"Originally Posted by tominperu
My interpretation is that it is okay to remember things as long as it doesn't take effort,"
I would argue that we are not always a good judge of how much effort our brain is expending, especially so since this process occurs unconsciously.
You might try reading this article. It formalizes somewhat the process it seems you have arrived at for tracking your next actions.
The odd thing is yesterday I had a meeting with loads of next actions and new projects coming out of it and I felt I really had to write down the projects as well. But, I can't say I'm really sure of the reasons why I should feel it was necessary for those and not for other projects that are ongoing.
It may be to do with ones familiarity with the projects. I have lots of actions in my action list at the moment where it is obvious to me what the project is. Some like for instance "Ring F&C and ask them to send me info on the Children´s fund FTSE Tracker" or "Ring direct line and get breakdown cover quote 0845 246 0142". It's pretty obvious to anyone reading what the project is about and thinking of a new action when it´s done will not be difficult. And those project won't get lost.
But other projects are new and not so obvious from the action that would represent them. An example from my meeting would be "Look for IDB contact number in the project file". I need a reminder of for what purpose we need to speak to the Internal Drainage Board and this will come with a good project description on a project list.
The idea of writing the project name or purpose on the task is an interesting one, but to me a project list is the best method if it's necessary for that reminder.
Something no one has mentioned is the fundamental Outcome/Next Action partnership. While the Next Action is a critical component, so is a clear Outcome. The Project list can provide those clear Outcomes, and the following might illustrate how.
Years ago I started writing my Projects in past tense, beginning with a noun. For example, a "normal" Project name would be:
Submit proposal to Internal Drainage Board
To make this Outcome clearer, imagine yourself beyond completion, then describe what you see in past tense, starting with a noun:
Internal Drainage Board proposal approved
Subtle difference, but an important one. First, I almost always realize I have forgotten a couple steps at the end (was the goal to submit, or get approved?). Second, beginning with a noun differentiates these from simple Next Actions, which usually start with a verb. Lastly, when determining the next Next Action such as during a Weekly Review, simply add a mental question mark to the Project name/Outcome description. "Internal Drainage Board proposal approved?" It will immediately trigger the mental response of "yep" or "nope", and the subsequent Next Action (if needed) will pop into your head.
The Projects list can be a pain, but this is one way it really helps me.
Yes, I would second the use of the past tense in describing projects. It forces you to define the successful outcome of the project. I used to have projects such as "Develop course syllabus." Now I write "Course syllabus ready to hand out to students." With the past tense, I know exactly when the project is done.
A few more thoughts about project lists:
As I see it, project lists serve a few different functions. In evaluating whether the lists are necessary, it might be helpful to consider whether these functions are important to your own work flow.
1) Project lists make sure nothing falls through the cracks. If you religiously think of next actions upon completion of a prior action, then you may not need a project list. Otherwise, project lists are invaluable for moving work forward. (I find it helpful to use a system that enables you to sort your actions either by project or by context.)
2) A project list enables you to see and review all of your immediate goals and deadlines at once. If I want to know what my next couple of weeks will be like, if I want to get a handle on my coming work load, then I need to look at my project lists. The action lists are great for getting things done, but they aren't so great for seeing upcoming deadlines and commitments.
3) A project list is the crucial link between the "runway" and the higher levels of GTD. During weekly review, you can assess your project list to see if you are moving forward towards your longer term goals. A project list thus allows both a bottom-up and a top-down approach to work. Projects emerge from incoming stuff each day; but new projects are also generated when you consider your goals and values.