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Projects without an end / criteria for completion - labels instead?

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  • Projects without an end / criteria for completion - labels instead?

    Hi everyone. I am using www.nozbe.com for my GTD implementation, but this is a general question: suppose you realise that you are behind in some regular task, and that your aim is to both catch up with that task, but also to continue doing it in an ongoing way. Where does that fit into the system? If I make it a project, then it means that the project will never be complete. Yet I seem to think that in GTD, projects should be SMART, ie they have an end, and criteria for completion. In Nozbe it is possible to assign a 'label' to a project (in others perhaps it would be the use of a tag). I am thinking that it might be best to keep labels for this sort of ongoing aim (eg 'keep up to date with important contacts'), and specific plans to do so (eg 'organise a party for important contacts') could be projects. How do others handle this sort of thing?

    With thanks, Will

  • #2
    Don't know about the software, but in GTD terms they can fit in one of the two things: Areas of Focus, and Checklists (and of course calendar for scheduled tasks). You can search for these two terms on this forum and other GTD resources to get more information.

    Comment


    • #3
      Projects without end? => Areas of focus

      Hi everyone, long time reading, but this is my first post; sorry if my English is not good enough, as it's not my mothertongue,

      I agree with abhay. If there is a project without end, perhaps it should be classified as either an Area of focus or a checklist.

      Areas of Focus are those 7-10 areas you should/need to care about in an ongoing way, but without any deadline. They cannot be checked-off.

      "Family", "friends", "economy", "car maintenance", "human resources"... could be some examples of them. They can have attached a project or maybe not: you don't finish economy, but you can pay your yearly bills.

      There is a very clarifying public podcast regarding this issue by Meg Edwards - Creating a Projects List

      Comment


      • #4
        Good question. i've struggled with this and truthfully got no ideal single answer.

        An example for me is that once a week I need to tally up the number of bookings of our public spaces for monitoring purposes. Takes about 25 minutes.

        This is too specific to call an area of focus.

        I dont like to put it as a day specific task, because I dont have to do it that day. I could do it once every couple of weeks if I wanted to, as long as I did them for when I needed them (once every 6 months). I just try and do it weekly or so because if I do it every 6 weeks its 6 X 25 minutes to complete.

        What I do currently is have a checklist of weekly tasks and add them to the NA list when I do a review. However the downside to this is that you have a task on your list pretty much every time you look at it, which after a while becomes easy to look straight past. So I dont feel this is a perfect solution.

        Any recommended ideas welcome.

        Comment


        • #5
          Areas of focus etc

          Abhay thank you, the concept of Areas of focus is just about right for me.

          Reuben - thank you, that link/talk on Areas of focus vs Projects was exactly what I was looking for.

          I will read the links in this forum, and follow this thread some more, as I would be interested to hear the answer to bishblaize's issue.

          Will

          Comment


          • #6
            tickler/reminder/calendar

            There is a simple solution:

            use your reminder system.

            Your calendar for three types of information: 1) day-specific activities, 2) time-specific activities, i.e. appointments and meetings, and 3) day-specific information (that you want to think about, remember, or be reminded of).

            Therefore, put it on the calendar.

            However, you want a quick way to distinguish information reminders from scheduled commitments. Therefore, use a different format.

            Example:

            FRIDAY:
            (taken new vitamins today?)
            4 PM - AT&T WCB re call quality issues on 5555 number
            (Henry back from Hawaii)
            6:30 PM - help RG move furniture
            (7:00 p.m. - special on HBO)
            8 pm - jazzercise class
            (called Mom recently?)

            In your case, you could put a reminder for the next 4 weeks that you want to do something. You may also want to put reminders mid-week to remind you of the upcoming deadline. Around the 4th week, you could put a reminder to add in more reminders.

