View Full Version : The relationship of Projects to Next Actions
09-07-2011, 10:37 AM
Please pardon my ignorance and feel free to point me to a FAQ if this is answered, but I'm ADD and dyslexic as the day is long (exasperated by lack of sleep).
I'm having some trouble understanding some of the hierarchical relationships in the various containers/categories. The big one that has me confused is the relationship between Projects and Next Actions:
Do projects contain Next Actions ?
Should the Next Actions that relate to a Project be kept only within the boundaries of the Project or should they be contained in a global list like the book seems to indicate?
If a Project's Next Actions are contained only within a global list, how do I track the components of the Project?
Is there a necessity for a cross-linked database to avoid duplication?
I have a lot of faith in these principles, but it's not clicking with me yet. If you have a relevent page number in the book, I can consult that if specific info is taboo on the forums. Any help is appreciated.
09-07-2011, 11:59 AM
Use this forum search function and enter "project link" keywords. You'll see plenty of threads about linking Next Actions to Projects. It is one of the most discussed issues here.
09-07-2011, 01:53 PM
Thanks very much. I wasn't able to figure out a useful search string until your guidance.
For anyone that may come in before this thread drops off the page, this post was handy:
In the mean time I sort of figured out how I can handle this and it more or less mirrors your own suggestion in that thread. I'm using Evernote as my GTD platform since I require cloud storage. What I ended up doing was having a projects stack with a notebook for each project. A Next Action will have its own note which will be moved into the main Next Action notebook as it becomes relevent to the project.
Sorry, I'm not explaining it well but it's actually pretty simple.
09-07-2011, 02:39 PM
The main assumption of vanilla GTD is that it's better to explicitly tie next actions to contexts rather than projects. With paper lists, that is really a decision you have to make, although you can have references to projects if it helps you. With some electronic implementations, you can have next actions appear in both context and project lists. What seems to be very common, particularly with electronic lists, is mixing next actions with project reference material, including possible future actions. It's usually a mistake. The gtd book is actually a very clear and complete guide, and I highly recommend it. One problem you might have with using Evernote notebooks for projects is that you may have 50 or more projects, many with one next action at a time, and the system will not work smoothly.
09-08-2011, 07:09 PM
Hi. You might consider my relatively simple, but effective system for correlating next actions to their projects and also tying project reference material to projects.
Maintain an archive (a spreadsheet works) of all of your projects. Give each project a unique number such as "P1". Any next actions you create should begin with the project ID i.e "P1.Feed the dog", etc. Also, any related reference materials will also begin with the ID in the file name (whether paper or electronic).
Its simple, and it works. You won't lose track of any items, whether reference material, or next actions associated with projects.
09-09-2011, 11:51 AM
Your brain does a fine job of connecting the dots; it doesn't do a good job of remembering the dots. If you are doing regular (especially weekly) reviews of your system then your mind can make the connections more rapid than any "links" in your system. Keep your lists simple and review regularly. In my experience trying to link projects and actions within the system creates unnecessary overhead.
09-09-2011, 06:15 PM
What seems to be very common, particularly with electronic lists, is mixing next actions with project reference material, including possible future actions. It's usually a mistake.
I think mcogilvie you are also an OmniFocus user ? This is a problem I have in OF. It is so easy to clip an email into OF I usually end up with a Project containing NAs and few emails which have been clipped and appear like NAs because they have a checkbox. I wish I could just remove the checkbox. Do you have a solution to this ? I could save the emails to files and link them to the project but that would be a bit tedious.
Thanks - Michael
09-10-2011, 12:57 PM
It is so easy to clip an email into OF I usually end up with a Project containing NAs and few emails which have been clipped and appear like NAs because they have a checkbox. I wish I could just remove the checkbox. Do you have a solution to this ?
I'm also an OF user and here's what I do. When I clip the e-mail they go into my OF inbox. As I process those items I include the e-mail in the notes part of the main project header. That's where I put my project support material if it's small enough.
Sometime the e-mail really does contain the next action but the subject line isn't clear. For those cases I just change the subject line to be accurate.
In a few cases before I figured out to add stuff to the project notes I also ended up with e-mails that have checkboxes that are project support. What I did was put a next action just prior to all those e-mails that is "Review project support material below" Then they are all hidden and when I get to that item I can review them and see if I can delete the actions or need to do something else.
09-10-2011, 09:14 PM
I'm also an OF user and here's what I do.
Thanks. That is pretty much what I do but I hadn't tried your second trick of putting an NA above the email NA and thus hiding it. Neat. I also hadn't realised -- until your reply prompted me to try it -- that if I cut and past and email which has been clipped to an NA into the Project it takes with it the very useful Original Message link which enables you to go back to the message in Mail.
I will email Omni with the suggestion that they allow some kind of non-checkable Project Support item in a Project.