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  • The dangers of linking tasks to projects, etc… (Project as an Outlook Contact item. A

    Hi,

    I've heard/read about avoiding linking tasks to projects, etc. as it tends to over-complicate things - but how can I resist?
    While trying to expose and rectify the bottleneck/timesuck issue which I'm facing during process and organizing phase, and during my weekly reviews, I came upon a website (Bill Kratz' method) wherein the author details steps to set up MS Outlook in a way that is much more automatic than the convoluted methods/system I'm currently operating. (Which only might be responsible for the friction I'm experiencing.)
    The site is rather old now and because of this I wonder if any of you more experienced GTD'rs have tried this format out and how well it worked for you. Or have all of you good black-belters entirely shunned the idea of linking and grouping in favor of intuitively knowing a projects NA, or an NA's project?
    Here is an excerpt from that site -
    "This method is based on treating a Project as if it were an Outlook Contact item. As a result, you can link all of your associated tasks, contacts, notes, journal entries, documents and any other “objects” to your project, and view them from an Activities Tab, just as you would with a “person” contact. You can maintain a simple list of projects and “drill down” through the Outlook forms to any level of detail desired. You can display your Next Actions on any task list or your calendar. You will have a complete history of your project at any time, and can archive that history if necessary. You can employ the full sorting, filtering and viewing capability of Outlook on any of your project data. http://home.comcast.net/~whkratz/id3.htm
    Speaking of intuitivity (intuitiveness?) Yeah, I sort of suspect that I'm being a little too anal about the exact size and shape of the hole I'm digging for myself, but… What else is there to do? A weekly review, or somethin?

    Reading through the forum using the search feature before posting this I heard mention of the netcentrics add in - I haven't got it yet. Does it do the same thing? Is it cumbersome? One post said that it complicates the weekly review somewhat. True?

  • #2
    ..and what do you think about this:

    https://secure.davidco.com/store/cat...al-p-16173.php

    This work pretty well, I'm using it regularly and I feel happy when I use it!

    Comment


    • #3
      Heh. I enjoyed reading your post!

      When I first implemented GTD, I linked NAs to Projects. I think I put the project name at the end of each action.

      In practice, I found it wasn't worth the time. For the vast majority of NAs, I could look at them and immediately knew what project they were part of. So why should I spend the time to write down the project for every single one?

      Now, I will still sometimes note within the NA the project I'm trying to accomplish, especially if the NA is extremely atomic ("Open Player's Guide"). Yes, I sometimes have to make an NA that simple so that I'll actually do it!

      So, I say, go ahead and try it for a while. Either it will be effective for you (in which case, great!), or you'll find it's not worth the effort. Either way, the exercise will teach you something.
      Last edited by Brent; 04-01-2009, 06:32 AM. Reason: Realized a better way to phrase the last sentence.

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      • #4
        I use 'Things' for Mac, so my NAs are automagically linked to projects. I have a few 'orphan' one-off actions that don't relate to a project, but the program itself sort of pushes you into grouping NAs by project.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Brent View Post
          In practice, I found it wasn't worth the time. For the vast majority of NAs, I could look at them and immediately knew what project they were part of. So why should I spend the time to write down the project for every single one?
          This was my experience as well.

          Katherine

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          • #6
            Linking NA to Projects

            For those who don't link NA to Projects, are there time you need to look at the list of NA for your Projects? If yes, how are you getting that list if you have an electronic list? Do you have those NA listed again in your Project support material? Or don't you ever need to review the past/current/future NA of a Project?

            I can tell which Project the NA belongs to when I do my NA or Weekly Review. But if I ever review my projects several months later, I do find it helpful that I can pull up a project and have all the NA that were linked to that project.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by petdr View Post
              For those who don't link NA to Projects, are there time you need to look at the list of NA for your Projects? If yes, how are you getting that list if you have an electronic list? Do you have those NA listed again in your Project support material? Or don't you ever need to review the past/current/future NA of a Project?

