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  • Question about projects and next actions

    Hi,

    I got the GTD book and am trying to implement it. I currently have a list of all my projects and the task associated with each one. However, I'd like to clarify how to handle all the tasks for the projects using GTD. Where do I list all the task for a project, such as planning a conference. If I put the tasks under the groupings "Computer", "Errands", etc., how do I know what order they need to be completed in, which fall under this project and not another, and how do I know when it is complete?

    Any help to better understand the system would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

    Mark

  • #2
    Thanks for the reponse. A couple follow up questions:

    1) What if the next action is stalled or can't be completed? Do I take it off the Next Action list and replace it by another action?

    2) What if there are multiple next actions happening at the same time? How do I keep the Next Action in order for this?

    Thanks.

    Comment


    • #3
      Next Actions.

      Originally posted by Markymark View Post
      1) What if the next action is stalled or can't be completed? Do I take it off the Next Action list and replace it by another action?
      By definition Next Action is immediately doable in a given context.

      Originally posted by Markymark View Post
      2) What if there are multiple next actions happening at the same time? How do I keep the Next Action in order for this?
      Do them in any order you like (in a given context). By definition no Next Action depends on any other Next Action.

      Comment


      • #4
        Tie Actions to Projects work-around

        Originally posted by Markymark View Post
        Hi,

        I got the GTD book and am trying to implement it. I currently have a list of all my projects and the task associated with each one. However, I'd like to clarify how to handle all the tasks for the projects using GTD. Where do I list all the task for a project, such as planning a conference. If I put the tasks under the groupings "Computer", "Errands", etc., how do I know what order they need to be completed in, which fall under this project and not another, and how do I know when it is complete?

        Any help to better understand the system would be greatly appreciated.

        Thanks

        Mark
        Hey Mark,

        This is how I tie next actions to projects. I use Outlook on my desktop. Beyond Contacts on my Palm TX. I have Context names of *Projects, *Someday/Maybe, @Anywhere, @Calls, @Computer, @Errands, @Hangar, @Home, @Shopping, @Work.

        When I create a project in Outlook I tag it with the *Projects. The Project looks like this in Outlook. (Camper de-winterization)
        In the notes field under the project name I put the Next actions in the order that I want to complete them.
        4/19/2009 (Camper de-winterization) De-tarp camper.
        4/23/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Deliver battery charger to hangar.
        4/23/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Charge battery on camper.
        4/25/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Charge spare battery.
        5/11/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Empty camper.
        5/11/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Take waterhoses to hangar.
        5/11/2009(Camper de-winterization) Clear anti-freeze from waterlines.
        5/21/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Mop camper floor.
        5/21/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Clean vinyl.
        5/24/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Put tarp over camper.
        (Camper de-winterization) Locate door clips for camper door.

        I only have one next action per project showing at one time. I then copy paste the next action to the correlating context. In my example here, I have copy/pasted (Camper de-winterization) Locate door clips for camper door. to the @Computer context. Once I complete the next action I mark it as completed in the @Computer context, & then go back to the *Project (Camper de-winterization) Locate door clips for camper door & precede the Next Action with a date to show when it was completed. I then Add another next action or series of actions till I complete the project.

        My *Projects will show each individual project sorted by alpha. My context categories will only show one individual next action per project also sorted by alpha.

        I use a Markings (Moleskin clone) as my capture device. I can add new items quicker this way & sometime during the day I empty my capture device into Outlook & then sync it to my palm device.

        Pablo

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by GTDWorks
          Remember that you will only want to list one next action for each project that you have - no more.
          Wrong. You can have as many next actions per project as your like (or better: as it is practical). The important thing is to make sure, that you have *at least* one next action per project in your context lists (or the calendar/tickler).

          Trying to place many next actions for each project into your next actions lists will result in a confusing mess.
          Next actions are by definition action steps you can act on immediately. Actions you presumably will do at a later stage of the project, those go into your *project plan* which also is called "project support materials".

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by GTDWorks
            Remember that you will only want to list one next action for each project that you have - no more.
            Multiple next actions are only a problem if they are dependent. If I only listed a single next action list for my projects nothing would ever get finished. Instead I list as many actions related to a single project that I can do now no matter the sequence in their appropriate context. With nearly a hundred active projects right now that is the only way to handle it. If you have fewer active projects then it may make sense to only list one action but I find that impossible to work.

            Here's an example where I have many actions for a single project.

