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Action directly from the Project list

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  • Action directly from the Project list

    I have limited number of contexts: @Home and @Work because all of the tools I need are always at hand at the both locations. So it looks like there's no need in @Context list. Do I really need action lists then, why not to use Project list as a trigger point for a next action. In this case I just scroll through my Project list, choose the one I'd like to act on, guess next action (that's usually seconds as David Allen puts out in his GTD book) and do it right there. Anyone tried that approach or am I the Kopernik?

  • #2
    Originally posted by anton View Post
    I just scroll through my Project list, choose the one I'd like to act on, guess next action (that's usually seconds as David Allen puts out in his GTD book) and do it right there.
    If you so so few projects, don't track possible future projects and so few contexts that you can make that work then that's fine, sounds like GTD isn't really the right tool for you.

    But I'd look at your contexts more carefully. Are you really sure you have all tools available in both contexts all the time?

    I thought I had everything available as well but when I really looked that was not true. Some things I can only do during normal business hours. Some things require an internet connection, some do not, some require help and some do not. So I really have more contexts than I thought. It's just that my contexts are not like most are described here.

    Once I figured that out contexts made a lot more sense to me.

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    • #3
      There are major benefits from having the next actions for a project predefined:

      1. You define the next action right after you have worked on or reviewed the project, so it is clear in your mind.

      2. You don't have to open the project support material to "guess" the next action unless you need to.

      3. No need to think when you don't want to or just not in that frame of mind, such as during the snoozy time of the day or after a complex report writing session.

      4. You can just work straight down your context lists.

      5. A simple next action "looks" much less complex, such as "review verb tense of last paragraph" rather than "translate Dante's Inferno". Less overwhelm.

      I'm sure there are more.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by anton View Post
        I have limited number of contexts: @Home and @Work because all of the tools I need are always at hand at the both locations. So it looks like there's no need in @Context list. Do I really need action lists then, why not to use Project list as a trigger point for a next action. In this case I just scroll through my Project list, choose the one I'd like to act on, guess next action (that's usually seconds as David Allen puts out in his GTD book) and do it right there. Anyone tried that approach or am I the Kopernik?
        The point of a Next Actions list is not that every NA has a context. I also have only a few contexts; I find my clients really mess up their systems by going context-crazy (@Computer @Internet @Firefox... unnecessary). Contexts are to make batch-processing easier... so you may want to consider @Phone and @Errands.

        The problem with acting off your Projects list is that you're creating a lot of mental resistance. You have to spend at least a few seconds on each project "guessing" what the Next Action is, remembering if you're waiting on something for it (i.e. a price quote, approval from your boss), etc. If you list out the *exact* Next Actions that you need to take -- "Call Bob and ask to borrow his lawnmower" "Order a gross of pencils from Oriental Trading Co" then you don't have to think at all when you look at your list -- you can just immediately act.

        I'd at least try out the Next Action list for awhile and see if you find yourself getting more done.

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        • #5
          The benefit of context lists is distinct from the benefit of Next Actions: one lets you make the best use of resources immediately at hand, and be more efficient by batching like tasks together, while the other lets you move forward in a short window of time (thus making more effective use of your time), conquer procrastination, and jump into a project with the minimum amount of 'ramp-up' time.

          I'd say context lists are optional for some folks, but NAs are vital. As other folks have pointed out, NAs let you keep a bookmark for exactly where each project is at any moment, as well as letting you know which projects/NAs you can work on at any moment.

          My advice is to start with one single NA list, and see how you go. After a week or month or whatever, you might decide you'd be better off using a few simple context lists, or you might decide that one's enough. But don't ditch the NA concept - it's one of the most powerful parts of GTD, if you train yourself to use it right.

          Comment


          • #6
            Warning: Please pardon the sarcasm. ...

            So you're saying you don't have a cell phone on which you might make a phone call while you're out and about? And, for that matter, that you never are "out and about" running errands--picking up groceries, your clothes from the dry cleaners, nails at the hardware store? You don't interact with anyone else, anyone on whom you might have to wait for something--a decision, something to be done by them, etc.? You don't have anyone else in your life whom you might want to talk to about anything going on in your life? Everyone has multiple contexts: an @Calls list for the phone calls to be made, an @Errands list for all those things to be picked up and done while you're out and about or on your way home from work, an @Waiting For list for all the things you're waiting on other people to finish or get back with you on, and one or more @Agendas lists for all those things you might want to talk about with a spouse, co-worker, friend, etc. Contexts aren't just physical places or physical tools. They can also be circumstances, mindsets, anything that describes a certain condition (for example, "@Mindless" for those things to be done on that late afternoon when you're beat and don't have the mental bandwidth to much of anything).

