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Tracking which project next actions belong to

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  • Tracking which project next actions belong to

    Is it important to track which projects next actions belong to? Some examples of next actions lists in the book simple list the next actions. Any tips, advice and/or ideas on this topic welcomed.

    George

  • #2
    No. Let your brain connect the dots

    Your brain does a good job at connecting the dots; it just doesn't do a good job remembering the dots. I've found no added value in trying to implement next action-to-project tracking within my GTD system, but it requires more work in maintaining my system. So I just don't do it. I keep it as simple as possible.

    I track future actions and intermediate milestones (sub-projects) in in project plans if the project is complicated enough.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by iamjud View Post
      Is it important to track which projects next actions belong to?
      For me seeing the connection between project and next action is crucial. I do not like to deal with any next actions that are not part of a project of some sort and try to keep those to an absolute minimum.

      I can tolerate a few, the one off things like call electric company re billing error in my phone business hours context but if I get more than one or 2 of those in any given context I get really frustrated and never get stuff done.

      One key for me then is using a tool where the connection between project and action is easy to do and doesn't take any extra time.

      The added value I get from this linkage is the overall view of a project is documented. Since projects in my world are typically much longer term than is "normal" in GTD having that linkage is important.

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      • #4
        It's Essential for me at work

        Since I am required to track my time by project, it is necessary for me to keep track of what project the next actions belong to. We even have an official project for any tasks that are not part of another project.

        For my @home tasks, it's different. I'm still trying to work out if 'pay Electric Bill' is a next action, or a small project. I get my bill electronically and pay that way as well, so I have to go collect the bill, go to my backs website and schedule the payment, and finally, record it in Quicken.

        So far, I've been putting on my Next Action list as 'Collect Electric Bill'. Then, when I do that task, the others follow automatically. I suspect, I'm cheating there, but it does seem excessive to write down all those steps for every bill.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by PatinSC View Post
          For my @home tasks, it's different. I'm still trying to work out if 'pay Electric Bill' is a next action, or a small project. I get my bill electronically and pay that way as well, so I have to go collect the bill, go to my backs website and schedule the payment, and finally, record it in Quicken.

          Well, this is a set of consistent, repetitive sub-actions, so you don't really need to break it down any further. I guess that's what DA warns against, micromanaging your actions.

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          • #6
            Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I think I am going to try out NOT marking the project name against next actions. I think, like ellobogrande , that adding this information will add no value -- at least not proportionate to the time it will take to maintain the system. Though I guess some tools can handle this more efficiently than others. I think the way in which GTD action/project lists are used has a significant effect on this aspect. I for example may keep project plans as support material, pick of the next action and record that in the system. When I get around to performing that action I will record the time it takes me to complete it (should this be necessary, at work for example) in an external system. After being triggered to complete an action I already know what project the action is for, mentally, and will put out the project support material to find the next action. I may do this straight away or defer it. I seem to remember DA saying the 2 minute rule is not always 2 minutes. So I may keeping Doing next action until I I feel compelled to do something else. As long as I've checked my Action Lists I know what else I COULD be doing.

            For those using the GTD lists as project management tools to capture time tasks to complete a project then I guess it is critical to maintain the mapping between the two. This also would be the same for those that keep actions as well as "next actions" in GTD. Though I'm sure everyone could benefit from the mapping when it comes to review; being able to see that all projects have a next action should be easier if the mapping exists. Personally I would only benefit at review time. Though I would rather spend time rethinking the project-next action linking when doing a review then when adding a next action. I add many next actions, often as soon as I have completed an existing next action (and must move on to a different next action rather than complete the new one) I want this addition to be as quick and painless as possible.

            Cheers, George

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            • #7
              Sorry, this is out of topic. But I just want to share my methods of processing bills. Since i got inspired to share after reading the quote below

              Originally posted by PatinSC View Post
              Since I am required to track my time by project, it is necessary for me to keep track of what project the next actions belong to. We even have an official project for any tasks that are not part of another project.

              For my @home tasks, it's different. I'm still trying to work out if 'pay Electric Bill' is a next action, or a small project. I get my bill electronically and pay that way as well, so I have to go collect the bill, go to my backs website and schedule the payment, and finally, record it in Quicken.

