Instead of an overarching project folder, which annoys me by hiding things, I generally have an overarching project that refers to the other projects. In my example above, that would be the "Complete Paper X" project, the one with the two WAITING FOR actions. It's possible that Complete Paper X might _never_ get an actual workable action; it might forever just exist to "wait for" related smaller projects. But by existing, it does link those smaller projects together.
Originally Posted by macgrl
And adding a final action to the smaller projects when those projects are created, something like "Go back to Complete Paper X" adds another backup link. Or, for the example of "Plain this quarter's academic reading" you might have a final action of "Projects X, Y, Q, and R are waiting for this project," reminding you to return and look at all four of those projects. If that extra action seems like clutter, you could instead add the dependency to the project name itself. ("Plan this quarter's academic reading. Needed by X, Y, Q, R.")
Again, this comes from the fact that I dislike nesting and feel that it adds complexity and increases the risk of missing something. I'm sure that many will disagree.
Edited to add: My mind has no problem building a purely mental hierarchical structure from these notes (WAITING FOR, parent project, etc.) on the fly when and only when I need it, and reshuffling these structures based on where I started. A visual reminder of that structure is not only unnecessary for me, but annoying, because the visual reminder can't be easily reshuffled. But I seem to remember reading that programmers tend to be in the ten/fifteen percent of the population that form mental models in one particular way, and the rest of the population forms them differently. The majority way may be aided rather than annoyed by visual hierarchical layouts.
Thanks for the advice
When does a project with many next actions become a big project with satilite smaller projects with their own actions?Is it when it has many independant threads / big next actions require their own actions? Is it down to personal choice of how you use project support materials to plan next actions? You could have multiple next actions mapped out for various aspects of the project there to keep your next action list uncluttered? I could then work out what the next action from the plan
With some projects that I work on say for a few hours at a time I am going to do many next actions as I go that won't go my next actions list as I just do them as I go. I could then put see plan? Do more planing on my next actions list as a marker?
Last edited by macgrl; 03-21-2012 at 12:28 PM.
I may be over-responding in this thread. You may have been hoping someone else would answer.
Originally Posted by macgrl
But, for me, it's as soon as it has even one independent thread that I want to work separately. And it is definitely personal choice, heavily influenced, I think, by your expertise in the area where you're working.
For example, let's say that I want to bake a cake for someone's birthday. If I'm an experienced baker and have often brought cakes to places outside my home and I have a kitchen that's always well-stocked with every baking supply I could need, that might just be a single action on an Errands-type list:
Action: Bake cake for Jane's party and bring it over on Saturday
If I'm not quite that ready, it might be a project:
Project: Provide cake for Jane's party.
Next Action: Choose recipe.
And the next Next Action might be: Inventory kitchen for ingredients, make list.
If this is all very new to me and I want to make extra sure I do a good job, on the other hand, it could be a whole structure of projects:
Project: Provide cake for Jane's party.
WAITING FOR: Choose recipe.
WAITING FOR: Figure out how to transport cake.
WAITING FOR: Obtain springform pan
Project: Choose recipe for Jane's cake
Next Action: Ask Joe if he has the recipe for that cake from Fran's baby shower.
Project: Figure out how to transport Jane's cake
Next Action: Google for appropriate Tupperware
Project: Obtain springform pan for Jane's cake
Next Action: Check Williams-Sonoma site.
(You notice that all of these titles refer to "Jane's cake" so that hopefully I won't forget why i created the projects.)
On your last question, I agree that if you're working away on a project, there's no need to keep entering Next Actions as you're working those actions - unless for some reason that gives you a good sense of structure, which is sometimes true for me. When I do stop working on a project, I may enter the next logical action, or I may enter a Next Action of "Write another action." I also do this when I'm at a loss for a next action, so that the project will appear in my OmniFocus lists and won't be submerged until my next weekly review.
To go back to your original question, I handle it by making the next action (@Waiting For) read something like this:
"Ringo to reply regarding XXX, then email John, Paul and George."
