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Gracie's Gardens

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  • Gracie's Gardens

    Hi,

    I've been struggling a little with GTD recently and I have been considering dropping my implementation but I'm sure that given the answers to my questions I can come back to this better than ever before. I've been a partial implementer for many years but have never quite been able to get fully on board. I think I now know why.

    I want to try and explain using the example of Gracie's Gardens from the Making It All Work book. Essentially for those not in the know, you've just inherited a run-down garden centre from a deceased aunt. First you know is a letter in the mail.

    I understand that this is one large project and my outcome is to have the business sold or being run effectively as on ongoing business. Fine. I can create the project and outcome on paper, in word, MS OneNote whatever...

    I can easily create my first next action of call ABC legal team to discuss further. I can add their details to my contact database and maybe even scan in the letter for my reference files. Great but that's where things start to get complicated.

    I will create dozens of sub-projects as I go along, all with next actions in various lists by context. Many of these sub-projects will have sub-sub-projects.

    For example, I need to review the accounts. That's going to mean poring over whatever files I can find. I may need to hire an accountant. Oh I need a yellow pages. Or maybe local advice? Left a message with that one as they're at lunch. The second one seems expensive. Let's call a third. They want to meet next week. I'm out of town on business. I need to schedule a visit back here in 2 weeks. Need to call travel agent. etc etc

    Meanwhile I'm meeting with staff, generally tidying up, paying bills, collecting invoices etc etc

    How do I grapple with all of that to do a weekly review to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. How do I make sure each of my projects and sub-projects and sub-sub projects are being progressed so that the whole thing can come to a conclusion. How do I see this project's big picture. I know the weekly review is the answer but how do I see all of the issues that make up this project in order to do the review?

    I feel quite able to deal with the individual inputs as they occur but over time I feel as though I'm losing the big picture and could end up having the best accounts for any garden centre in the world but still have "Buy plants from wholesaler" on my context list and so have no stock. How do I make sure the "whole" project is managed?

    When you throw in other large projects too from elsewhere in my life, I feel swamped with projects and sub projects and sub sub projects and next actions and can't really see the clarity that I'm craving. I'm capturing, I'm processing into next actions, but its the review and the clarity that I'm missing.

    Does this resonate with anyone else or am I barking up the wrong tree totally? I think I'm being clear but I'm not sure if I am.

    FWIW, my current implementation is via Outlook and my iPhone but I am going to give OneNote a run to see if that can help. I prefer to be paperless if possible but I just NEED a system that will enable me to see both detail and larger picture stuff.

    Any help / guidance would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Sid

  • #2
    It tends to be a pretty personal sort of thing, in my experience.

    I'm a big fan of white-boards -- the bigger, the better. Or alternatively I've used those big 24"x36" pads of paper and taped them up over every available wall. Sometimes I write thing right on them, or sometimes I'll write them on post-it notes (the big ones) and stick those to the sheets.

    All in an effort to literally see the big picture and all the moving pieces.

    Feedback measures in general and graphs in particular can help with this to, at least for me. Put up graphs of sales, profits, inventory, etc over time. I've found it a good way to see the forest from the trees.



    Cheers,
    Roger

    Comment


    • #3
      A few options...

      Hi Sid,

      Something like the GTD® Outlook® Add-In will help manage all of the project details, versus trying to do it manually. You may want to check that out.

      Also, there's a new article on GTD Times from a GTD'er in the community who uses OneNote quite extensively. You might get value from that too.

      Kelly

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by SidTheBad View Post
        FWIW, my current implementation is via Outlook and my iPhone but I am going to give OneNote a run to see if that can help. I prefer to be paperless if possible but I just NEED a system that will enable me to see both detail and larger picture stuff.
        In my experience, this is a situation where nothing beats analog tools (paper, whiteboard, whatever). I draw as big a diagram as necessary to hold all the component parts. If going paperless is really important to you, you could look at mind mapping software, but I'd really recommend paper instead.

        Katherine

        Comment


        • #5
          Thnaks Katherine.

