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Anyone else not using a project list anymore?

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  • Anyone else not using a project list anymore?

    I did GTD for around 3 years with a project list.

    I still use next actions with context, a weekly review, prompt lists, different altitudes, inbox to empty each day, and I think DA's system of filing without hanging files has massive benefits.

    But, and perhaps it's a big but, for the last year I haven't been using a project list, which is sort of a key part of GTD. It doesn't seem to be an issue. Eventually I decided that keeping a project list was just another part of the system to feed with not enough benefit to make it worthwhile.

    I am curious to know if that this has been the experience of anyone else or if I'm the only one. DA once said he thought one of the most important things was to keep the project list up to date, which still worries me from time to time.

  • #2
    No Project List

    Well, I do think the concept of a Project List as a way to track moving parts in your world regardless of where they lie (task lists, calendar, project support material) is probably the biggest differentiator between GTD and other systems. For me, if I didn't have a project list I'd always be having to re-think "what's next" in order to stay on top of longer term projects.

    Since Davidco has no police force that comes to your office/house and strips you of your rights to engage with other parts of the methodology, you can do whatever you want that works for you, I guess. But it seems to me if you felt completely confident in what you are doing, you wouldn't have taken the time to pose the question in the forum.

    Good that you're still doing weekly reviews, but wouldn't having the project list as another "view" of all you have to do in a week be just a little bit helpful to you? I think of my projects list as just another way of looking at all of my tasks to be sure I haven't missed something.

    It certainly does the job for me and it's such an established work habit, I probably couldn't drop it even if I wanted to.

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    • #3
      If you don't use a project list, how do you make sure you don't forget to work on one of your active projects? I suppose you do have an NA (or waiting for item) for each active project (because, by definition it isn't active if you don't) so do you just define a new NA whenever you finish the previous one and keep track of your projects that way?

      I find the project list to be rather useful and quite easy to maintain personally Maybe you're using a paper system? There you don't have the advantage of clicking on a project and seeing relevant data and corresponding NA's and waiting-fors.

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      • #4
        Project lists is key for me. But my system generates it automatically I don't have to re-write anything, just decide if a given project is active or not.

        Without a project lists I'd lose track of what the various things I'm working on are for. And with about 100 active projects the lists is critical to keeping me on track.

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        • #5
          Thanks for the responses.

          Yes I do try to write a new next action after any next actions is completed. I developed the habit before I dropped the project list. I wouldn't recommend not having a project list to anyone new to GTD and I'm not certain it will always work for me but it seems to at the moment. I don't think I succeed in remembering to always put a new action but I'm pretty sure that I seldom lose projects for more than a few days. I tend to remember to have a next action for them.

          I know this as when I did have a project list I would look at it during the weekly review and seldom find projects without next actions. On the other hand I would often find that there were next actions without projects (projects of more than one action). I would therefore spend time during my weekly review updating my project list in relation to my next action list. I realised after a while that this was me serving the system rather than the system serving me. As DA says, you don't do projects, you do next actions. A projects in a list is just a stake in the ground to make sure you keep coming up with next actions. Project should serve your next action list, not the other way around.

          I'm not saying that I would never find a project without a next action but the time I would spend on the project list just wasn't worth it. I would probably remember the next action just from my prompt lists, brainstorming next actions or through a mind map.

          So that's why I dropped the project list and I can't remember the last time I thought, "damn, how did I forget that, if only I had a project list."

          My system is with Outlook and a Palm Centro with Chapura Keysuite.

          For long term projects I have two big long term projects in my work but they are so big and long term that I will always have next actions for them. For other long term projects I suppose I often have something in a prompt list to make me think of next actions for those, so I suppose for some long term projects my prompt list acts a bit like a project list. For some other long term but slow burning projects I store projected actions in a note and those also gets picked up in weekly reviews.

          Where I found the project list didn't work for me was for shorter term smaller projects. When I think of a new project I tend to instinctively write a next action to start it off. I didn't write the project in the project list. So, when I got to the weekly review the project wasn't in the list but the next action was on the action list.

          As I seem to get away with not having a project list, the idea of having a list with lots of short term projects that change frequently over the weeks just seems a lot of effort for little gain.

          In a sense its a bit like how when I started GTD and I wanted to have a link between all the project and next actions. After a while I just realised it was too much work and I was just working to feed the system but having less time to do stuff. Now having a project list feels a bit like that.

          I am interested to know how often people look at their projects lists. Is it only in the weekly review as tended to be the case with me, or is it more often? Do you edit your project lists only in the weekly review or more often? Maybe if I found a different way of working with the project list I could go back to it and get more benefits from it.

          Comment


          • #6
            I look at my Projects List whenever I sense that things are starting to spin out of control or I become hazy on what my priorities are in the moment.

            Of course, I review the list during the Weekly Review or during those free moments when I'm waiting and think to look a them.

            At the start of my day, I do a quick scan of my Next Action Lists, and time permitting, might do a quick scan of my projects as well. I sometimes forget to add a Next Action to a Project because the day is racing by so quickly so a scan helps me sync things up mid-week.

            Nothing sexy here, but touching base with my projects from time to time keeps me grounded.

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            • #7
              How often

              I look at my projects list a couple of times a week. When I'm processing and come across something that is a project, I open one right then and there and decide the next action. I don't go through ensuring a next action project by project unless I'm either doing a WR or a mini-review during the week just to kind of ground myself.

