How big are your projects?
I'm curious about how others have dealt with the question of what constitutes a project. One of the challenges I've found is determining what the reasonable size of a project should be. Has anyone found any best practices?
The literal definition of a project in GTD is such that you can end up with a lot of little projects that become difficult to manage. At the other end of the spectrum I've experimented with trying to keep only major outcomes as projects (such as end of year objectives).
While I find the short list of large projects less overwhelming, it is also a long time between project completions. In addition, I sometimes wonder if with larger projects there aren't key next actions that fall through the cracks.
I'd appreciate any input on what the scope of a typical GTD project should be.
Projects Are Just Projects
Anything you have one or more next actions to perform before a successful outcome is attained is a project. Some of them only have one more next action, some have 3-5, some may have 50 or more. Your next action list just needs (at any given point) to contain the next action descriptive of physical, visible behavior to move it forward toward the successful outcome.
For complex projects that may eventually require 75 more actions before successful completion, there is no need to assume that all relevant actions will appear on your next action list--it's merely a placeholder to know where you've left off when you get to any given weekly review. It may well be that only 6 of 75 ever appear on your next actions list.
You don't have "GTD Projects," you just have projects. And all you can ever do at a given point in time on any of them is a single action that moves you toward your desired outcome.
re: Handling Big Projects
I've thought a lot about this. Essentially it has to do with "What to do about sub-projects?"
This Quicktime movie explains how I've tried to deal with them and should give some helpful principles/advice you might be able to apply to your own approach to big projects.
Projects and subprojects.
Projects - specific outcomes that require more than one Next Action to be achieved. All my GTD Projects are personal projects that I am responsible for.
Areas of Focus - higher level outcomes that require one or more Projects to be achieved. Areas of Focus do not need to be personal.
So instead of projects and subprojects I use Areas of Focus (superprojects) and Projects.
My life is not very complicated so I do not need hierarchical project structures for my personal projects.
Work projects, personal GTD projects and Areas of Focus.
My work projects are not my personal GTD Projects. They are my Areas of Focus. Within a given work project (Area of Focus) I define my own personal GTD Projects with clear outcomes.
Originally Posted by Apop
How big are your projects?
My projects vary in size in the same way that other people have stated here. My work involves managing pharmaceutical trials which can last several years, other projects can last between several months or days. Good project management always means keeping next actions aligned with project goals (runway to 50,000 feet). Don't get to bogged down in how. I have everything from a 2000 line MSP (and growing) to a project in a list and a next action aligned to it... whatever works. I'm sure you could run a large project from an outlook task list but it might make others in my organization a problem.
In answer to a couple of points in the original post
large projects scheduled reviews in the plan look at the tasks and final goal check alignment and brainstorm new actions and quite often expand some placeholder actions into individual tasks
small projects Same thing but at weekly review time also a quick look if defining next actions in between