View Full Version : Newbie Q: managing all Project tasks
07-14-2006, 08:14 AM
I'm just starting (about a month or so into) to use GTD, and I'm already getting some value out of it. The 2-minute rule is a life-saver all by itself.
My question revolves around Projects. I'm onboard with identifying the absolute next actions for Projects. What is not as clear is how to manage all of the tasks for a Project. When I'm thinking of a project, I need to capture all of the actions that will need to be performed to get to a successful result. Also, I will think of other actions that don't need to be completed right away, but will be needed later on in the project. What are recommended GTD processes or tools for managing all of the project tasks, not just the next actions?
07-14-2006, 06:51 PM
In GTD terms, anything project-related that is not a Next Action is project support materials, and should be filed accordingly. That includes future Actions.
Some people, myself included, find it helpful to put future Actions on their main Next Action list. When I do this, I use either a date filter or a Someday/Maybe flag to hide things that I can't/don't want to do yet.
This is often a tricky area and it depends upon the project and your GTD set-up as to how to do it. I use outlook with the GTD add-in and do the following:
I keep the project plan (including tasks that are not yet next actions) in notes/body section of the project task/item for that project. Then when I move forward with the project I routinely review the project item (outlook task item for the project) to determine what the next action is. Depending upon the situation I may enter a new next action, re-think my project plan, or simply wait until I have time to do a project or weekly review.
If it is a particularly large project with multiple player's I may have an MS Project plan that I use, in which case there is a link in the Outlook Project Notes item to the MS Project plan. I only do this on a few key mega projects for which I have ultimate responsibility and must manage multiple direct reports and multiple matrixed resources.
In a paper based system you would do this much the same way. Each project on your project list would have a folder in the project support materials file which would in turn have a project plan on paper (anything from a brainstormed mind-map to a detailed gantt chart) along with other materials.
I sometimes will put non-next actions on a someday maybe list, but I've found that I really prefer to keep them on the project support materials. My lists are long enough as it is, and keeping the Next Action lists lean is important to making sure you get as much done as possible.
07-15-2006, 10:24 AM
When I'm thinking of a project, I need to capture all of the actions that will need to be performed to get to a successful result. Also, I will think of other actions that don't need to be completed right away, but will be needed later on in the project. What are recommended GTD processes or tools for managing all of the project tasks, not just the next actions?
The majority of projects (in the GTD sense) are not very complicated. Say you want to buy something for your home. You could write a little plan:
1) Research online
2) Decide purchase
3) Submit for spousal approval
5) Wait for shipped item
but when you do 1), you show the results to your spouse without making a decision. Spouse suggests a trip to local store as next action. What is the value of your plan now? It's better not to overplan these projects.
There are projects that need some planning, some notes, perhaps a little mindmap and/or an outline, really at a level above next actions. For people with mostly digital systems, you can keep this information in a notes field in Outlook, PDA, or whatever. You can also use paper, and transfer info to digital later, or just put a pointer to the paper [see xxx File] in the note field.
Finally, there are projects, typically large, complicated, and/or important, that require detailed, sustained planning. Your choice of tools is dictated by the nature of the project, and, for work projects, the nature of your job. I've typically used outliners or mind-mapping programs for these.
Paraphrasing DA, no two projects are ever completely the same. Trying to fit them all into the same framework is not a good idea. Of course, there are people who want or need to plan and track every step, but it's not necessary or even desirable for most people.
07-15-2006, 06:21 PM
Outside of GTD, most people use TO DO lists that really contain goals that require multiple steps, with no real definition of what needs to be done next.
GTD replaces that with an ACTION ITEM LIST, where each item on that list is a real action item that is described almost in a manner that you could give that list to your assistant and they would be on board.
Your question is typical. There is so much stress put on the NEXT ACTION, and there is not much discussion on the NEXT NEXT ACTION.
I personally do not agree that an action item list is to be put away in support materials. When I am doing multiple projects, I actually keep a stack of pads on my desk where I only write one project's next action list on only the top sheet of paper. They are sort of like Moses'es tablets of stone.
Yes. I get a great deal of grief from my work mates on this, but I am pulled in so many directions, it is great to come back to my desk, review the tablets, and start again on something.
07-17-2006, 12:37 PM
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. Basically, I need to work through the available options to find what works best for a) a particular project, and b) me. It also sounds like I probably need to spend some more time in the brainstorming area of GTD to capture my thoughts, then work through the best method for capturing the goals and tasks for that project.