            Project
            Baatwurst (develop sheep sausages we can sell)

            Actions on my current Next Actions lists
            Take boneless shoulders to town drop point for delivery to chef in Aspen for Italian and Curry recipe development (context in town)
            Call slaughterhouse re the USDA application & approval for a legal label for 2 kolbassi recipes (phone)
            Take samples from first batch of kolbassi and Polish to X for taste test (context other town)
            E-mail Label manuf co re price quote on 2 x 4 inch USDA approved glue sticky label 1 color for 2 kolbassi recipes get both rush and normal timeframes and quotes (computer internet)
            Identify 30 rams for butcher (outside with help)

            None of those actions depends on another to be completed and all have to be done.

            Now the next action in the project, Get labels printed, is waiting for USDA approval and the quote. Only once those 2 things are done can I continue. And in fact there are several actions that can be done simultaneously once I get offical approval of the label. I can order the labels, I can sort the butcher rams out into the holding pen and I can call the slaughterhouse and schedule a harvest date. Edited to add, actually I can't call for a harvest date until I verify we are out of slaughter withdrawal from the spring dewormer, forgot that because I have it already in my system as rams off slaughter withdrawal and a start date for when the boys are legal for harvest.

            If I only had one action on my lists for such a large project it would never get finished as I'd miss the chance to move it forward when I am in the appropriate context.
            Last edited by Oogiem; 05-25-2009, 07:16 AM. Reason: Correct the call info due to slaughter withdrawal issues

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Markymark View Post
              1) What if the next action is stalled or can't be completed? Do I take it off the Next Action list and replace it by another action?

              2) What if there are multiple next actions happening at the same time? How do I keep the Next Action in order for this?
              On 1 yes, if a next action is stalled or waiting then it's not really the next action and you need to think about the project more.

              On 2 I use Omnifocus so under my projects I can set up things to either be parallel (like the baatwurst example above) or sequential or mixed. The baatwurst project has several actions that can all be done at once, then a group that must be sequential and then more that can be done in parallel. As part of my project planning aI often forward think about actions and projects and they are waiting or not available due to dependencies so I can easily see them all. At the moment I don't have a paper file for the sausages project. Eventually I'll have one when we get formal USDA approval of the label and I will also document our final recipes there. Right now my project support is all in notes attached to the omnifocus actions

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Markymark View Post
                1) What if the next action is stalled or can't be completed? Do I take it off the Next Action list and replace it by another action?
                Wow -- there's a lot packed into this little question! And I think it's something everyone runs into.

                Stalled Next Actions. I think the answer is going to depend on why and how it's stalled.

                * It's a "Waiting For" in disguise. It could be a traditional Waiting For -- you need someone else to do something first. It might be waiting for the right context, which has a lot of sub-categories. Maybe it needs you to be online, or to have a high level of energy. Maybe it needs to be done in September (which is just another sort of Waiting For, after all.)

                * It has hidden prerequisites. Are you sure there is absolutely nothing that needs to be done first before this particular Next Action? If you had nothing else to do in your life, could you work on it immediately?

                * It's just too big. Instead of "Read War and Peace" try "Read the first chapter of War and Peace", if you see what I mean. And double-check that "Get War and Peace from the library" isn't your real Next Action.

                * It's not actually a physical action you can take. Give the action verb a good hard look -- if it's something like "decide" then it's going to be problematic.

                * You no longer feel committed. Maybe it's time to move it to the Someday/Maybe list. Maybe it's time to decide it's Trash and you're okay with never doing it. Does it still align with your Horizons of Focus?

                Hopefully something there helps you get moving.


                Cheers,
                Roger

                Comment


                • #9
                  similar approach

                  Originally posted by Pablo View Post
                  Hey Mark,

                  This is how I tie next actions to projects. I use Outlook on my desktop. Beyond Contacts on my Palm TX. I have Context names of *Projects, *Someday/Maybe, @Anywhere, @Calls, @Computer, @Errands, @Hangar, @Home, @Shopping, @Work.

                  When I create a project in Outlook I tag it with the *Projects. The Project looks like this in Outlook. (Camper de-winterization)
                  In the notes field under the project name I put the Next actions in the order that I want to complete them.
                  4/19/2009 (Camper de-winterization) De-tarp camper.
                  4/23/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Deliver battery charger to hangar.
                  4/23/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Charge battery on camper.
                  4/25/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Charge spare battery.
                  5/11/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Empty camper.
                  5/11/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Take waterhoses to hangar.
                  5/11/2009(Camper de-winterization) Clear anti-freeze from waterlines.
                  5/21/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Mop camper floor.
                  5/21/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Clean vinyl.
                  5/24/2009 (Camper de-winterization) Put tarp over camper.
                  (Camper de-winterization) Locate door clips for camper door.

                  I only have one next action per project showing at one time. I then copy paste the next action to the correlating context. In my example here, I have copy/pasted (Camper de-winterization) Locate door clips for camper door. to the @Computer context. Once I complete the next action I mark it as completed in the @Computer context, & then go back to the *Project (Camper de-winterization) Locate door clips for camper door & precede the Next Action with a date to show when it was completed. I then Add another next action or series of actions till I complete the project.

