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  • Confusion about linking projects and actions

    I've been trying to implement GTD over the last year, but find myself stumbling around and never quite "getting it."

    Right now I 've got a list of context-based actions in my Palm desktop, synched at home and at the office to my elderly PDA (a Sony CLIE).

    However, those actions aren't necessarily "Next Actions"--they are just every "to-do" I capture. (Think, endless and overwhelming list.) So where do all those tasks go that aren't Next Actions go?

    It's been difficult for me to think about bigger projects and their "next actions" without seeing a list of possible actions and doing overall planning. I'd like to be able to re-sort the tasks (@phone, @computer, etc.) by project and then sort back into contexts.

    I thought about just creating an Excel spreadsheet for tasks and projects so I could sort and re-sort. I'm spoiled on having my PDA with me and not having to depend on paper lists. Then again, I primarily use the PDA for calendar and contacts, so many a printed task list would work for me.

    Either way, though, I have to overcome my confusion about projects, Next Actions, and actions that aren't Next.

    I'm open to software solutions, although an expensive solution would be a financial hardship. Nozbe is intriguing, although it gives me a twitch to not have off-line back-ups of my data.

    Thanks for any help!
    Judith

  • #2
    Hi & Welcome!

    Hmm.. right now it seems you have a 'mindsweep' that might need further processing. See if some of them are 'hidden projects' or 'areas of focus' too..

    If they aren't 'next actions', put them into projects and assign the projects as active, later or someday/maybe project. That's the way I understand it.

    You could also sub-divide the NAs according to projects or areas of focus to make the lists smaller and more doable..

    Someone online warns about making it too complicated, and that often it's not necessary to double-link (into contexts and projects at the same time) - the thing is to have easy triggers...

    Good luck! There is a lot of info on this forum and in the Connect area (have you tried the free trial yet?) to differentiate NAs from projects or AoFs etc.
    Some helpful info in the virtual study group too..

    Comment


    • #3
      1. Check if there are "to-do"s in your list which are in fact projects (require more than one action to be acomplished). If so, define them as projects, clarify the desired outcome for each and decide whatīs the next action to advance towards it.

      2. Not every action must be linked to a project. Some desired or due outcomes may be achieved by a single action, e.g. "pay telephone bill", "call Sue for her birthday", "return book to library", etc.

      3. If for some projects you planned ahead several actions, if those actions are not interdependant (you don't need to do one of them before doing the others) they can be all in your Next Actions lists. If actions are interdependant, decide what's the next action. The rest may go on your Waiting For list (waiting for the precedent action to be done), or you may leave them as reference in your project folder, as possible actions after the next action is accomplished.

      Hope this helps

      Comment


      • #4
        I would re-read the appropriate chapters in your GTD book to clarify/inform your understanding of Projects, Next Actions and Areas of Focus (sorry I can't give you the chapter #'s as I'm on vacation and my book is at home). I would then block out some time on your calendar to do the heavy lifting to work through your lists and categorize them into either projects, next actions, someday/maybe's, or see them as Areas of Focus.

        While I know it seems onerous right now, this kind of diligence will pay huge dividends once you complete the project and free your mind from your present state of discontent with your system.

        Comment


        • #5
          Regarding Excel, it is definitely possible to enter everything into Excel and then sort as needed. That is what I do, since I was already very familiar with Excel when I learned about GTD. I print out a hard copy of next actions every week and keep that with me. And when I am going to be in a certain county, I print out the next actions just for that context before I go.

          I can't compare Excel to any of the other programs since it is the only one I've ever tried. But it works for me.

          Comment


          • #6
            some kind soul (think katherine) told me to re-read chapter 10 which i am doing now. really helps to refresh what u know about managing projects.

            I can understand why sony clie is a good thing. i used to use one! but now currently using an ipod touch. very good tool to have in my pocket and any idea or action i just capture it.

            having said that, on chapter 10 they talk about 2 kinds of projects

            1) ad hoc projects that is less mind boggling - get your dentures done, buying your son a bike

            2) detailed planning projects - organize and execute software design, execute weekly outdoor product sales marketing in shoping center

            for (2) it seems excel will be a good tool. u need something that sees dependency.

            alternatively, It managers use microsoft project to do that. but if you are short of cash, here is an alternative: Open Workbench

            provides free detailed planning tool.

            Comment


            • #7
              Much as everyone else has said - sounds to me like you've captured all your open loops, but are stumbling on processing and organising.

              I'm not sure if the Clie has the same setup as a Palm, but that's what I use and I find it very effective. I looked at the method described here:

              http://tools-for-thought.com/2008/02...gtd-on-a-palm/

              and played with it to make it suit me.

              Each project has a separate memo, and I put the title of the project in capitals, and then the next action after it. I also put the context of that NA in brackets:

              REDECORATE THE HOUSE==>Check paint prices at store [@errands]

              Underneath this, I have any other actions that might come later, not ordered in any specific way, and any vital info for that project. That way, if I want to look at the paint prices, I can go straight to that project - it keeps everything in one place.

