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Help tracking actions for non-current projects

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  • Help tracking actions for non-current projects


    i've been using GTD for a couple years and one problem i have is tracking actions for non-current projects.

    for example, i have a "fix closet door in guest bedroom" project. the next action was to figure out what hardware i needed and i determined i needed a 2 inch screw. so i added "buy 2 inch screw at hardware store" to my errands list.

    then some things happened and now this project isn't something i have bandwidth to focus on in the next couple of weeks. i like to only have things on my "next actions" list that i really want to do this week. otherwise i have too many things on it and it becomes overwhelming. i like to limit myself to 20 current actions per context.

    so i want to remove this from my errands list but have already done the thinking to determine what the next action is for my "fix closet" project. i don't want to lose the fact that i know what size screw i need. but i may not want to work on this project for several months.

    should i move the "buy 2 inch screw" to a "future errands" list? how can i keep this action around without having to look at it every day on my actions list?

    how do you handle situations like this? am i implementing GTD in the wrong way?


  • #2
    some ideas...

    I struggle with this type of thing too, but I would probably do all these things because I might be able to act on it in different ways at different times.

    If you keep a running list of stuff you need from hardware store you might put it on that list, so that you would reference that list when your next action for something you are actively working on is "go to hardware store". If you are someone that stops in when it is convenient you might keep this list with you or if you would make it a planned errand then you would probably have the list at home or wherever you leave from for hardware store.

    Or, you could note the size on a piece of paper or digital file if you have one for that closet project and review that when you activate the closet project. At that time you might also think about whether you have any other little projects that require same tools, mental set.

    Or, you could write the size you need inside the closet because you will probably eye ball the project before you set to working on it again.


    • #3
      Originally posted by a8910b View Post
      so i want to remove this from my errands list but have already done the thinking to determine what the next action is for my "fix closet" project. i don't want to lose the fact that i know what size screw i need. but i may not want to work on this project for several months....

      how do you handle situations like this?
      I use omnifocus. When I set a project to on-hold all the actions disappear from my actions list but are not lost. I can still see them if I choose remaining actions in the context view but I won't see them in the next or available actions view.

      Since I have hundreds of projects like yours, that I've done the thinking on that I don't want to lose and yet can't move the project forward for several weeks/months/years I really need this feature. It's built in to how Omnifocus works.


      • #4
        In similar situations, I'll sometimes drop the Next Action into the Bring Forward File a couple months out.



        • #5
          why not buy the screw now?

          why not buy the screw anyway? You know you will move on with that project some day, so the only difference is that instead of wanting to buy it ASAP, you might buy it on some occasion when you're in the store anyway. You've identified that you wanted to buy that screw, so why now "not buy" it. Unless of course you're now planning on selling your house and the project is not at all relevant any more.

          I can see why you don't want to have lists that are too long, but I would definitely make an exception for the @errands list. it would be counterproductive to buy something in a specifiec store and not buy the screw because it's number 21 on your list. And then next week, when it's in your top 20, you might have to go to the store especially for the one screw...

          Other possibilities:
          - move the project to someday/maybe (with note about the NA)
          - if there is reference material: store it in there
          - find some way to distinguish between "active NA" (your first 20) and "passive NA" (the other ones)
          - ...



          • #6
            By choosing to limit your Next Actions, I think you're creating a system that you cannot fully trust -- which is ultimately the reason why GTD works.

            I'd suggest prioritizing your projects instead. You can do something simple (e.g. A or B) or a bit more complex (I use a 1-5) system. Keep a separate page of Next Actions for projects in each priority -- so 5 pages total if you have 5 priorities -- and order them so you'll always see Priority 1 projects first. Then if you don't feel like doing any of those tasks, you can progressively move down in priority until you hit fixing the door.

            By keeping the screw on your active @ERRANDS context list, you increase the odds that when you're out and about anyway, you'll also be in a position to quickly buy a screw, saving yourself an entire trip in the future. Or you may need a 20-minute mental break from your current project which you could spend screw shopping. Since you CAN do it right now, you may as well have it on your list.