          I'm finding MindMapping very useful.
          Right now I'm using Freemind and syncing that to my iPhone via IThoughts.

          I shall keep building on this idea and see where it goes.

          Sid

          Comment


          • #6
            Hope I can help!

            First off, it looks like you're worried that something will be on a list and ignored. How often are you checking your lists?

            Here's a quick version Brent's GTD frequency chart:
            Multiple times per day: Scan your context lists.

            Daily: Process inboxes into context lists, Projects list, Someday/Maybe, etc. as appropriate.

            Weekly: Perform a Weekly Review, which involves scanning all your Projects, context lists, etc. to ensure nothing's fallen through the cracks.
            If you start in on a "sub-Project" and realize you need to create another Project, you either:
            1. Add the Project and Next Action to your lists, if that's quick
            2. Add the idea to Someday/Maybe, if you know you're not going to get to it this week
            3. Write a note about it and put it in an inbox (physical, digital; whatever works). You can then process it later, when you're done working on the current Project.

            Is that what you're doing? Does that make sense?

            Comment


            • #7
              > I will create dozens of sub-projects as I go along, all with next
              > actions in various lists by context. Many of these sub-projects
              > will have sub-sub-projects.

              This is where I start to differ. I try to have as few layers as possible. I have top-level projects that refer to other top-level projects. I realize that this technically means that the hierarchy is there, but... somehow it seems different. Keeping the layers shallow seems, to me, to decrease the odds that something will get lost entirely.

              I'm imagining a structure something like:

              Area of Responsibility: Get Gracie's Garden out of my hair.

              - Project: Implement a legal strategy.
              -- Next Action: WAITING FOR completion of project "Choose Legal Team"

              - Project: Choose Legal Team
              -- Next Action: WAITING FOR completion of project "Evaluate law firm Smith & Holmes"

              - Project: Evaluate law firm Smith & Holmes
              -- Next Action: Spend three hours brainstorming list of questions for upcoming meeting.
              -- Calendar Hard Landscape: Meeting at Smith & Holmes on January 27

              Area of Responsibility: Keep Gracie's Garden breathing.

              - Project: Get the accounts in someone else's hands.
              -- Next Action: WAITING FOR completion of project "Select Accountant"

              - Project: Select Accountant
              -- Next Action: WAITING FOR completion of projects "Evaluate Jones Accounting", "Evaluate Adams Accounting", and "Evaluate Williams Accounting".

              - Project: Evaluate Jones Accounting
              -- Next Action: Make follow up call to Jane at Jones Accounting on Friday.

              - Project: Evaluate Adams Accounting
              -- Next Action: Ask Joe for phone number for Adams Accounting.

              - Project: Evaluate Williams Accounting
              -- Next Action: Look up Williams Accounting in Better Business Bureau.
              -- Calendar Hard Landscape: Phone interview with Joe Williams on January 22.

              - Project: Create Monthly Accounting Checklist
              -- Next Action: Spend four hours going through December's accounts and brainstorming about checklist.

              - Project: Perform quarterly evaluation of evening nursery cleanup checklist.
              -- Next Action: Set up meeting with closing staff to discuss checklist.

              - Ticklers:
              -- Daily: Complete evening cleanup checklist.
              -- Weekly: Meet with Joe to complete Nursery Stock Checklist.
              -- Quarterly: Complete "Perform quarterly evaluation of evening nursery cleanup checklist" project.

              And so on and so on. I guess the two primary ideas that I'm trying to show here are (1) projects that explicitly refer to other projects and (2) the development of checklists so that over time, not everything has to be a project, re-brainstormed every single time, but slowly becomes a routine.

              Gardener

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                >

                - Project: Get the accounts in someone else's hands.
                -- Next Action: WAITING FOR completion of project "Select Accountant"

                - Project: Select Accountant
                -- Next Action: WAITING FOR completion of projects "Evaluate Jones Accounting", "Evaluate Adams Accounting", and "Evaluate Williams Accounting".

                - Project: Evaluate Jones Accounting
                -- Next Action: Make follow up call to Jane at Jones Accounting on Friday.