Not by-the-book GTD but simple and gives me peace of mind.
I don't break down large projects into smaller projects, there's really no need. As long as all the next actions go onto your list its fine if they are all grouped under the one larger project.
When choosing what size a project should be, I choose the size at which it makes sense to have its own project plan using the natural planning model.
I am writing a strategy document and that is one project. I have a project plan in Word, and after the organising section I have a section called Action Checklists. For each smaller 'open loop' I have a heading for it and a list of all the things I think I need to do, and certainly if I needed to email three others, I would put a note about this in my list.
The lists are my ideas about what I think I'll need to do in future, and I often find they change based on what I have done, and am glad I don't put them into my next action list manager as they would clutter it up.
In the weekly review I check the action list section to help with updating my NA list.
My projects tend to be at a higher level than most. For me, Jane's Birthday would be the project. In my plan in the Action Checklist section I might have:
- buy box for cake
- make cake
-shop at plaza
and on my next actions lists I might just choose which ones from these I can do next, ie:
Just because I've broken it down into further groups in my project plan doesn't mean I need to have those same groupings replicated in my next action list manager. I always have the project plan to refer back to if I want to check that all open loops are addressed.
I didn't see anyone mentioning this in this thread, so I just want to make sure that you are aware that OmniFocus can have sequential actions for a project.
Personally, I often set up projects that are very simple and predictable but still include a number of discrete next actions. By setting them up in advance, I already have the next action in my system as soon as I check of the previous one and can save time by not having to enter a new next action into my system during the process.
An example would be a project of completing the meeting minutes for a meeting that could have the following (sequential) next actions:
- draft minutes
- email draft to chair person for review
- waiting for: comments from chair person
- finalize minutes
- print and mail minutes to chair person for signature
- waiting for: signed minutes from chair person
- scan signed minutes to computer
- email minutes to all attendees
- archive minutes
Thanks for your replies guys.
I think what I am going to is have a project plan that details all the different areas of that project and then work from that project plan for that project.
As I tend to work on projects for a long time in one sitting I don't really work from a next action list just the plan to see where things are going. Especially as things change after each bit of research I do.
I then end a work session by working out the direction that I want to go in the next time I work and then put a do-able action on my next actions list under that project. That way when I scan the next actions list I can see easily where I need to pick up.
Because it is quite hard for me in my research to plan out next actions in a nice sequence (as next actions will depend on what I am doing now and so I won't know what they will be or sometimes future next actions might be made redundant with my plans changing direction)
Really I suppose all you need is one next action on a project to keep a book mark. Then when you do that next action you can work out what the next action is / just work through looking at the plan. Providing you end your work session with a new bookmark / something to pick up work again on the next action list all is good.
If there are next actions that I could do without needing to do another action first I could put this on my next action list. However in my planning I have worked out a logical order in which I want to do things and so I am going to defer to the plan for the order of the next actions.
Should smaller projects arise (i.e. those things that will take more than one action to complete) within the plan that I wish to carve out and work on independently from the main project plan I can
If a project is held up by me waiting for something then I put what I am waiting for on my waiting for list and also in the project so that I know what the state of play is
Is this a good way to go about it?
Last edited by macgrl; 03-23-2012 at 06:03 AM.
I would ask myself:
-- When the email from z comes in, how likely am I to remember to
send the other emails?
-- How soon after the email from z comes in do I need to send the
-- How important is it?
I would then set up a repeating reminder to myself. It might be a piece
of paper placed in my system such that I'll see it approximately every 2 days.
(I would only take about a second or two to look at it each time.)
It would remind me that when the email from z comes in, I have to send
the other emails. After seeing that reminder every 2 days, probably when the
email comes in I'll remember to do it immediately. If not, I would do it
when I next see the reminder. I would also put the email addresses both
on that reminder page and somewhere else where I could find them when I
look for them, probably in my general computer-file of email addresses and stuff.