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Split Complex Projects into a Separate List from "quick" ones?

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  • Split Complex Projects into a Separate List from "quick" ones?

    Hi Everybody,

    I am having an issue with lumping projects of all sizes into the same list. I think I'm mentally resisting reviewing the list because I don't like seeing 2-3 NA projects alongside projects that will take weeks or months to complete.

    I also feel like it's distracting to have large complex projects and their smaller subprojects all sitting on the same list.

    Does anyone use more than one project list to handle these issues? Maybe a "Main Project" and "Sub Project" division, or a high complexity / low complexity split?

    Looking forward to hearing any responses!

    Thanks

  • #2
    Nope, I don't split up the Project list.

    What's uncomfortable about having big and small projects on the same list? What are you afraid will happen?

    Comment


    • #3
      Project lists and different "size" projects

      Originally posted by Brent View Post
      Nope, I don't split up the Project list.

      What's uncomfortable about having big and small projects on the same list? What are you afraid will happen?
      I, too, feel a bit uncomfortable about this. I think itīs because my bigger projects, while important, donīt necessarily have to be moved forward every week, but cannot be forgotten either (no, those I wonīt put into someday/maybe even if I donīt move forward this week). They also refer to goals that are on a totally different level than the little ones. And yes, seeing them mixed bothers me, as if I couldnīt move from one level of perspective to another efficiently enough when I read a mixed list (strategic vs runway).

      So far I have just kept them on the same list, but in such order that the big ones come first and the little ones later, so I can keep adding and deleting them, no obsessing about how important something is and where it goes. Thatīs easy because I only have 2-5 big/long ones at a time.

      Anyway, I think the best way to get comfortable about my project list will be improved weekly review, reviewing is the weakest link in my GTD application.

      Comment


      • #4
        There's no simple answer but in my experience it's best to avoid adding projects and more granular sub-projects directly to your project list. To make the Project list work well you must define your outcomes at the appropriate levels and leverage project support material for planning and tracking intermediate outcomes or milestones within a project.

        As a general guideline, David Allen suggests defining outcomes that one can complete within a 9-12 month window as projects. Larger outcomes that require more time are usually considered goals (short or long-term). This guideline doesn't apply to everyone and all circumstances; it's just a guide. Some will define projects that will last more than two years and goals that last only six months based on a number of factors.

        I track goals on a list of short-term (1-2 year) goals and a list of long-term (3-5 year) goals. These lists are in a set of reference lists under the category "Focus Areas". I review those as often as I feel the need to reconnect to the higher altitudes of my work, but I review each and every project on my Projects list every week during the weekly review.

        I track intermediate outcomes on a project such as milestones and deliverables on a project plan (formal or informal), which resides with the project's support material. As I review each project I examine the corresponding support material for things like due dates on milestones and add reminders of these upcoming due dates to my calendar. I also use the support material to evaluate the current status of the project and define new next actions.

        I'll illustrate with a some examples:

        -Obtain a master's degree (GOAL)
        -Set up school registration for upcoming semester (PROJECT)
        -Call school for appointment with registrar (ACTION)

        -Develop corporate web site (PROJECT)
        -Finalize requirements deliverable (MILESTONE, TRACKED IN SUPPORT MATERIAL, NOT ON PROJECTS LIST)
        -Due Date reminder for requirements deliverable (DAY-SPECIFIC REMINDER ON CALENDAR)
        -Draft requirements deliverable (ACTION)

        I hope that clarifies things a little.

        -Luke

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm not sure exactly what's causing the mental block, but here's an example of something that I find distracting:

          Let's say I am moving in 3 months, so I have a project on my list called "Move to new House."

          I also have a sub project called "Get house ready for Sale / Sell House"

          That also has a sub project called "Get House Painted"

          That has a subproject called "Reach out to friends for painter recommendations"

          When I have lots of subprojects nested into larger projects it just feels kind of cumbersome to have to read each and every one of those whenever I go back to my projects list to find new NA's for my context lists. The bigger, more complex projects (ie. Move to New House) really only need to be looked at periodically and having to constantly. Maybe I just need to put a * or some other character in front of the "master" projects so they all get sorted together and can be ignored as a group when i just want to focus on my smaller ones?