              Short answer: I look at it as often as I need to.

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              • #8
                Good answer, Barb.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                  Good answer, Barb.
                  Why, thank you sir!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Barb View Post
                    Since Davidco has no police force that comes to your office/house and strips you of your rights to engage with other parts of the methodology, you can do whatever you want that works for you, I guess.
                    Excellent!!!

                    To me that is one of the key problems I see with other systems. The "founder" is almost a messiah and people follow him/her blindly. David gives us a toolkit with GTD and we pick out the best tools for our work and environment.

                    I don't have a task list per se, but the tool I use (Thinking Rock, it's opensource and explicitly GTD-oriented) give me a look at what I consider projects. I can simply blend them out of the current view to see what I need to work on or change the view to show me the projects. Like Barb and GTDWorks I "touch base" as often as I need to and add actions as necessary.

                    In answer to RoninTDK, the software helps me keep track of what projects I have open, so I don't have an actual "list". I can display just the top-level and that serves as a kind of project list, but it also allows be to define sub-project, sub-sub-projects, etc.

                    I sometimes get the feeling I have "lost control" and need to sit down and go through the entire list, including all tasks. It serves as a brainstorm session, clean-up and re-assurance that I have things covered.

                    I have ADD, so I bounce around to all sorts of things. I must have at least 50 projects that I will probably never do, but still add them to my system so I don't forget. Otherwise I put too much energy is trying not to forget them. When I add them to the software, I have a bit of piece as I know they are in the system. In some cases, they have no next action, but just serve as a place holder (often for a loooooong time).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tominperu View Post
                      I am interested to know how often people look at their projects lists. Is it only in the weekly review as tended to be the case with me, or is it more often? Do you edit your project lists only in the weekly review or more often? Maybe if I found a different way of working with the project list I could go back to it and get more benefits from it.
                      I look at my project list briefly every morning, during the day when I come in for a break and when I switch contexts. I will also take another look at the list anytime I feel I need to. For me it's simple, I click one switch and I'm either in context mode with my next actions listed under each context or I am in project planning mode and I see a full list of projects. If I want to further refine my project lists I can look at all projects, active projects or only on hold (someday/maybe) projects. Switching between these views is one mouse click so it's easy. Typically I look at only the active projects but occasionally I have a thought or item to process I know is part of a project that is on-hold so I flip to that view and add it.

                      I have small projects too but I still add them to my system such that I can see them in the project list. True one off things go into one of the single action lists I keep under areas of focus. When I process new thoughts, actions and ideas I put them there unless it's an obvious project and for me making it a project with an action is really simple, takes less time to do than it does to write this out. It's 1 shortcut keystroke to make a project and another to add a next action.

                      I'll make, do and check off as completed, lots of projects that get created during the week, everything done and checked off before I ever get to a weekly review.

                      Recent example, I've had a DVD borrowed from a friend for 2 months who asked for it back this week. So I made a quick project "deal with DVD for Suzanne" 1st next action watch the movie, 2nd next action send e-mail discussing the movie to Suzanne, 3rd NA find padded envelope to ship DVD back to Suzanne, 4th NA package movie and get UPS label for it. 5th NA take package to feed store in town

                      Yes I made it that granular, I was procrastinating on that project. But once I spent 2 minutes & defined it I got it all done over the course of 3 days, well before a weekly review.

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                      • #12
                        I look at the project list a few times a week just to make certain I don't get bogged down only in day-to-day projects only. I'll make my projects smaller although they belong to larger projects or even goals, just so I can check them off. They're not tiny, few-action projects (unless the project really is that small), rather just smaller cohesive units. In my brain, the checking-off makes me happy and feels like momentum.

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                        • #13
                          Not many people have said how often they change their project lists, i.e. add, take things off or perhaps change the wording.

                          I think I got frustrated at the work involved in updating my projects lists because of too much granularity - they were just too much maintenance. I don't think I could go back to a long list of small projects that goes out of date quickly, but I could go back to a shorter list of bigger projects that probably won't change much from week to week.

                          I'm not sure that it will be complete list though. It just seems to me we always have some small projects that last a few actions and a few days. To include those we really have to put them in the list when we start them (as Barb does) and then to have benefit from the list we would need to review the list on a daily basis (as Oogiem does). I just don't think there's enough benefit for me to do that again.

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                          • #14
                            I'm going to say I add and remove about 7-9 projects a week, always having around the same amount of projects (between 35 and 45). My project list is electronic, so I don't rewrite it, instead I look at it almost daily like Oogie.

                            Honestly, although I like to say I use smaller projects, they rarely are just a few days and a few actions. It does help me to put a project on the list though, even for the small, few action ones. I actually finish them, whereas in the past out-of-sight out-of-mind (sad, but true). One example: in the past I've been pretty bad with keeping up with people. If I don't contact them right away, I put in a project (if it involves getting a card or address or what have you), which I can finish in no time in the next few days. By creating a project I'm committing myself to maintaining my relationships, which obviously links to the higher altitudes. This could be considered a silly simple project, but to me it is necessary.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sdann View Post
                              By creating a project I'm committing myself to maintaining my relationships, which obviously links to the higher altitudes. This could be considered a silly simple project, but to me it is necessary.
                              Well said ! The same happens to me. Whenever I create a project for something, I feel that I must follow it the next days (which is a good thing !)

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