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How many open projects?
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Posted: Mar 26, 2010
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Hello all. I'm still working thru how to make this all work for me. I was a die-hard FC Planning System user and the transition to GTD has been both natural and challenging.

That said, I find that I feel that I have to many active "projects" going at once. While I like the next action list and the flexibility to tackle things that I'm in "the mood" to deal with at that time, I feel like I have so many that I'm not really making much progress on anything.

I'm wondering if any of you have a particular philosophy or method for limiting the number of projects, maybe by area of focus in your life or something? Many of my projects are just things that I WANT to get done so I could shorten my active projects list. But, on the other hand, I'm not sure if less options on my next actions list would be good or not. I feel like it would be good.

Any feedback would be appreciated!

Posted: Mar 26, 2010
Score: 1 Reference
Posted by jodowick:
I'm wondering if any of you have a particular philosophy or method for limiting the number of projects, maybe by area of focus in your life or something? Many of my projects are just things that I WANT to get done so I could shorten my active projects list. But, on the other hand, I'm not sure if less options on my next actions list would be good or not. I feel like it would be good.

My method is to use a combination of folders, contexts, tags, start dates (to hide some tasks) and due dates so that I can filter my list down to a smaller more manageable size. I then have a list tuned towards my current context/frame of mind/energy level, etc. So I rarely look at all tasks.

And I frequently flick between views (e.g. view by folder/context/tag/due date) to give me a different perspective on everything. I find that if I always use the same view, I tend to lose sight of certain tasks that may have been on the list for a while.

This message was edited Mar 26, 2010.

Posted: Mar 26, 2010
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You are correct about areas of focus. This is the area that exists between projects and your 30,000 foot goals. Areas of focus represent the responsibilities you need to fulfill in order to achieve your one year goals. The achievment of these goals should fulfill your vision of where you want to be in a few years.

Once you start to identify your areas of focus you can see if all your projects are in alignment to achieving your one year goals. You can see if you have balance and that ballance is all up to how you feel you are able to achieve your goals.

Toodledoo give you the oportunity to align task with short term goals but this does not work for me. In reality tasks should be aligned with projects and projects should be aligned with areas of focus and areas of focus should be aligned with short term goals.

I hope toodledo can achieve this in the future

Posted: Apr 14, 2010
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I guess I'm not being very clear. What I'm wondering is if you all set a limit on the number of projects to have better focus. Let me give an example. A 30k foot goal is a peaceful, livable, welcoming home. Projects under that goal are: finish kitchen remodel, fix up downstairs bathroom, organize daughters room, remodel my bathroom, decorate my bedroom, paint all baseboards, new window treatments... the list goes on. I have all of those projects on my list but it just seems like a lot and doing little bits on each of them isn't moving me forward very quickly.

So, I guess this is more philosophical. Has anyone found a good mix between variety of projects but not to many "in process" at once. I like having a list with lots of tasks with options of length and effort but I don't like feeling like I have tons of half-finished projects.

GTD seems to support having them all as projects. None of them are "someday/maybe" items, in my opinion as I have already decided they will all happen. And, again, the variety of choices for what I "feel like" doing is good... but lack of actually completing projects is getting to me.

SO... I'm not really looking for how to use Toodledo, I'm looking for your philosophy or opinions on maximum number of projects in a particular area of your life.

Thanks so much!!!
Andrew A

Posted: Apr 14, 2010
Score: 2 Reference
I would think, after your description perhaps a folder called "Peaceful Life" that lists each of your criteria and goals, and then as each section becomes actionable, you can tick it off that "peaceful" list and then create a new folder with each of the actionable items therein... e.g, check off Remodel Kitchen from the peacful folder and then create a new "Remodel Kitchen" folder with all the actionable or soon to be actionable tasks that you are aware of.

I'm sure others will have other opinions, this is just one thought and how I approach these things, I have the thought, but if it isn't really actionable I just bullet point it for now until it is pertinent.

Posted: Apr 14, 2010
Score: 1 Reference
I use my Someday list for anything that is not happening soon or has a fixed deadline.

So my way of handling this would be to put a task with sub-tasks into Someday and keep them out of my project list until I really can schedule the work.

Task = Peaceful Liveable Home
Sub-task = Fix up Kitchen
Sub-task = Remodel Bathroom

Each sub-task would contain bullet points in the notes field representing the steps to be taken.

When I am ready to tackle one of the sub-tasks, I would turn it into a parent task in my Project folder and the bullet points would become sub-tasks that get checked off when done.

This way I would only be looking at one project at a time.

This message was edited Apr 14, 2010.

Posted: Apr 14, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
Oooh, interesting setup, PeterW!

I would currently have all of those projects as parent tasks associated with a long-term goal of "Peaceful Liveable Home".

Whichever ones look reasonable to move forward now are set to Active with subtasks for the steps (marked Next Action or Hold as appropriate).

Any that seem like too much right now are marked as Someday with salient steps in the notes.