              I can tell which Project the NA belongs to when I do my NA or Weekly Review. But if I ever review my projects several months later, I do find it helpful that I can pull up a project and have all the NA that were linked to that project.
              Can you give an example? I can think of lots of situations where I might need to track time and effort on a project, all of which I would handle by logging my time using one of the many tools available for that purpose. But I can't think of a situation where I would need to log the specific NAs connected to a given project.

              Remember that the NA is just a bookmark. I might do two hours of work starting with an NA as simple as "@Read Widget Company project proposal." The reading might inspire phone calls, emails, further research online, all kinds of stuff. *That* activity I would log, if I needed to. But the specific NA that put me in motion doesn't really matter for my purposes.

              Katherine

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              • #8
                Hi Justin,

                I've been using the Projects-as-contacts method that Bill Kratz put together for around 4 years and its worked well for me.

                I initially had to invest some time in understanding how to set this up, but I found that investment worthwhile. The ability to see next actions by both project and context and be able to flick through the 2 quickly has been very useful. Over the 4 years that I've used ths approach I've added to it by using different task views in outlook and customising the default form for the Projects folder so that I can record custom information like project types, orginators, start and end dates, etc. Please note that I purchased the GTD whitepaper on customising Outlook so my system is a hybrid of the 2 approaches. This PDF is worth it if you are an outlook user.

                The custom views are great for being able to do things like seperate personal and work NA's (or see them both together), show older completed NA's that I can archive when required. I also use these views for completing weekly reviews.

                I have looked at alternative approaches and software to this approach, but the reasons I keep coming back to this set up are:

                1) Outlook is the corporate standard for my company,

                2) I like being able to drag and drop emails and documents directly into tasks to create a NA

                3) I've learned the keyboard shortcuts to outlook so well that a new system would take time to learn and slow me down.

                4) Custom views have really worked for me in speeding me through managing my NA lists.

                5) I have a lot of NA's (@ 120... ) I have found that I need the project linkage to know what that NA related to.

                Some of the cons of this approach:

                1) It doesn't synchronize the link to the custom project folder to my Windows Smartphone. The tasks come across, but there is no linkage to the project. This hasn't been a big deal though.

                2) It's time consuming to set up if you are not technically minded. Learning speed keys and short cuts has helped me get over this issue. Bill's web site has plenty of material in it to help you get to where you need to be to do this.

                If my job changed I might look at an online approach like Nozbe or Remember the Milk. But for now, My systerm works for me and I'd rather focus on the "behaviours and the doing" rather than the "systems and the software".

                Hope this helps

                Regards
                Warren

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kewms View Post
                  Can you give an example? ....I can't think of a situation where I would need to log the specific NAs connected to a given project.
                  Not the original poster but here are several examples where you need to know the sequence of next actions as you refer to the projects.

                  Planting rotation for a pasture. You need to know when you planted and what the last crop was including variety, the fertilizer used if any and the final AU days of grazing or hay you got. Weather data are also required to adjust the plans for the future.

                  Breeding plans for any domesticated species, plant or animal. If you don't know what actions you took, even years later, you will have no clue where to go next. And since the outcome can't be known for years it's easy to lose the details if you can't refer back to the specific mating plans and next actions you took.

                  Weaving projects all require that you keep track of the details of the WPI, EPI, PPI, fiber type, twist angle, twist direction etc of the yarns involved because how the fabric behaves in the end will all depend on your actions as you create it. If the fabric isn't as you wanted you have to be able to go back and see what you did to figure out what to try next to get the outcome you wanted. You need to refer to the prior next actions to determine what to try next.

                  In general any project that covers a long time span requires you to keep details and any project where the next actions results may be applicable to a future project will also require that linkage.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by petdr View Post
                    For those who don't link NA to Projects, are there time you need to look at the list of NA for your Projects? If yes, how are you getting that list if you have an electronic list? Do you have those NA listed again in your Project support material? Or don't you ever need to review the past/current/future NA of a Project?
                    As soon as I look at the project, I recall what is or are the actions for this project in my actions list. That's because I review the entire action lists once a day. So looking at a project, I don't need to search the actions list for a related action.

                    I can tell which Project the NA belongs to when I do my NA or Weekly Review. But if I ever review my projects several months later, I do find it helpful that I can pull up a project and have all the NA that were linked to that project.
                    Dangerous !!!!! One of the most important factors is doing the weekly review weekly. If it's a project, it should have been looked at once a week! Several months is just too much!!

