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Projects in GTD
I've always found projects in GTD to be one of the vaguest areas. Theoretically it's just a list of all the areas where you have open loops (more than one next action). But that doesn't take into account short term goals, long term goals, places where they conflict, etc.
I can understand it from the perspective that GTD is about making sure short term actions take place first, but how do you scale it... up?
i think you might be mixing up projects and goals, because for projects, david allen gives a short, concide definition:"... any desired result, that has more than one action step." no much room there for vagueness i´d say.
yet when it comes to goals, the book stays really vague. not on what goals are, but on how to incorporate them into the methodology.
i can´t blame david allen for that, as he states, that GTD is after all a bottom-up approach for "clearing the decks" as he puts it.
i must admit, that i have not yet resolved that problem. what i try at the moment is to use GTD for tasks, and the "first things first"-approcach by Stephen R. Covey for my goals. the nice thing is: once you clarified your goals, they slip rather smoothly into the goals-mechanism of toodledo (at least they did for me).
What I *think* is most important about projects is this: You must be able to easily review your progress in them in your Weekly Review.
Disclaimer: I've not yet actually done a GTD Weekly Review. And this method I'm about to describe has kinda just been floating around my head, waiting for me to sit down and write about it. I've started implementing parts of it, I just haven't gotten around to actually going all the way and Reviewing. If you try it, let me know if it helps! :)
STEP ONE: Figure out some way to get your projects listed on a list of their own. This could be a tag or context or part of the task description; it just must be SEARCHABLE, because...
STEP TWO: Set up a Saved Search entitled "Projects" that lets you quickly see all the projects you have on the go. Make sure every project is labelled, but only label it ONCE so it comes up on the list just once.
I chose to use a context of -project-, figuring that I'd only be in "Project Review Mode" during my weekly review.
Some thoughts on how to apply the label (which as I said above, may be a tag or context or part of the task name):
- For larger projects that will involve more than one Weekly Review, set up a weekly repeating task that says something like: "review progress on project ABC" and label it -project-.
- For smaller projects that can be defined in a Pro account as just a handful of subtasks under one parent task, just slap the -project- label on the parent.
- Then when you do the Weekly Review, you just go to your Saved Search entitled "Projects", and presto! The list reminds you to review the bigger projects, and you can also see the parent tasks for the smaller projects.
The next thing to figure out (and I'll admit, this is where I'm stuck) is what to actually DO in a Weekly Review. I think it's mostly just making sure there is a clearly defined Next Action for each project, and that's supposed to make progress easier. I'm gonna have to try it someday and see.. :)
This message was edited Apr 08, 2008.
An excellent synopsis of the GTD Weekly review is at
Projects are not areas where you have open loops. Think of projects as any task that has multiple distinct steps. Steps that may be separated by time, steps that may be done by different individuals (delegated), or steps that exceed the likelihood of you completing them in one sitting.
In GTD, moment to moment you live out of your Next Actions list. That list should only contain the NEXT DISCRETE ACTION that will progress its 'project'. They should be self explanatory (you don't have to think about what the actions means) "turn the widget" type actions, and they should also be constrained in time such that once started you will finish it. Neither of those describe a multi-step project.
For example, "Phone Lawyer" may acatually be 2 steps: 1. look up number, 2. dial phone. But those really wouldn't be 2 discrete steps, separated in time. You wouldn't likely look up the number today, and then phone him tomorrow. Most likely they would be done together. So I would classify that as 1 next action.
HOwever, "phone financial consultant and talk about current RRSP status" might be more than 1 step. The first step might be 1. gather all current financial information., and then 2. phone financial consultant. This is because the first step alone might be time consuming, and you could see doing that on a Sunday afternoon, then phoning Monday morning. So this would actually be a project.
Course, projects can be much larger, like "Buy a car" which would have many steps.
And yes, Qrystal, the main purpose of having a projects list for your weekly review is to walk the list and make sure the Next Action for each project is in your Next Actions list.
Great post by all of you.
I use Tags that start with * to identify projects. I am a Pro Subscriber, so I use Sub-Task to control the individual steps in a given project. What I do with the Top Level Task, or what I like to call the Project Title, is to always start with "Project:". This identifies these task as the Project Title. Example: Project: Install new CAD Software
I also set the priority to -1. This allows all my Projects (Top Level Task with sub-task assigned) to be listed at the bottom of the screen.
Unfortunately, I use sub-task in Flat mode vs. Nested which I have a major complaint about. This allows you to see the sub-task that have a due date, high priority, etc. If you nest them, they will not show up unless you drill down into the Project Title.
Now I have these Flat task all over the place, but the Tag will clearly identify the project with a *Name of Project.
In the above example, the sub-task will have a Tag of *CAD-System
With the Tag view, I can click on the Folder for each project and clearly see the entire list of task that need to be done. I mark only one "Next Action" and the rest are Planning. This is how I complete the steps that get's me closer to completing the project at hand.
I can only hope that Toodledo will implement Project Management correctly and make Sub-task work as intended (Nested).
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