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Suggestions wanted for handling subtasks of Projects



AuthorMessage
russbuchmann

Posted: Apr 05, 2012
Score: 1



After searching the forums I have decided to get direct feedback...

How to handle Projects and subtasks the GTD way (or close to it).

So I am new to Toodledo (and love it) and somewhat new to GTD as well, but I understand most of the basics. I guess for this to be efficient, I should give you a rough layout of how I have Toodledo setup (similar to Proximo's setup, etc)

CONTEXTS:
-Work
-Home
-Phone
-Errands

FOLDERS
-Actions
-Projects
-Waiting
-Follow-up
-Ticklers
-Someday
-No Folder

Basically I "STAR" any task/action I want to be a "Next Action" and use custom searches to filter things as needed.

Right now if I have a Project, I do the following:

1. Create a Parent Task with the project name (Let's say "Store Billboard")
2. Next, I create the subtasks (potential sub-actions) that I anticipate for that project at the time of adding the project task. Each subtask has a project name prefix for easier identification like others have recommended. I am not sure if it is good/appropriate to create these in advance, but it helps me to feel more organized and put the steps down in advance.

Let's say we have something like:

>Store Billboard (Project)
>>>BILLB: Email buyers about content/message for billboard
>>>BILLB: Send quote request to installers
>>>BILLB: Gather needed artwork
>>>BILLB: Layout billboard draft
>>>BILLB: Email draft to owners for review
>>>BILLB: Make required changes
>>>BILLB: Email final draft to owners for approval
>>>BILLB: Send artwork to installers

3. The way I have Toodledo setup, those subtasks inherit the context and folder (and other attributes) of my parent task/project. So in this case, they would all have a context of 'Work" and a folder of "Projects" right off the bat unless I change something...THIS IS WHERE I GET CONFUSED WITH GTD...

I might STAR "Email buyers about content..." to make it a Next Action, but 1) I am not sure if I should change it's folder to "Actions" and 2)Once I email the buyers, I may be "WAITING" for them to reply, but still be able to move on to 1-2 other subtasks/actions within the project. Do I keep a task that is marked as "WAITING" starred any longer or should I just be sure to check my waiting folder each day and follow-up as needed.

I feel like I shouldn't have multiple, active NEXT Actions for a project from a GTD standpoint, but that just seems to be what happens.

So I guess my questions/issues are:

1. Is there a recommended way (with Toodledo and/or by GTD methods)of labeling/handling projects and subtasks to be most efficient.

2. Am I handling the subtasks/actions of a project properly in your opinions? As far as having 1-3 active at a time based on folder/context?

3. I feel like the parent task for a project should be in the "Projects" folder, but I am not sure about the subtasks of a project also being in that folder - since individually they aren't "Projects" and can take on other states/folders like "Waiting" or "Actions".

4. If I don't have subtasks in the "Projects" folder then they do not show up in that folder view by default. Maybe that is a good thing. Advice? Should all pre-entered subtasks of a project parent task be actions right from the beginning or should they be in no folder.

Sorry this is so lengthy and probably more detailed than it needs to be. I appreciate any feedback and want to thank anyone who actually takes the time to read through all of this.

-Russ


This message was edited Apr 05, 2012.
eric

Posted: Apr 09, 2012
Score: 1



Hi, I see you say you're new to both GTD and Toodledo, so I thought this might clarify things a bit. I want to point out up front, I don't have stellar answer for you, just an observation, and how I've dealt with it.

Here it is: What to do with tasks set as "project folders" and sub-tasks, is a Toodledo question (some might say problem). It isn't a much of a GTD problem.

Here's how I've dealt with it - it may be too distant from your setup for you to feel comfortable with, but I use folders to house areas of responsibility (ie..friends & family) and larger, multi-project things that will be around for a few months.

My project-task, and its subtasks live in the relevant folder.

I use the status field to assign next action, waiting for, etc.. to each sub-task. The project task is differentiated by assigning a status of "reference", since it isn't actually actionable.

It ain't perfect, but in my opinion, and I've stuck with Toodledo for awhile now, they would really benefit from allowing nested folders, like we have all had on our desktop computers for decades now...