            And so few projects? Remember the definition of a project: ANYTHING that requires more than one step to complete. Do you meet friends for lunch or dinner? That requires (1) one or more calls and (2) waiting for them to get back with you on a date at the very least. What about simple things like making dinner for the family (1. Decide what to make, 2. Check I have everything I need, 3. Go shopping at the grocery store (@Grocery Store context), 4. etc. etc. etc.) or ordering pizza because you decide in Step 1 in the previous project you don't want to cook tonight. Then you have to 1. Decide what to have on it, 2. Call pizza parlor, 3. Wait for delivery, 4. Pay the driver, etc. etc. Now, you make even the simplest things projects and that can get a little ridiculous, but how often do we hear coaches at the David Allen Company and on these forums saying that so often action lists are full of what are really projects.

            I would encourage you to take a closer look at your life in light of the GTD methodology. I'm sure you'll find that there is more complexity there to be organized into projects and context-based action lists than you might at first think.

            Hope this helps.
            Last edited by Jon Walthour; 07-14-2009, 07:24 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Interesting response.

              It might be useful to elaborate on the degree of granularity associated with the break point between an action and a project. The pizza dinner helps one understand how component actions are identified and sequenced, but really - a list of four steps plus to order a pizza? Would one actually list it out and assign tasks to context lists? There is a point of practicality where one does not need to list things out, and it might be more instructive (and less sarcastic) to offer a bit of perspective on the granularity question. By your definition, the act of getting out of bed should be considered a project, and while by EXTREMELY strict definition it may be, it hardly warrants treatment as a project (unless one wants a constipated lifestyle by taking GTD to an unrealistic extreme...).

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              • #8
                Uff, so many replies, thanks! Now is my turn to clear the things up.

                I have totally about 200 projects. I felt overwhelmed and moved the greater amount to my SM list. Now I have 13 active projects that I control and move on consistently.

                Sure I have a cell phone, people around me and doing errands. But my executive world is so fast that I can't have @Errands. I'm always on the way to somewhere with no free slots to stop by. I have to schedule errands so I keep a shopping list for that scheduled time. The same with people. Either I schedule a meeting to discuss something I have on their plate or call them. I don't have @Waiting for, I prefer an active calling on a person, I could always tickle that call.

                Now for the next actions of the projects. My projects are not made in stone (sales, people, politics). And next actions change while time passes. Sometimes 1 hour is enough to change it. So today it could be @Work: Call Jon to agree on the company structure and tomorrow @Work: Call Bill to fire Jon And that's the life, the next action is vital for some time after which it becomes useless spend of time. I can look at the project and the appropriate to time and place next action comes to my mind.

                You see I really have no contexts (if I have something it's scheduled), I have a long project list limited with SM list, and next actions vary in time. So why not to use project list as an action trigger?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by anton View Post
                  I have limited number of contexts: @Home and @Work because all of the tools I need are always at hand at the both locations. So it looks like there's no need in @Context list. Do I really need action lists then, why not to use Project list as a trigger point for a next action. In this case I just scroll through my Project list, choose the one I'd like to act on, guess next action (that's usually seconds as David Allen puts out in his GTD book) and do it right there. Anyone tried that approach or am I the Kopernik?
                  Try searching the "Pigpog" method of developing action lists. Essentially, single actions and projects exist on the same list, though they are stated as the next action, as in:

                  Do This (project name & details).

                  With an electronic list, it's a bit easier because (depending on software) you can add and track project details with the next action. Planning next actions is still required in your periodic review, but you can keep projects and next actions essentially within the same list (or lists, if you use contexts). With a paper list, you can keep your next action(s) on a project summary page or file, and place the name of the project on your list as a trigger to check project details (which contains your next action[s]), though I think this approach would be cumbersome at best.

