allen's point of view.
                  • Let's start as soon as it's possible!
                  • Use the projects list to give a perspective, direction
                  • Then, decide whatever system is better for you

                  this is my cent!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A few more thoughts

                    David Allen has talked about having multiple Next Actions for a given project. The key phrase he uses is "moving parts". What are the various moving parts of this project? In building a garage, a person could, for instance, obtain permits as well as pick up construction materials without one waiting on the other. Therefore, you could put each of those tasks into the appropriate list.

                    DA has also said not to look for Next Actions in your Projects materials (so there are clearly defined borders between the two lists). However, you need to plan out some projects. The way (in my opinion) to make the two fit together is that you can have a list of milestones that need to be completed: Permits obtained, Appointment made, etc. You keep that list in your Project material BUT you are only using it to remind yourself of the overall plan. As the tasks become ripe (i.e. not waiting on any other tasks to be completed), you put them from your Project plan into your Next Actions list. You do not want to use your Project plan as a Next Action list or your boundaries will get fuzzy and the system becomes less reliable.

                    With regards to the 'trigger' for your next Next Action, those can come up during your Weekly Review. I usually find them during my Daily Review, however, when I skim through the Next Actions that are pending and the outstanding Projects, I will be reminded that I made progress on one project (made appointment, for example), so the Next Action (request time off from work for appointment) can then be created. You don't need/want to have to wait a week before realizing the next step to be taken in many instances.

                    Welcome to GTD. It has made a world of difference in my life.

                    JohnV474
                    Last edited by JohnV474; 03-02-2009, 03:27 PM.

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