Good luck! Hope someone comes along with something more helpful if this didn't do much for you.


This message was edited Apr 09, 2012.
ben

Posted: Apr 09, 2012
Score: 1



Posted by russbuchmann:
After searching the forums I have decided to get direct feedback...

How to handle Projects and subtasks the GTD way (or close to it).

So I am new to Toodledo (and love it) and somewhat new to GTD as well, but I understand most of the basics.


Have you read David Allen's "Getting Things Done" book, if not highly recommend that as a early step in your journey? As a follow on, "Making It All Work" helps fill in more blanks.

I guess for this to be efficient, I should give you a rough layout of how I have Toodledo setup (similar to Proximo's setup, etc)


I am also basically using Proximo's structural layout in ToodleDo. I place projects and their associated sub-tasks in the projects folder, leaving the sub-tasks in place under the project when I act on them as next actions. Single task items (things that are not projects) go into the actions folder. I am most interested in as little overhead as possible thus I do not move next action items that are projects to the actions folder. Along the least resistance minimal overhead lines I also do not currently use the status field, for me its just too much non value add busy work and I found myself resisting using my trusted system.

One way to think about staring items is that this is the flag to identify your next actions, where ever they are. You then create a filter in ToodleDo and/or your favorite desktop and/or smartphone application to present you with a list of what you have identified as your next actions.

On occasion I will review (self asses) how I am feeling about / interacting with my trusted system seeking the path of least resistance and making adjustments if I find resistance building up. I am actually in a review cycle right now and am starting to make some adjustments to how I process.

Hope this helps...
-Ben
JPR

Posted: Apr 09, 2012
Score: 0



With the flexibility of Toodledo, there are lots of ways to set up a GTD system... each with it's own strengths and weaknesses. The Proximo setup seems to click with many, but your post shows it's main weaknesses (in your questions 3 & 4). The Proximo videos can also be a bit confusing because he used the Context field more as an Area of Focus, and then used Tags as a kind of sub-Context in the true GTD sense.

When setting up GTD in Toodledo a big decision is how to handle projects; mainly whether to use the subtask feature or not. I'm a subtask fan, some aren't, and there is plenty written in these forums on that subject. My take on subtasks is here:
https://www.toodledo.com/forums/2/14168/-68340/subtasks-what-does-it-buy-you.html

Another big decision is how to handle status. Proximo does it with folders. Some do it with the Status field. I do neither. I use Folders for Areas of Focus (AOF) and handle status the following ways:

Inbox:
• custom search, any task that is No Folder AND No Context. I use no default values. For things I quickly add with only a task description and nothing else.

Actions:
• any task that has a context defined. I do not define context up front for subtasks of projects. Defining the context IS defining the status as "next action".

Projects:
• a task that begins with "!" or "!This is an Active Project". When you sort on the task field your projects sort to the top. It also gives you a quick visual of whether or not a task is a project. I also use multiples to sort higher for a "!!!High Priority Project". Folder/AOF required. Context not defined.

Someday/Maybe:
• a task that begins with "?". These will sort just below the active projects. I use the same trick "???" to get some to sort higher. Folder/AOF required. Context not defined.

Waiting For:
• I use Context for this. If I email someone and I'm waiting for a reply, I simply change the context of the original task to "Waiting".

Ticklers:
• assign a due date.

Here are some advantages to using Folders for Areas of Focus over the Proximo method:
• AOF tends to be fixed for any given project and subtasks. Once you set it, no more editing needed. Also, I have subtasks set NOT to inherit parent attibutes. Even with this setting, Folder is unique in that it is always inherited.
• Folders make more sense in the Notebook section, which I use for reference items.
• Like eric noted, this allows for "super projects". If I have a really big project and need sub projects, I create a new folder.
• You can use a fixed Show setting for Subtasks in the Folder view. (I use Hidden.) With the Proximo setup you are much more likely to need to change the subtasks show setting for each tab. PITA.

If you're still reading :) regarding your #2 question about how many active subtasks: I try and keep it at one, but for projects that are high complexity or under tight deadlines or have independent waiting items, there is no reason why you can't have multiples. The biggest issue is making sure your action lists don't get too long and repel you.