              Then in the ToDo section of the Palm, I have these next actions again, organised by category, which I've edited to be my contexts. So, I have an @errands category, an @home category etc.
              I leave the project title in too so I can see which are project-based, and which are just basic "todos"

              When I tick one of these off (on the Palm, it disappears into a "done" folder) I then go back to the project memo and see what's next. Then that is copy and pasted back into the ToDo list. General todos which are done (e.g. buy milk) are just done and that's that. I found this way of doing it really helps me keep track of everything

              Phew - what a ramble. I hope that helps a little - in short, I think you need to go through your list of ToDos and process them properly. You also need to decide how to fit these processed items into you "system", whether it be the Clie or a notepad or something.

              Keep at it anyway - I know I was tweaking and messing with my system for ages before I felt I had it completely sorted, it took several revisions. But now every time someone says to me "wow, how do you keep track of these things- you're so organised!" and get a lovely glow

              Comment


              • #8
                Very helpful! Evaluating the options.

                You guys are great--thanks for your input!

                For some reason, putting a task-after-the-next-task onto the the @WaitingFor list never occurred to me. Whack!

                I've read and re-read and re-read the GTD book, but somehow the relationship between the sections seems to escape me. I will re-read the sections you folks suggested and see if they make more sense now.

                About the Excel spreadsheet, it is very appealing to avoid another learning curve, even though there might be better software out there. I know I can export my to-do's from Palm to Excel, but can I import the list back into Excel? But to answer my own question, the reason for putting it into Excel is to add some fields, so I guess not. (Right?)

                If not, I'm thinking I will continue to use the Palm for the calendar and memos, and move the to-do's over to Excel or to the free software someone mentioned.

                Eventually I hope to be able to afford a smartphone so I don't have to enter phone numbers in 2 places. (If I can get a handle on GTD, I anticipate making more money this year. ) Will I be able to synch info at home and at work the way I can with my PDA?

                I'm feeling less overwhelmed just knowing that I've narrowed my next-steps down to 2 options--Excel or a free program--which is exactly the point GTD makes about the power of decision making. I've stayed stuck in ready-aim-ready-aim mode. Any decision at this point would be a step in the right direction.

                I just can't wait to reach the "stress-free productivity" state. Sounds heavenly! I feel that I'm close to leaping over the chasm with some confidence, and all this preparation and puzzlement will pay off in my life.

                Happy trails,
                Judith

                Judith Waite Allee
                Co-author, "Educational Travel on a Shoestring"
                and "Homeschooling on a Shoestring"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Very helpful! Evaluating the options.

                  You guys are great--thanks for your input!

                  For some reason, putting a task-after-the-next-task onto the the @WaitingFor list never occurred to me. Whack!

                  I've read and re-read and re-read the GTD book, but somehow the relationship between the sections seems to escape me. I will re-read the sections you folks suggested and see if my synapses connect better now.

                  About the Excel spreadsheet: It is very appealing to avoid another learning curve, even though there's specific software out there. I know I can export my to-do's from Palm to Excel, but can I import the list back into Excel? But to answer my own question, the reason for putting it into Excel is to add some fields, so I guess not. (Right?) I'm especially looking forward to using colors.

                  Is there a template for Excel out there?

                  If not, I'm thinking I will continue to use the Palm for the calendar and memos, and move the to-do's over to Excel or to the free software someone mentioned.

                  Eventually I hope to be able to afford a smartphone so I don't have to enter phone numbers in 2 places. (If I can get a handle on GTD, I anticipate making more money this year. ) Will I be able to synch info at home and at work the way I can with my PDA?

                  I'm feeling less overwhelmed just knowing that I've narrowed my next-steps down to 2 options--Excel or a free program--which is exactly the point GTD makes about the power of decision making.

                  I've stayed stuck in ready-aim-ready-aim mode. Any decision at this point would be a step in the right direction.

                  I just can't wait to reach the "stress-free productivity" state. I've been working a lot of 16-hour days due to the chaos. Sounds heavenly! I feel that I'm *this* close to leaping over the remaining chasm with confidence, and all this preparation and puzzlement will pay off in my life.

                  Happy trails,
                  Judith

                  Judith Waite Allee
                  Co-author, "Educational Travel on a Shoestring"
                  and "Homeschooling on a Shoestring"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by judithallee View Post
                    For some reason, putting a task-after-the-next-task onto the the @WaitingFor list never occurred to me. Whack!
                    Probably because originally the Waiting For list is only a list of follow-ups (it could be called that way). It ocurred to me because 1. I donīt have so many follow-ups, 2. I also planned sequences of actions ahead for different projects, 3. I donīt carry with me reference material for all my projects (I am paper based) 4. I want to be able, in case I finish a precedent NA, to do the following if I am at the appropiate context, so I need a reminder.

                    If you are working with a palm, you could make lists of Planned Actions by context or project and place the tasks-after-the-next-task there
                    Last edited by Marcelo; 10-12-2009, 11:05 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the shout-out

                      Originally posted by Layla View Post
                      Some helpful info in the virtual study group too..
                      Hi Layla,

                      Thanks for the mention. For those who haven't found us, we're at http://gtd-vsg.blogspot.com.

                      Best wishes,
                      tara

                      Comment

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