          Edit: I just saw the prior two responses. I think what I will try is to put "big" projects together by adding a lead "*" to the project name and sorting alphabetically (I'm using Outlook) but keep all subprojects related to those big ones in the project support materials instead of also adding them to the list. That way every project I add to my list will be a "top level" project, but I'll have an easy way to see which ones are complex and contain more detailed planning and subprojects in the project support materials.
          Last edited by Eureka!; 08-03-2009, 02:16 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Eureka! View Post
            When I have lots of subprojects nested into larger projects it just feels kind of cumbersome to have to read each and every one of those whenever I go back to my projects list to find new NA's for my context lists. The bigger, more complex projects (ie. Move to New House) really only need to be looked at periodically and having to constantly. Maybe I just need to put a * or some other character in front of the "master" projects so they all get sorted together and can be ignored as a group when i just want to focus on my smaller ones?
            You could track only your complex projects on the master project list, and track the subprojects as part of a project plan in the big project's support material -- at least that's what DA suggests (see pg. 158.), and it's also how I do it. As an alternative, the book suggests you only keep the active and independent subprojects on the master list.

            Dusan

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks everyone for your comments, I really appreciate it!

              Comment


              • #8
                A month ago finished my PhD thesis, and it was in the final writing process that I started using a split projects list. While writing thesis I had separated all my thesis related projects into a separate list. They were all subprojects of the main project/goal: thesis.

                The conveniences: I could really see how much more needs to be done before I call the main project done. So good for review. Also I could do a mini review of this without being bothered by other projects, which would be looked at at the weekly review anyway.

                I have continued that separation: I separate all the projects related to the course I am teaching. I haven't bothered to objectify the criteria as to why a particular set of projects should be separate; I just did that since I felt the need.

                So in short, if you feel more in control by splitting the list, go ahead. Make sure you review all at least once a week.

                Regards,
                Abhay

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dusanv View Post
                  You could track only your complex projects on the master project list, and track the subprojects as part of a project plan in the big project's support material -- at least that's what DA suggests (see pg. 158.), and it's also how I do it. As an alternative, the book suggests you only keep the active and independent subprojects on the master list.
                  Yes. "Move to new house" is an Area of Focus, not a Project, at least as far as effective GTD is concerned. (In my opinion.)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I chop large, complex projects into multiple small, simpler projects.

                    The current subproject is on my active project list, and its last task points back to the project that spawned it. This may be overkill, but it's working for me for now. (But I don't know if it would work on paper. I'm using OmniFocus.)

                    So, to use your house example, I might have:

                    In the On Hold project list:

                    Project: Move to new house
                    Status: Waiting
                    Next Action: Waiting for Sell House.

                    Project: Sell House
                    Status: Waiting
                    Next Action: Waiting for Get House Ready For Sale
                    (Multiple actions or subprojects, either preplanned or added as I get actions done.)
                    Last Action: Return to Move to new house

                    Project: Get House Ready For Sale
                    Status: Waiting
                    Next Action: Waiting for Declutter House.
                    Next Action: Waiting for Get House Painted.
                    (Multiple actions or subprojects, either preplanned or added as I get actions done.)
                    Last Action: Return to Sell House

                    In the Active project list:

                    Project: Declutter House
                    Status: Active
                    Next Action: Recycle old newspaper collection.
                    (Multiple actions, either preplanned or added as I get actions done.)
                    Last Action: Return to Get House Ready For Sale

                    Project: Get House Painted
                    Status: Active
                    Next Action: Make list of friends to ask for painter recommendations.
                    (Multiple actions, either preplanned or added as I get actions done.)
                    Last Action: Return to Get House Ready For Sale

                    Gardener

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Eureka! View Post
                      "Move to new House."

                      I also have a sub project called "Get house ready for Sale / Sell House"

                      That also has a sub project called "Get House Painted"

                      That has a subproject called "Reach out to friends for painter recommendations"
                      Couple of points to your example - well one theme really - little coverage of outcomes.

                      "We have completed the move to our new house and are unpacked and settled in" is probably closer to the outcome most people would imagine in their head. And to me it's a Goal, even if it's sooner than 1-2 years You might need to add some additional words to cover successfully finding your (dream) new house if you've not already found it.

                      Other examples from yours - you can get a lot better description of a successful outcome into the description. I find this helps me engage and avoid procrastination:

                      "By the end of September our house is painted to a standard which will encourage buyers"
                      "By the end of August our house is presentable throughout to a standard which will encourage buyers"
                      "I speak to 5 friends by the end of August and shortlist their recommendations for painters"

                      There's also no reason you can't have more than one project list as long as it doesn't get silly. I use

                      ^10K Projects - Professional
                      ^10K Projects - Personal

                      but you could always work for a while with

                      ^10K Projects - Moving House

                      At the end of the day you'll still work through your project lists in your review, this just helps to group areas of processing together.

                      Just editing to add a reference to p156-157 "Some Common Ways to Subsort Projects" through to "Specific Types of Projects" which seems to be where I got this from.
                      Last edited by CoffinDodger; 08-10-2009, 05:04 AM. Reason: added book reference

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