I use the Star field "on the fly" mainly as way to quickly get something on my Hotlist. On rare occasions I use it as the selector for the multi-edit tool via custom search.

As always, YMMV.
PeterW 

Posted: Apr 10, 2012
Score: -1



Posted by ben:
On occasion I will review (self asses) how I am feeling about / interacting with my trusted system seeking the path of least resistance and making adjustments if I find resistance building up. I am actually in a review cycle right now and am starting to make some adjustments to how I process.

I do this from time-to-time too and find it helps keep things fresh.

And in fact I've just made a significant change. Until now my system has been based closely on the 'Proximo' design, i.e. folders for next actions, projects, someday & waiting for. The projects folder contains parent tasks for each project and subtasks for each project's actions.

But after reading David Allen's recent Productive Living newsletter about project lists http://www.davidco.com/newsletters/archive/0412.html it got me thinking. I don't spend much time in the projects folder itself but prefer to work out of the Hotlist. While this helped me crunch through next actions including project next actions, it didn't keep my list of projects visible. I'd see them in the weekly review but in the daily grind they haven't had enough focus.

So the change I have made is this: I still use folders for Next Actions (i.e. single tasks), Someday and Waiting-for but instead of one Projects folder, I now have a folder for each project. To keep them together on the screen I've prefixed them with "Prj:" and am using the same colour. So in the main interface I can now see all of my projects (i.e. my main commitments) and hopefully this will help me progress them forward more regularly and purposefully.


This message was edited Apr 10, 2012.
ben

Posted: Apr 10, 2012
Score: 1



Posted by PeterW:
And in fact I've just made a significant change. Until now my system has been based closely on the 'Proximo' design, i.e. folders for next actions, projects, someday & waiting for. The projects folder contains parent tasks for each project and subtasks for each project's actions.

But after reading David Allen's recent Productive Living newsletter about project lists http://www.davidco.com/newsletters/archive/0412.html it got me thinking. I don't spend much time in the projects folder itself but prefer to work out of the Hotlist. While this helped me crunch through next actions including project next actions, it didn't keep my list of projects visible. I'd see them in the weekly review but in the daily grind they haven't had enough focus.

So the change I have made is this: I still use folders for Next Actions (i.e. single tasks), Someday and Waiting-for but instead of one Projects folder, I now have a folder for each project. To keep them together on the screen I've prefixed them with "Prj:" and am using the same colour. So in the main interface I can now see all of my projects (i.e. my main commitments) and hopefully this will help me progress them forward more regularly and purposefully.


Peter thanks for sharing this! I've gone back and re-read that newsletter, now you have me thinking about visibility...

-Ben
Dave

Posted: Apr 10, 2012
Score: 1



Great to see everyone talking about DA's newsletter. I have been a big fan of a projects list for awhile now. This was after reading the book a few times and looking over his old Palm system he used. I have a context of "project" and then use a saved search to see them in a list. Most folks who don't use a projects list haven't fully "dumped" everything from their head and don't fully rely on their system (IMHO). DA consistently writes about folks with 175 NA and 50+ Projects while maintaining a "mind like water" perspective. I am not there yet, but at that level a projects list is essential.
russbuchmann

Posted: Apr 13, 2012
Score: 1



@Everyone...
Sorry I didn't respond sooner. I thought I was "watching" the post and just thought no one got around to responding yet. Apparently I was wrong. Thanks for all of the feedback so far. I guess the main thing to grab from your responses is that Toodledo is very customizable and there is no right answer. Do what works for each of us.

@Eric
I have seen some other suggestions like your setup. For some reason, I feel like I would have too many folders to worry about and be constantly managing them. I would just be happy if there was a "Project" field that you could relationally tie tasks to. I guess that is similar to folders, but I sure like my folder setup so far. Maybe I will learn to appreciate your method after I get more familiar with my options.

@ben
Yes, I have read the book. it was a while ago and I loved it. I just can't find it. I figured with all of the info on the internet I could find an easy explanation of projects and some of the other questions I had.
I actually think I process my tasks very closely to how you do, except I was on the fence about putting subtasks of projects into the "Actions" folder or any other folder for that matter.