            Hope this helps,
            JohnV474

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by willnapier View Post
              Hi everyone. I am using www.nozbe.com for my GTD implementation, but this is a general question: suppose you realise that you are behind in some regular task, and that your aim is to both catch up with that task, but also to continue doing it in an ongoing way. Where does that fit into the system? If I make it a project, then it means that the project will never be complete. Yet I seem to think that in GTD, projects should be SMART, ie they have an end, and criteria for completion. In Nozbe it is possible to assign a 'label' to a project (in others perhaps it would be the use of a tag). I am thinking that it might be best to keep labels for this sort of ongoing aim (eg 'keep up to date with important contacts'), and specific plans to do so (eg 'organise a party for important contacts') could be projects. How do others handle this sort of thing?

              With thanks, Will
              Most good list tools have advanced repeating options that allow you to repeat things in various ways, e.g. every week no matter what, or one month after the last completion, et cetera. If your tool doesn't do what you want, do it by hand. If it's a small thing, it's a recurring task. If it's bigger, it's a recurring project.

              Frankly, I have found that putting stuff like 'keep up to date with important contacts' on lists is mostly pious self-delusion. You need more bottom-up crispness to succeed. How will you keep up to date? Which contacts? Why?
              Last edited by mcogilvie; 07-07-2010, 10:33 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                It's an area of focus. For example:

                area of focus: car is maintained
                project: car brakes have been replaced
                project: car has been washed
                next action: google car shop near work
                next action: drive to car wash

                I always want my car to be in good condition, so I have that over-arching area of focus that I review every once in a while. The two associated projects have a definite successful outcome that could be met within a week or two as well as physical next actions to do; you're covered all the way up.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Correct!

                  Originally posted by context View Post
                  It's an area of focus. For example:

                  area of focus: car is maintained
                  project: car brakes have been replaced
                  project: car has been washed
                  next action: google car shop near work
                  next action: drive to car wash

                  I always want my car to be in good condition, so I have that over-arching area of focus that I review every once in a while. The two associated projects have a definite successful outcome that could be met within a week or two as well as physical next actions to do; you're covered all the way up.
                  This answer is correct. You might want to go back to the book and re-read the definition of a project carefully. It will help a lot to answer this question: "What does 'done' look like?" If you can't answer that, it likely isn't a project.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
                    use your reminder system.
                    I think that's a better solution than the one im doing.

                    My slight concern is about having 50-100 reminders per year in my system for one task. In actual fact I have many of these weekly recurring tasks and couldnt do it for all of them.

                    I also worry slightly about having anything in my calendar that I dont have to do. I've been pretty disciplined about what goes in my calendar, and dont get out my NA lists until my calendar lists are done. at the moment my reminders are either there to remind me to add something to my project/NA lists or to remind me that something thats already on my project/NA lists is getting close to deadline.

                    However I think its preferable to renewing an identical task each week, so il try it out and see where it goes.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Reminders, revisited

                      If you have multiple recurring items that occur with regularity, then your reminder could be a single entry to check your weekly checklist.

                      I have a daily checklist, weekly checklist, etc., for everything, everywhere, that needs recurring attention. Whether it's replacing windshield wipers every 2 years, treating leather, reviewing investments, shining shoes, replacing a furnace filter, preparing taxes, reviewing foreign language vocabulary, or defragmenting my hard drive, if an item recurs, I put it on a list.

                      Of course, in reality the windshield wipers may have been replaced already, so I am not a slave to the list. The list is to remind me to pay attention to that item and assess how it is.

                      The calendar is for information you want to know that day, whether because you committed to doing something at a specific time, that specific day, or because you want to think about that information on that day.

                      If you have a paper calendar, a single post-it can have a checklist of weekly tasks you want to do, which you stick to each week's page.

                      A Tickler system can also work for this... 43 folders, and whenever you accomplish a task, you can mail it to yourself to be reminded in several days.

                      The calendar I've described incorporates the Tickler, which is an approved practice. The parentheses indicate that it is a tickler item.

                      Hope you find something that works for you.

