Not sure it need be difficult, if you just take it easy. It's an iterative process. It probably begins (and continues) as way of keeping long lists (or piles of documents) tidy. You simply group things. And as your total number of items grows, you eventually want to even group the groups, and so on, up to some level. If, for some reason, you do not "like" the grouping arrangement you just change it. Over time, you may notice that some grouping principles are more useful to you than others.
Originally Posted by Steele
The very first grouping stage, as in GTD, may be to simply group small tasks into slightly bigger tasks. In GTD these are called projects (10 k). They are essentially just what people in general would still call "tasks" or "action points" etc.
The next grouping stage, as in GTD, may be to group these smaller and bigger "tasks" (0 and 10 k) into Areas of Responsibility (20 k). This, in my experience, is best interpreted in terms of "roles" (quasi job titles), not as "type of work", for example bookkeeper, not bookkeeping. As for me, if I had no dreams, hopes, or threats to deal with beyond maintaining status quo in my existing Areas (20 k), I would probably stop right there and verify the "integrity" of my Areas, collectively and individually, against my "perspective on life" (GTD 50 k).
As far as I have been able to determine, the 50 k level is not attainable by grouping. For example, a have very strong ideological conviction in favor of sustainable win-win relationships. Although it is not beyond me to play win-lose with people who insist on playing win-lose with me, I have win-win as my fundamental perspective or "default strategy" - in everything from personal interactions, legal relationships to market strategy. This permeates all Areas of Responsibility (or objectives on all levels under 50 k). As far as I can see, it would not be possible to map 50 k principles to any single lower-level "group heading". So, as complicated as this "verification of alignment" may sound, it is really just a matter of checking whether you "like" what you see or if you want to change something.
Now, finally, the GTD 30 k and 40 k objectives or goals correspond to what people would normally call by either one of those names or by the popular names "effort" or "project". For example, maybe you have decided to spend some considerable part-time effort on a new business venture, and the "first step" is to get it up and running, which may take 1-3 years. From there on you probably have even further intentions, but you also most definitely have quite a few more immediate steps (GTD 10 k or tasks) that directly relate to getting this business started. I usually see no problem using a hierarchical "grouping" perspective to any of this.
All in all, this leaves me with a handful of AoRs and a handful of major new objectives, which I need to intuitively correlate to all my core values etc at the 50 k level. (My AoRs are all "ongoing". The major objectives will, at a later stage, either give rise to a new AoR or become fused into my AoR structure.)
One particularly interesting complication is synergies. I love synergies, and synergies are also part of my perspective on life (50 k; along with win-win and many other things). I like to give extra attention to things that serve many different purposes or combine into new strengths - it is simply "smart". Unfortunately, synergies pose a challenge to the otherwise fairly straightforward hierarchical grouping structure at the levels 40 k and below. It can be difficult enough to discover possible synergies in the first place, and also difficult to "illustrate" these in clear and useful way using either paper or available software in such a way that you can remember them and build further upon them. Sometimes, synergies are of a relatively simple "almost-hierarchical" nature (such as one project being conducive to several goals, and could therefore be listed under both), but sometimes they are related to aspects that are not even part of the hierarchical structure of "things to do". Examples of such fuzzy synergies are how your own competence or personal networks can be grown in a way that benefits your overall potential at a later stage. I have no solution for how to deal with those kinds of synergies in a way that ties in unambiguously with he "things to do" stuff. Those will need to be assessed "intuitively" along with the 50 k stuff, I believe.
Last edited by Folke; 10-07-2013 at 06:26 AM.