                  My *Projects will show each individual project sorted by alpha. My context categories will only show one individual next action per project also sorted by alpha.

                  I use a Markings (Moleskin clone) as my capture device. I can add new items quicker this way & sometime during the day I empty my capture device into Outlook & then sync it to my palm device.

                  Pablo
                  I use MS Outlook. Had made a separate tasks folder for Projects, but then seemed to be more work keeping that and next actions list compared to the following:

                  -separate column called "projects" that is placed just to the left of the "subject" column
                  -subject column includes multiple next actions in the project eg:

                  project=buy new bike for wife
                  next action= research on internet//talk to local bike shop//talk to friends//buy bike

                  This method:
                  -keeps next actions for a project all grouped together.
                  -allows projects and next actions to be seen on the same screen
                  -automatically keep next actions organized in proper order

                  If a project is too complicated for this system, then maybe it is actually more than one project

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I had always heard and read and practiced since Day #1 of GTD that if I have a Project: "Deliver Speech to XYZ Conference" that I would list only one physical, visible Next Action on the appropriate context list for that "speech" project (ex. "Open Mind Manager and Outline Ideas for XYZ Speech" (@computer).

                    I am now learning from CPU_Modern that I am "wrong" and that this practice is incorrect. I should, rather, be collecting and listing all the many actions for my "speech" project and place them together on my context lists and do them whenever I'm in that particular context list. Is this correct?

                    I had always added those additional or "not yet" actions to the note field in Outlook under the Project Name (if I, indeed, needed to list them all out) and did not add them to any context list until I had completed the prior next action for the project. I have managed huge projects completing one next action, then the next...then the next...then the next...and always delivered the project on time, on budget, and with a Mind Like Water. I have had as many as 180 projects in my system at a time.

                    I've gleaned new truth today and will go back to my tattered GTD book and re-learn this most basic of GTD practices again!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      CPU_Modern is right.

                      Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                      I had always heard and read and practiced since Day #1 of GTD that if I have a Project: "Deliver Speech to XYZ Conference" that I would list only one physical, visible Next Action on the appropriate context list for that "speech" project (ex. "Open Mind Manager and Outline Ideas for XYZ Speech" (@computer).

                      I am now learning from CPU_Modern that I am "wrong" and that this practice is incorrect. I should, rather, be collecting and listing all the many actions for my "speech" project and place them together on my context lists and do them whenever I'm in that particular context list. Is this correct?
                      Yes, CPU_Modern is right. Your practice is not wrong - it is less efficient.

                      If you have
                      1. "Open Mind Manager and Outline Ideas for XYZ Speech" (@computer)
                      2. "Take a picture of a duck for XYZ speech" (@park)
                      you should not ignore ducks in the park because you haven't completed the "Outline Ideas" Next Action.

                      All independent, immediately doable actions should be put on your @context lists as soon as possible.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        When I work on a project, I will often process multiple next actions at one sitting. Less efficient, maybe, but has worked well for me. When I have completed what I wish to do on that one project, I will mark my place with the very next action and move on to whatever is next.

                        The thought of populating my lists with many many actions per project is new to me. It would make an already "full" system much, much fuller. I will process this idea, however, and see what I can do with it.

                        Thanks to those who pointedly let me know the error of my ways.
                        Last edited by GTDWorks; 05-27-2009, 05:29 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                          When I work on a project, I will often process multiple next actions at one sitting. Less efficient, maybe, but has worked well for me. When I have completed what I wish to do on that one project, I will mark my place with the very next action and move on to whatever is next.
                          Yes.

                          You only need to write down one Next Action per Project. You can write down more, as long as they're completely independent, and you're not overloading your lists with hundreds of Actions.

                          The point is being able to answer the question "What can I do right now to move forward on my Projects?" in any given context.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks, Brent!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                              I should, rather, be collecting and listing all the many actions for my "speech" project and place them together on my context lists and do them whenever I'm in that particular context list.
                              This is really about the "Natural Project Planning" process that perhaps doesn't get quite enough pages in the 3 books so far.

                              In that process, step 3 is Brainstorming, which is where all these actions would come from. Then in step 4 they are evaluated and arranged and so forth.

                              In my own experience, I've found it easy and tempting to skip through a lot of the process. My project is this, so of course I need to do this next, and then that, and so forth. But I've rarely been disappointed by slowing down just a bit and grinding through the process. I've found it can open up a lot more creativity in my thinking about how to accomplish what I want.

                              So I'd recommend reading over the process again, and trying it out a couple times.

                              Comment

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