                - Project: Evaluate Adams Accounting
                -- Next Action: Ask Joe for phone number for Adams Accounting.

                - Project: Evaluate Williams Accounting
                -- Next Action: Look up Williams Accounting in Better Business Bureau.
                -- Calendar Hard Landscape: Phone interview with Joe Williams on January 22.

                Pretty interesting stuff - I don't like to set up multiple levels of subprojects either. (to tell you the truth I'm not all that crazy about outlines in the first place!) But the items above I see as clearly one project - although it may have separate moving parts and different phases. I don't think you have to choose between subprojects and multiple projects - I would not do either. Here is the approach I would use for the above:

                Project: Accounting Handoff
                Outcome: I have handed off the accounting for Gracie's Garden to the best available accounting firm I can find within a reasonable time frame. They are up and running and on autopilot and able to handle it pretty much on their own.

                Project Planning:
                Likely a mind map

                What do I need to do to reach this outcome? (It makes me feel better if I go ahead and capture the bare bones outline of this project)

                --Find an accountant I like
                • --research and find candidate firms
                • --select top contenders
                • --find out even more about those finalists
                • --select one
                --Agree who does what
                • --payroll
                • --Sales Tax reporting
                • --State and Federal tax returns
                • --Periodic reporting to owners
                • --bank accounts
                --Hand over documents to them
                • --instructions
                • --relevant papers
                --Agree procedures
                • --set up communications - who, how
                • --information to them monthly
                • --reporting back from them re activities
                • --documentation requirements



                There can be a lot of things you need to do to get from here to there, but that doesn't make it multiple projects. And to the extent that activities are sequential, I just see those as later down the road of the project, not necessarily subprojects or different projects. OK, you have already identified 3 firms you want to evaluate. So you have two independent next actions and a meeting.

                call Jane at Jones Accounting re some questions you have identified that you want answered.
                ask Joe for phone number for Adams Accounting
                meet with the other guy re the third firm.

                The other items stay in project planning because they are not the next action. They will stay there until needed. They may never be the granular next action but they provide a road map for you.

                Now you could make each evaluation a subproject but you don't have to unless there is so much going on that putting it all under one is too confusing.

                I think that most projects have future things that can't be done right now and I think it's good to capture those but they are not next actions and likely are not stand alone projects......I will be interested to see your response.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by lareaarnett View Post
                  Pretty interesting stuff
                  (I'm going to Usenet-style quoting, because that's easier with my editor and I'm a lazy dinosaur.)

                  Re:

                  > I don't like to set up multiple levels
                  > of subprojects either. (to tell you the truth I'm not all that
                  > crazy about outlines in the first place!) But the items above I
                  > see as clearly one project - although it may have separate moving
                  > parts and different phases.

                  and

                  > Now you could make each evaluation a subproject but you don't
                  > have to unless there is so much going on that putting it all
                  > under one is too confusing.

                  But that's my problem. I like it all to be _really_ simple, especially when I'm dealing with something scarey where I have limited expertise - and I'm assuming that that's the case in this scenario, where I've inherited a business that I don't know. To go to the "cranking widgets" metaphor, I want to define tiny little nonthreatening widgets that I can easily crank.

                  So wherever I have a moving part, I like to have a separate project. I see each accountant evaluation as having separate moving parts, so I'd build a separate project for each one. The same for developing each checklist, and so on.

                  Now, I could have organized "evaluate accountants" differently. If I were evaluating, say, a dozen, then I would have designed it as a single project, with actions for creating evaluation checklists, for going through a call sheet, and so on. Again, I'm assuming that this is scarey and I don't know what I'm doing, so I'm getting it down to the simple-task comfort level of "call Jane".

                  > I think that most projects have future things that can't be done
                  > right now and I think it's good to capture those but they are not
                  > next actions and likely are not stand alone projects......I will
                  > be interested to see your response.

                  I agree that the truly future things - for example, all the tasks that have to wait until I've chosen an accountant - can just stay in the project support material somewhere. But every separate area that can be moved forward at this time, I'm inclined to define as a separate project.

                  Gardener

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