Do all of your subtasks ALWAYS stay in the "Projects" folder? If so, how do you handle Waiting, Follow-up, etc?
I use Stars just like you mentioned, but I question whether things that are WAITING should have a star as a reminder for me. For example, if I am waiting on someone to complete a subtask of a project but there is another subtask I could work on then I would have two starred subtasks for that project. That seems very anti-GTD. Thanks

@JPR
I read every word so no worries there. I each of you took the time to read all of my craziness it is the least I can do.

Between you and Eric so far I am thinking I might continue to look into folders more for projects, but not right away since Toodledo IS working for me. I am still learning.
So you basically consider anything with a CONTEXT a "Next Action"? I can see how that makes sense. Maybe my problem is that I am anticipating what will happen too early on, BUT it does make me feel better and alleviate some stress.

@PeterW
Again, another person to get me thinking about Folders. I just think I like how I can just type a PROJECT name into the quick task box and it will be in my Inbox for review later. Just add subtasks and I am done. Folders for Projects seem like that would slow down my ability to purge tasks from my mind or other inboxes.

I will read the newsletter though. Thank you.

@Dave
Since I use a PROJECTS folder with parent & subtasks, I have a custom search that only shows items that are NOT subtasks and ARE in the PROJECTS folder. That is my "Projects" list. I review it every day because my projects move very quickly.
ben

Posted: Apr 16, 2012
Score: -1



Posted by russbuchmann:
@ben
Yes, I have read the book. it was a while ago and I loved it. I just can't find it. I figured with all of the info on the internet I could find an easy explanation of projects and some of the other questions I had.
I actually think I process my tasks very closely to how you do, except I was on the fence about putting subtasks of projects into the "Actions" folder or any other folder for that matter.

Do all of your subtasks ALWAYS stay in the "Projects" folder? If so, how do you handle Waiting, Follow-up, etc?
I use Stars just like you mentioned, but I question whether things that are WAITING should have a star as a reminder for me. For example, if I am waiting on someone to complete a subtask of a project but there is another subtask I could work on then I would have two starred subtasks for that project. That seems very anti-GTD. Thanks


Russ? First, I always keep the subtasks with the parent project. I handle waiting and tasks that I owe to people by tagging them with wo (waiting on) and io (I owe) I can then filter on these separately in one quick review check on dates, timing, etc. I use the notes feature to keep a running log of the, what I'm waiting for, what I owe, etc.

With this approach I'm not concerned about (usually anyway) whether there are multiple subtasks that might require focus as I am controlling what I can do as a next action so the waiting on does not factor into this until it hits whatever deadline I have self imposed to follow up at which point I follow up as a part of my daily review of my tagged waiting on actions. (hope this makes some sense)

I'm listening to "Making It All Work" by David Allen at the moment, it's a very good follow on to the original book.

@PeterW
Again, another person to get me thinking about Folders. I just think I like how I can just type a PROJECT name into the quick task box and it will be in my Inbox for review later. Just add subtasks and I am done. Folders for Projects seem like that would slow down my ability to purge tasks from my mind or other inboxes.

I will read the newsletter though. Thank you.


I too am considering shifting to Folders for projects. To answer your overhead question, my current (and future approach regardless of what direction I end up going) is to add a task "Build xyx project" when I need to add a new project.

If I add multiple items quickly I don't worry about building the project at point of capture I take care of that when I "process my inbox." The inbox is generic for me with the exception that I set a context of either work or personal (a default on my entry device) at the time of entry with a due date of tomorrow. I typically do not use the web GUI for on the fly inbox capture but instead use my Android smart phone which has a handy widget for quick data entry.

I have just started experimenting with TaskUnifier on my desktop along with the ability to quickly enter tasks to my inbox via a keyboard macro utilizing a combination of ActiveWords and a command line interface that the TaskUnifier author was so gracious to provide. This will in essence mimic my entry method on my phone which I find to have next to no processing overhead and thus I use all the time.

Whew, that was a-lot of brain dump, hope you can follow...

-Ben


This message was edited Apr 16, 2012.
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