              So far, I've been putting on my Next Action list as 'Collect Electric Bill'. Then, when I do that task, the others follow automatically. I suspect, I'm cheating there, but it does seem excessive to write down all those steps for every bill.
              My short answer is:
              - My bill gets treated as a next action.
              - Unless, the bill has errors and I need to call customer service and rectify the mistakes...etc, then it is a project.
              --------------------------------------

              I get my bills through email and snail mail. This is how I do it. Hopefully this is helpful.

              Let's assumed I received a bill from a company called MAXIS.

              BILLS FROM EMAIL:
              ==============
              - Save the bill (PDF file) to my desktop and rename the file to
              "MAXIS BILL - 20091014"
              (format = COMPANY NAME BILL - date received)

              - Either I left the file on my desktop, so I can see there's a next action to be done, or I move it to my action folder ( which I store all my project/action related files) and add the next action "PAY MAXIS BILL" into my next action list.

              - I pay the bill through online bank services straight away when I received the bill. Or, I saw the file on my desktop/ on my next action list and I am at the proper context, I pay the bill. Sometimes, I create the context by making appointment with myself (because bills has deadlines ;p ).

              BILL FROM SNAIL MAILS:
              ==================
              - Toss the bill into my portable plastic inbox folder. (because usually I check my mailbox when I go out of the house to work)

              - When I process my inbox, I will either pay the bill straight away through online banking service or it is toss into my portable action folder. If I have late bills to be paid (bill I didnt pay last month get carried forward to this month) I stapled both bills together. Then, i record my next action into my nect action list.

              AFTER PAYMENT WAS MADE:
              =====================
              - after I've paid the bills, I will print out the receipts from online banking service in PDF format.
              - I will attach the electronic bill together with the PDF receipts. I do this by printing both PDF together into the same PDF file. (PDF users should know how to do this )
              - I renamed the file into
              "MAXIS BILL 20091014 PAYMENT RECEIPT"
              (format = COMPANY NAME, PAYMENT DATE, PAYMENT RECEIPT)
              - I file the PDF receipts into my RECEIPTS folder for archiving.

              - as for snail mail, I do the same thing. except that I stapled the paper bill with another small piece of paper (memo pad) and write down the payment date. then I file it into my GENERAL REFERENCE - RECEIPTS folder.

              that's it.

              Now that since my files are getting more and more, I am thinking of scanning my paper bills and file it together electronicaly.

              What do you think?

              p/s I almost forgot to mention that I record all my transactions by keying into my financial program at my HP Ipaq PDA.
              Last edited by matsuru; 10-14-2009, 03:17 AM. Reason: add in more info

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              • #8
                Simple tracking option

                If I didn't have a way to track which of the hundreds of next actions belong to which of the hundreds of projects, I would go crazy. I tried it that way for about two weeks at my new job and realized that it wouldn't work for me.

                I find I absolutely must have some sort of next action link back to the project. I have too many projects for which I am responsible, even if much of the actual work is delegated. These fall into five general areas (A - Program Area 1, B - Program Area 2, C - Committees, D - Administrative, H - Home/Personal).

                I keep a separate paper list of each project type and simply label them A1, A25, B1, H54, etc. Then when I do my weekly review, I look for a next action or a waiting for for each project by scanning the list looking for the appropriate code. This allows me to have more than one concurrent next action and I don't have to keep re-sorting the list. When my next action list gets too long, I can start a new one and only re-write those actions that have not yet been done.

                My projects/next action lists on paper are not a complete representation of my next actions either. I also use folders in Outlook to track those that come in and will be dealt with via e-mail. Every e-mail gets either done as a two-minute item, put on the Outlook Calendar or put into one of three inbox folders: !Action, !Read, !Waiting. I keep these in my inbox so that I can also see them on my Blackberry, along with calendared items. Once an e-mail has been dealt with it is either deleted or moved to a reference folder stored within Outlook but outside of my inbox. I've got several project folders in Outlook that I haven't written down in my paper list, but as soon as there is an action outside of my work computer, I put it on my paper list.

                In my weekly review, I review the !Action and !Waiting inbox folders and transer outstanding items to my paper list - at least that's the plan. I've not done a good weekly review for a couple of weeks.

                I have to say though, for the most part GTD has helped me immeasurably as I move across the country, start a new job, and buy a new house - at the same time as dealing with a first-time pregnancy! So far, I've managed to mostly stay calm and relaxed while dealing with a wide variety of high priority tasks and not working much overtime.

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