                      JohnV474

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I am brand new to the system, but it just seems to me that there is no place in the David Allen system for projects without end.

                        For instance, "Learn to Play the flute"

                        Your first action is to get a flute, then you get a teacher, later you make another action learn the scales, then later you learn how to play a simple piece of music, you keep putting more next actions on the list one after the other, but then, one day you decide "I have learned to play the flute" and then David Allen puts it on the completion list and never thinks about it again.

                        And he is one of the worst flute players in the world. The best things we do in life, learning to play music, learning to be a good father, learning how to be a good husband, all these things are never ending. And I guess the way to adapt these is to make little tiny goals one by one for these ongoing projects. So for instance to be a better husband one goal is to learn to always pick up your dirty laundry and put it in the hamper, so make that goal and then when you achieve it you make another goal, that you come right home after the game is over at the football stadium instead of hanging out there and having a dozen beers. So you go baby step by baby step achieving tiny goals putting them into action steps and achieving the actions.

                        But the David Allen system doesn't really provide for this sort of system. The David Allen system is for GETTING IT DONE and then throwing it out. Sure you can put it into your area of interest but once it goes into your action list you want to get it DONE and finished, so it's out of your psychic ram. But the best things in life are never ending, you are always working on them. Like you always work on your golf swing. It's not like Tiger Woods decided one day "OK I'm good enough, I don't have to work better at golf anymore. This project is DONE." Nope. He's working on a never ending project of getting better and constantly achieving and adjusting goals.

                        My feeling is that even though David Allen learned to play the flute he is probably one of the worst flute players in the world, because he put it on his list just so he could check it off. That's not how you learn to play the flute.

                        Please criticize, like I said I'm a newbie to the system, and I probably don't understand it fully and there really is a great way to get the ongoing projects in life integrated into the system that I don't really understand.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          not covered all the way

                          Originally posted by context View Post
                          It's an area of focus. For example:

                          area of focus: car is maintained
                          project: car brakes have been replaced
                          project: car has been washed
                          next action: google car shop near work
                          next action: drive to car wash

                          I always want my car to be in good condition, so I have that over-arching area of focus that I review every once in a while. The two associated projects have a definite successful outcome that could be met within a week or two as well as physical next actions to do; you're covered all the way up.
                          The question was about recurring projects or actions. In this example, you're not finished after driving to the car wash once... you want to go monthly (let's say)... and the question was how to handle that...

                          I use outlook tasks for that and only for that (the rest of my system is in Excel). I put "water plants", "make invoices", "start up weekly news letter" as a recurring item and when the date is there they pop up every time I open outlook. if I do them I check them off, if I don't they stay as "over due date" and keep popping up every morning...

                          Myriam

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Good enough?

                            Originally posted by bonerici View Post
                            Your first action is to get a flute, then you get a teacher, later you make another action learn the scales, then later you learn how to play a simple piece of music, you keep putting more next actions on the list one after the other, but then, one day you decide "I have learned to play the flute" and then David Allen puts it on the completion list and never thinks about it again.

                            And he is one of the worst flute players in the world. The best things we do in life, learning to play music, learning to be a good father, learning how to be a good husband, all these things are never ending.
                            Why do you think that successful outcome of the "learn to play flute" project must be something more than "learn to play 5 most popular christmas carols"?

                            You can define any successful outcome - it's up to you.

                            You can be the happiest worst flute player in the world!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              You can have a project to setup a habit. Eg I worked out that if my home was tidy and organised, I could clean the whole lot in 2 hours each week. I can't do that now because I have so much clutter, so decluttering and organising is a project. I'll know I'm done when it looks tidy and organised, and I can clean it in two hours.
                              So home is my area of focus, tidying and cleaning are my habits related to the AOF, and the project is decluttering.
                              Similar with meals, cooking is part of my home area of focus, but I have a project to setup a 4 week menu plan to help it go smoother.

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