As for deciding how many to move on at once, I usually try to find a balance between my areas of responsibilty, with maybe only one major project and a couple of small projects for each one. If I try to tackle all of my major projects in a single area at once nothing moves forward at a reasonable enough pace. (This leads to the frustration and feelings of helplessness that GTD is trying to kill.)

I like PeterW's idea of having the dream list as a sort of master project, that you strip subtasks off of as they become relevant. That way you also get the sense of accomplishment as you finish one and then strip the next away from the master project. You get the satisfactio of watching that giant, seemingly amorphous project shrink to completion!

Posted: Apr 15, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
Thanks Linden.

Goals may well be a better way of handling this although to be honest I just haven't looked at this part of Toodledo yet! Partly because I'm lazy but mainly because I am trying to keep it as simple as I can, and I also assumed that it wouldn't be supported in Appigo Todo which I use.


Posted: Apr 19, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
Third-party support always complicates things! I'm not sure if Appigo's Todo supports goals, either.

My setup relies only on the web interface, so I've got a bit more flexibility to play with the features that aren't consistently supported in the various apps. :)

Goals can be handy for adding what's effectively an extra layer of folders, but to be honest I still haven't found a fantastic setup for them yet. They can be a time-sink if you want to get things perfect. (I limit myself to tweaking them every 4-6 months so I can focus on the tasks more than the management.)


Posted: May 17, 2010
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Posted by jodowick:

... I find that I feel that I have to many active "projects" going at once. While I like the next action list and the flexibility to tackle things that I'm in "the mood" to deal with at that time, I feel like I have so many that I'm not really making much progress on anything.

I've had (I have) this problem. I can think up more things to do (many of which I need to do rather than I would just like to do) than I could ever do.

So about a couple of months back I changed my approach. I now don't include all possible projects/actions in my next actions and make more use of Someday (a separate folder). My goal is to limit my projects to about 10-12. Its currently 16, as some things come in which just have to be live. This then concentrates my action and I can more clearly see where I need to add actions to get a particular thing done. A nice side affect is that when I complete a project, I get to choose a new project to move from Someday to Live (a morale booster). This approach seems to be working, and helps me to avoid procrastination.

I also have a couple of projects set-up for general stuff like Chores and Garden to help me manage the ongoing day to day actions.

- Mark

This message was edited May 17, 2010.

Posted: May 20, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
As brandmarked says, the logical solution to this problem is the Someday/Maybe list (assuming you're using "classic" GTD). You review your tasks/projects, decide which are a priority to you at the moment, then add all the others to Someday/Maybe. As long as you regularly review this list you can keep your active tasks aligned with your current priorities.

Taking your example of "peaceful, livable, welcoming home", perhaps you want a finished kitchen really badly, but can wait a while for the bathroom to be redone, so you'd have "finish kitchen remodel" on your list and shift the bathroom jobs to SDM. And maybe you want your daughter to have a nice, organised room where she can play happily but you can put up with your own room being less than perfect, so put "decorate bedroom" on SDM & "organize daughters room" on your active list. Keep reviewing the list and these tasks won't slip through the net (unless you eventually decide that they aren't important to you).

I have to admit, though, that I don't do this myself any more, but that's because I have found that I'm not well suited to a classic GTD system... mostly because I'm not good enough at doing proper weekly reviews!! But also because my life doesn't lend itself well to organising by contexts. So I have had to incorporate good old fashioned priority ranking into my system to impose some order on it, and I use this instead of Someday/Maybe most of the time (I still have an SDM list but it's more just ideas for the future which I know I can't do much about right now). Although my system is inspired by GTD, I deviate quite a lot from the canonical version; e.g I set due dates for tasks which don't actually have a due date, but then use the priority to indicate how seriously to take this due date (so tasks with real due dates are priority 3, and I add a star if the task is particularly important). This means I can schedule tasks sometime in the future so they don't distract me from my current tasks, in much the same way as the SDM list, but without me having to rely on regularly reviewing the SDM list as the tasks will just pop up at the date I've set for them. I do try to review my lists as often as possible to keep them current, but this way I don't have to rely on myself to do that :)

However, if you don't have too much trouble keeping up with proper regular reviews, and are generally happy with the classic GTD structure then I think the SDM list is definitely the way to solve your problem.

Basically, whichever way you do it, you need to enforce some priorities! One of the biggest lessons I've learnt from the time I've spent learning about productivity techniques is that you can't do everything, and it's up to you to decide what you're going to prioritise and which things can wait. It seems that many problems people have with organising their tasks stem from an inability to decide which tasks are currently the most important to them. I think it just stems from a kind of idealism - we don't really want to face the fact that we have limitations and can't actually do everything!

You can't possibly do all of those tasks you've put down under "peaceful, livable, welcoming home" in the next few weeks, can you? So decide what you can realistically achieve in the short term and put the rest to one side until you have time to do them, or until you decide that they have become more important or urgent.

This message was edited May 20, 2010.
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