                    Regards,
                    Abhay

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                      Not the original poster but here are several examples where you need to know the sequence of next actions as you refer to the projects.

                      Planting rotation for a pasture. You need to know when you planted and what the last crop was including variety, the fertilizer used if any and the final AU days of grazing or hay you got. Weather data are also required to adjust the plans for the future.
                      Oh, I agree. There are lots and lots of situations where you need a log of what you did. My point is that the *list of next actions* does not necessarily provide that log. If your next action was "@farm till back pasture," then that information alone doesn't actually help you much. Certainly not as much as "September 15, 2008. Tilled cornstalks under and planted XYZ variety alfalfa as cover crop for back pasture. Used xx pounds of seed, mixed with yy pounds of Type Z fertilizer. Weather was rainy, 60 degrees."

                      If you need a log, keep one.

                      Katherine

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                      • #12
                        I found projects-as-contacts didn't work for me so I have projects as task items . This is mainly so projects and actions both sync across all my devices - projects (and higher levels) have a separate category.

                        When I do link actions to projects - I use the companies field (each project has a number). This does make for a neat search that shows projects at the top and actions - either completed or not - lower down. You can also link projects to areas of focus etc. in a similar way.

                        However, I find I rarely have the need to link actions to projects in this way - for most of my work it just doesn't seem worth it.

                        Bryn

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by petdr View Post
                          For those who don't link NA to Projects, are there time you need to look at the list of NA for your Projects?
                          Ah, but I don't have lists of NAs for each Project! Each Project has one NA.

                          If I think of more than one thing to do on a Project, I'll write them up in a list and keep it in my project support materials in either A-Z reference or on the computer.

                          If you're talking about past NAs, nope, I don't record those. Don't see the value, personally, but then I've never really thought about it.

                          Does that help?
                          Last edited by Brent; 04-02-2009, 07:03 AM. Reason: Fixed typo

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kewms View Post
                            Oh, I agree. There are lots and lots of situations where you need a log of what you did. My point is that the *list of next actions* does not necessarily provide that log.
                            I define my next actions as completely as possible so in my case a list of all the next actions taken on a project is a log file. And I like to see the actions taken on a project by project basis when I review them. Creating a separate log is cumbersome when a simple listing of NAs taken will do.

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                            • #15
                              Depends on the project

                              Originally posted by petdr View Post
                              For those who don't link NA to Projects, are there time you need to look at the list of NA for your Projects? If yes, how are you getting that list if you have an electronic list? Do you have those NA listed again in your Project support material? Or don't you ever need to review the past/current/future NA of a Project?

                              I can tell which Project the NA belongs to when I do my NA or Weekly Review. But if I ever review my projects several months later, I do find it helpful that I can pull up a project and have all the NA that were linked to that project.
                              Lots of things have been said that I agree with:

                              1. One NA per project in most cases, more is usually counterproductive.
                              2. I usually do not link NA to project or project to NA - it's usually just obvious.

                              The exceptions:

                              1. Sometimes there is more than one NA that could be done next. Since order is not relevant I put them all on the list. Sometime they have different contexts and energy levels required, so which one actually is next gets decided in the moment.

                              2. Some projects are projects not in the GTD sense, but in the Project Management sense: a project with a long list of tasks, to be done by a great host of people, with a lot of $$$ being spent. These are done with full project plans (and the project name on my projects list). If I have a personal NA from that Project Plan, then I add it to my list. Waiting for's are usually handled in project review meetings. The point of the GTD project is that 99% of the time you need a simple system.

                              Finally, another software product that I can recommend for Outlook users is ClearContext. In their system categories are used to assign context, and folders are used for projects. They call a project/folder a Topic and allow you to assign them to emails, tasks, and calendar items. I use it everyday so in a sense I do link projects and NAs, but it only comes up for me as a way to look back at history. They have a GTD guide here: http://www.clearcontext.com/resource...k_with_GTD.pdf. In addition lots of help and videos on the site. The Personal edition is free.

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