                  Best,

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sure I have a cell phone, people around me and doing errands. But my executive world is so fast that I can't have @Errands. I'm always on the way to somewhere with no free slots to stop by.
                    What if you get stood up, or the person you're meeting keeps you waiting? I've known several executives who, although not practitioners of GTD, always kept a list of phone calls about their person (including number, name, and purpose) to take advantage of those little windows of time. Remember, GTD was designed originally for executives, so it takes your situation into account.

                    And what about making calls on the way there? That's one of the most common uses of the @Phone list, which is itself one of the most common context lists: you can clip the headset to your ear and deal with one or more NAs as you travel.

                    I have to schedule errands so I keep a shopping list for that scheduled time. The same with people. Either I schedule a meeting to discuss something I have on their plate or call them.
                    That shopping list you mention is a context list. And your agendas for people you meet are also context lists. A context list is just a list of things to address when you're in a particular context, whether that's at the shops, travelling, or being in the company of a particular person.

                    If you're meeting with someone, it helps to have on hand everything you need to talk to them about, otherwise you waste a lot of time having multiple meetings.

                    Also, if things change so quickly, do you have to cancel/reschedule a lot of meetings? That's a big efficiency drag in itself.

                    I don't have @Waiting for, I prefer an active calling on a person, I could always tickle that call.
                    The WF list just reminds you about following up on things - it's a bit more flexible than tickling it, because (a) you might have an unexpected opportunity to follow up before it comes up in the tickler, and (b) you might not be in an appropriate context (whether time, energy, or whatever) to address it when you take it out of the tickler.

                    Also, if you're always calling out, you're losing efficiency - let them run around, and only prod them when needful. You'll get more done that way.

                    You see I really have no contexts (if I have something it's scheduled), I have a long project list limited with SM list, and next actions vary in time. So why not to use project list as an action trigger?
                    It may be the case that your situation is different, in which case you can do as you choose. But before you toss out the NAs with the bathwater, think very carefully: are you completely sure that you won't get any benefit at all from having your NAs listed and ready to go?

                    Remember, too, that one of the benefits of GTD is the mental clarity: just about any GTD-er will tell you that there's a massive payoff once you get the hang of things. The reason is that your mental RAM is no longer jammed up with having to remember (consciously or sub-consciously) lots disconnected bits (such as the context associated with a particular project), and so the mind seems to work faster and much more creatively.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                      Also, if you're always calling out, you're losing efficiency - let them run around, and only prod them when needful. You'll get more done that way.
                      Could you please clarify what do you mean "when you're calling out, you're loosing efficiency - let them run around...

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by anton View Post
                        Could you please clarify what do you mean "when you're calling out, you're loosing efficiency - let them run around...
                        I'm not unstuffed, but I'd say: there's a danger in calling your people so often that your calls are interrupting their work. It's ineffective to call other people at whatever time's most convenient for you; they have their own schedule, which you're effectively not respecting.

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                        • #13
                          Brent, I give them as much time as I think they should spent on the task (if we speak about tasks delegation) and I give them one week in between projects reports (if we speak about project delegatation). So I put @Work Call Joe re: remind of the scan of the decument I need (starts in 2 days). I think 2 days is enough to scan a document? I could put it into @Waiting folder but taking my reality into account it would take to much time to scan 50 items of that list trying to figure out which of them are due...

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                          • #14
                            This is a great thread

                            I use MindManager so I can add next actions to each of my project topics and add a context as a text marker for each NA.

                            I've also defined a query for each context which let's me have the best of both worlds in that I can predefine NAs, filter on a given context but always keep my projects in view as well.

                            This makes it very easy to update the NAs as I complete them.

                            Finally, my map is formatted so Projects are always bold, black text and NAs are italized, blue text. This provides an important visual que making it easy to shift focus from project maintenance vs NA maintenance.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by anton View Post
                              In this case I just scroll through my Project list, choose the one I'd like to act on, guess next action (that's usually seconds as David Allen puts out in his GTD book) and do it right there. Anyone tried that approach or am I the Kopernik?
                              Are you quite sure you are able to "guess" the next action ?

                              For me, a great value for the GTD approach is in the fact that I must to split the planning and the execution phases.

                              Whenever I've tried to mix these two phases (like looking at the project and deciding what to do next), I usually find myself doing stuff that *I like* to do, as opposite to *as needs to be done*. Giving myself time to think on planning of the project (that's extracting the next actions) is a way to be more safe that we're actually doing the work that needs to be done.

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