View Full Version : How to track Next actions with Projects?
01-01-2004, 02:25 PM
I am just starting to setup GTD but before I start.. I am concerned with the # of projects I have. I have tons of projects (multi-step tasks that make me wait for others, research more info, etc.) and want to keep track of the projects overall (i.e. not forget something on them).
How do you link the sheer # of projects with your next action steps? Do you ONLY do that in your weekly review? I guess I could see a bunch of NAs but once you complete that you might get side tracked and forget to create another NA for that same project. How do I make sure it doesn't happen? Do I check my Master Project List each week?
I am going to try to use a PocketPC with ListPro and PocketInformat to do this so any helpful hints/suggestions would be appreciated.
01-02-2004, 04:55 AM
Welcome to the wonderful (sometimes wacky) world of GTD.
A couple of opening thoughts - to put things in proper perspective
There is no "right way" to use the GTD Methods. The methods that David espouses DO work, remarkably well. As a result of that - many of us may tend to get overly "DEVOUT" in our posts - saying "this is THE WAY that has worked for me! FOLLOW my way!"
Bullshit (lol) We each need to create our own path. Take the hints, but take them lightly and adapt them to fit what works for you. Even David mentions that several times in his book.
Secondly - HOWEVER you choose to create your links - do NOT overly complicate things. You don't want to spend time "noodling" your system. David has a wonderful line in the book about creating "as many buckets as you need; but as FEW as you can successfully get away with." Keep that in mind with all the intricacies of your GTD system. While there are a lot of posts here that worrry about the "Next Action" level - that is really NOT the level that David wants anyone to "worry" about. That level is set up so you DON'T have to worry about it, or focus on it. The best place to place your focus is on the successful OUTCOME.
If you can get the successful OUTCOME, with simple (or no) links from Project to NA - GO FOR IT. You may be surprised to find that your mind does a surprising job of associating the action to the parent project on it's own.
Now - a couple of potential solutions....
A) Include the Project Title in any Next Actions associated with it.
B) Keep a Project Schedule (or series of FUTURE - not Next - Actions) in the "notes" section of the Project Task. As you complete one Next Action - cut & paste the next one from this list into a new Next Action
C) Don't "complete" your Next Actions. Many of us simply "re-name" the Next Action, describing what we have to do NEXT, having just completed something for the Project. This also has the advantage of keeping the size of your database down...always a good thing for computers (unless you need an audit trail of past actions)
Well, that's it from here. I'm sure there are others who have their own paths that have worked for them.
I would close by saying "keep your system simple" - so that your mind is not distracted by worrying about it. It should be running "invisibly" in the background, so your attention can be 100% + fullly in the Present Moment - DOING, not thinking.
I think there is one thing that's constant (one size fits all), which is to do a weekly review. During the weekly review you would look at all your projects and make sure the next action is up to date, if in fact you didn't update the next action at the time you completed the previous one.
01-02-2004, 08:17 PM
:) Don't know if you are utilizing a PDA (Palm) for capture and processing. If you are, there is an excellent open source application called Projects that looks and acts remarkably like the native Palm task app with the exception that it ties all To Dos to its relative project. You can export To Dos to the Native apps , import memos, and export entire projects to memo pad giving you the powerful option to further export to MS WORD (which is what sold me). Best of all it's free. It also has very flexible category abilities in that each project can have it's own relative context or category items.
If you are a pen an paper (very liberating) you can create (as I did for a client) a Project Template Form that lists all the relative tasks under the main project info. I used MS Word and utilized it for projects completed for a major medical institution and had much success. This method works also on the PC as well.
Also Outlook can be configured to cleverly do this as well.
I hoped I helped and if your require indepth elaboration let me know.
01-02-2004, 10:09 PM
I think I am just going to need to create a list of projects and make sure I have actions for those projects. I wonder if I just create the NA to dos with PROJ: nameofproject Review xxx if that might work? Anyone else doing this? That's the best I can think of for now... but all of your suggestions have been helpful.
I'm somewhat limited in that I use Lotus Notes 5.x with a PocketPC.. more so by Notes than the PocketPC.
01-03-2004, 06:23 AM
I used ListPro. Now I'm using Trenotes. It has a PDA application, as well as desktop (same as ListPro) but the big difference is that it allows you to have several views.
I listed all my projects, NA'S, and other actions in the default view, which allows me to view each project, and assess what else needs to be done.
Then I go to the "by category" view - in which I can easily view all of my NA'S - in all projects.
01-03-2004, 08:11 AM
I am going to check this out because what you are saying could be very beneficial (i.e. multiple views of the same data.
01-03-2004, 05:05 PM
I am fairly new to GTD (5 weeks), but am overwhelmed by its effectiveness and how it has truly changed my life so far. I had a similar problem as the original poster -- way too many projects. I anticipated about 100 personal projects and 50 work projects when I started and wasn't sure how I would keep them all straight.
Well, first of all, by collecting all my projects I realized I had fewer than I thought -- my brain was just overloaded, plus I put a ton of things into Someday/Maybe.
Secondly, I label all projects with a letter code. I just started with A, B, C, ...., X, Y, Z, AA, AB, AC,...AZ, BA, BB, etc. Then, every action item has the letter code in front of it. This makes my weekly review (or any spot reviews) incredibly easy because I can skim for the letter code instead of reading each item. If I am ready to "close out" a letter (replacing it with another project), I just skim all action lists to see if anything is lingering.
I know this approach may not be espoused by DA, but I have found it to be outrageously successful.
Any input, positive or negative, is welcome.
01-03-2004, 07:07 PM
Actually, DA "blesses" this approach (in the Outlook white paper), if you have the discipline to carry it out consistently. As our cousins down under say, "Good on ya, mate!"
01-04-2004, 09:43 AM
Secondly, I label all projects with a letter code.
I am using a similar code (digits instead of letters), but sometimes my forgetfulness gets my into trouble when I try to assign the code-number that is assigned to a project also to the project's support material.
For instance, code-number "123" is assigned to project 123 and I have several actions for project 123 (with "123" in their descriptions/ denominations). And I assign number "123" to the support material for project 123. When project 123 is finished then code-number "123" gets "deallocated" and is free for an other project. And of course I forget to erase "123" from the support stuff.
OK, a month later a new project gets the number "123". When I look up the support material for project 123 I find the material for the old project.
01-04-2004, 10:44 PM
I like the idea of coding projects, for NA and Support reference; and I understand the 'number shock' you're having. My easy suggestion would be simply to *not* reuse the project numbers.
When project 123 is done, let the number be retired. As the project numbers start to get out of hand, (i.e., when they start to seem unwieldy to you) go back to 001 or whatever lowest number you use.
Might help, might feel wierd, but that's how I'm thinking about doing it.