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Monitoring progress of a large task?

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  • Monitoring progress of a large task?

    Let's say my task is to reduce my e-mail inbox to 0 and sort through all emails, implementing GTD to do this. This is my task. First of all, is this an action, or a project? I think it's an action since it is a physical action of just doing it.

    Regardless of which, how do I monitor the progress of this, since it will take literally 8 or 9 hours (I have 4000 emails to process)?

    Create a project, with tasks like "Reduce inbox to 3500", "Reduce inbox to 3000", and so on...? For that matter, this could be applied to anything, like "lay bricks for new wall"--how do I monitor progress of something that really is just a bunch of labor on a physical action?

  • #2
    You've got to chunk it down.

    Getting your Inbox to 0 from 4,000 is a project. (In the future, it will be a daily task.)

    I'd move all emails into another mailbox ("OldInbox") so you can start fresh. Each day, aim to reach Inbox Zero at least once. (I use a Daily Action Card to keep track of daily tasks/goals.)

    For your project "Clear OldInbox" you'd list actions to process X emails at a time (i.e. "Process 25 emails"). The key to building momentum here is that each action should be small. No one can process 500 emails in one sitting. Instead, aim for 25 at a time. Each batch of 25 would be its own action.

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    • #3
      Good advice - treat it like a project

      Once upon a time I had 30,000+ emails sitting in my inbox.
      Yup.
      D-r-e-a-d-f-u-l-l

      I set up a project to clean house.
      Moved the whole lot to a holding pen folder and then did little tasks to clean them out, 10 minutes at a time over a fresh cup of coffee every afternoon.

      Some days I'd only get through a few and others 100 or more but 10 minutes was easy to commit to and bribing myself with coffee certainly didn't hurt!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by joshdance View Post
        how do I monitor progress of something that really is just a bunch of labor on a physical action?
        I do it several different ways depending on the project.

        For projects that I am procrastinating on finishing I may break an action down to a small level

        Here is a typical example: "Weave one quill on placemat warp."

        Or I might break it down by time period: "Spend half an hour skirting 2009 fleeces"

        Other projects that I am doing just fine on I just have a next action that is never completed but periodically I work on it and add in the notes how far I got & the date.

        Example: "remove welded wire from west house old elk fence" and my notes may say 5/31 got past garage 6/15 to corner 7/5 turned corner

        Another example is: "spin yarn for Moy gown" and the notes say 1500 yards singles done

        This single action will take me years to complete. It just sits on my next actions list and I work on it when I am in the spinning context (inside by myself) and have the energy and attention needed to keep the spinning consistent enough for weaving. It doesn't particularly bother me on that one that I am not making fast progress.

        But the placemat weaving is also a long term project but it's bothering me that I'm not done so I broke it down to a task I can complete easily to get the win of checking something off. I catch the projects that need more refinement in actions at weekly review.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by joshdance View Post
          how do I monitor progress of something that really is just a bunch of labor on a physical action?
          In the case of emptying my inbox I would likely not even put it on a projects list since it's staring me in the face every day and I am quite unlikely to forget it.

          However if you feel you need a reminder then put "Empty inbox" on your projects list. Work on it for as long as you can, and during your weekly review if it's not done yet then just leave "Empty Inbox" on your projects list so the reminder is still there. Don't bother updating it with the # of items since having that information on your projects list doesn't really help (in my opinion).

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          • #6
            I find for myself that I often forget that "Next Actions" aren't a list of steps in a recipe so much as they are bread crumbs on the journey through a project. So, sometimes I'll ask this same question: I have this long, involved amorphous thing to do like "R&D XYZ" that is too big to handle in one sitting, but I can't see a way to break it down any further. I just have to sit down at my computer a do the R&D, which may be multiple sessions and lead down lots of rabbit trails. Or, a better example might be "Solve problem xyz." Often, the only NA is investigate it and solve it, with few if any discrete steps.

            Then I remember that NAs are placeholders to remind me where I am on something, as in "The next step is ...". Reframing my thinking in this way, seeing NAs as placeholders on the journey and not a map from start to finish, I just have to notate in my lists where I left off/what's next. In the case of 4,000 emails, this may be "Process email in folder XYZ" and I may notate this NA in my @Computer list several times again and again while I'm nibbling away at those emails. The notation just there to remind me there is more nibbling to do. In my problem-solving project, it may be a notation of where I am in my thinking or what I want to look into next or where I left off in what I had been looking into.

            I hope this is helpful.

            Comment


            • #7
              Personal informatics for keeping up with progress

              One advance I made recently in the area of tracking progress was picking up the idea of keeping personal informatics from this article in WSJ.

              From there, I discovered Daytum. I use it to track how many miles I walk (I'm training to walk the Breast Cancer 3-Day in Sept) as well as how much money I raise for the cause. It's been a great way to keep up with my progress as well as share how I'm doing with others.

              Best wishes,
              Tara

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tara View Post
                One advance I made recently in the area of tracking progress was picking up the idea of keeping personal informatics from this article in WSJ.

                From there, I discovered Daytum. I use it to track how many miles I walk (I'm training to walk the Breast Cancer 3-Day in Sept) as well as how much money I raise for the cause. It's been a great way to keep up with my progress as well as share how I'm doing with others.

                Best wishes,
                Tara
                Hello Tara,

                I like to have my information portable so I can access it while waiting for a haircut or in line at a drive through. I use TraxItAll http://www.traxitall.com/ on my Palm TX. This cleanly written app is excellent at tracking anything.

                I've used it to track pages read, as a study log, to track Ab workouts, Miles ridden on my bike workouts, etc...

                Pablo

                Comment


                • #9
                  Cool app!

                  Originally posted by Pablo View Post
                  Hello Tara,

                  I like to have my information portable so I can access it while waiting for a haircut or in line at a drive through. I use TraxItAll http://www.traxitall.com/ on my Palm TX. This cleanly written app is excellent at tracking anything.

                  I've used it to track pages read, as a study log, to track Ab workouts, Miles ridden on my bike workouts, etc...

                  Pablo
                  Hi Pablo,

                  What a cool app! if it only came in an iPhone version...

                  Thanks!
                  Tara

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thank you all for your helpful comments!

                    Actually my inbox is down to zero now--I just worked through the stuff, and now have about 300 emails referenced and 0 in the inbox. Thanks all!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Very well put

                      Originally posted by Jon Walthour View Post
                      I find for myself that I often forget that "Next Actions" aren't a list of steps in a recipe so much as they are bread crumbs on the journey through a project. So, sometimes I'll ask this same question: I have this long, involved amorphous thing to do like "R&D XYZ" that is too big to handle in one sitting, but I can't see a way to break it down any further. I just have to sit down at my computer a do the R&D, which may be multiple sessions and lead down lots of rabbit trails. Or, a better example might be "Solve problem xyz." Often, the only NA is investigate it and solve it, with few if any discrete steps.

                      Then I remember that NAs are placeholders to remind me where I am on something, as in "The next step is ...". Reframing my thinking in this way, seeing NAs as placeholders on the journey and not a map from start to finish, I just have to notate in my lists where I left off/what's next. In the case of 4,000 emails, this may be "Process email in folder XYZ" and I may notate this NA in my @Computer list several times again and again while I'm nibbling away at those emails. The notation just there to remind me there is more nibbling to do. In my problem-solving project, it may be a notation of where I am in my thinking or what I want to look into next or where I left off in what I had been looking into.

                      I hope this is helpful.
                      Your points/ analogies resonated very well with me--I too forget and can get way too granular at times....well put.

                      Comment

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