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Reasonable number of projects?

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  • Reasonable number of projects?

    What number of active projects are most of you carrying? And over what time period? What is a reasonable number of projects? When I start listing the stuff I need to do that involves more than one step, the number of projects gets so great I just can't really keep track of them, even if a lot are sent to SDMD. Many of these are not the big projects that I really want to do, but the ordinary stuff of every day life. When it takes me a long time to review my project list, then I retreat from the system and go back to old ways where I am basically respondinging to some combination of immediate pressure and opportunity to take action on stuff I am carrying in my head or that my eyes fall upon.

  • #2
    1. Keep in mind that projects have an endpoint (i.e. you know when you are done), as opposed to recurring things like chores, or routines.

    2. Keep things that are someday/maybe in a different list. Be ruthless about what is on your project list vs someday maybe.

    You might consider only putting on your project list things you are going to work on this week. My modification is to separate the projects and someday/maybe list into 3 lists:

    --"Projects" (things I'll work on this week)
    --"Not this week" (things I'd like to do/need to do eventually, but know I will not get to this week) &
    --"Maybe" (things I may want to do eventually)

    3. Freaking out seeing all the things that are on your plate does not mean you should avoid looking at the plate! Ignoring the work does not make it go away.

    Oh I have about 15 projects that I'm working on.



    • #3
      @Projects = 32
      @Next Action = 24
      Someday/Maybe = 82

      I have fewer projects right now due to a recent push to clear things out of the system. But I carry anywhere from 25-45 projects at any given time, with a time frame of about 3-5 months.


      • #4
        Three lists for projects (both "at work" and "at home and elsewhere"):

        1. Current projects (work on them during this fortnight)
        2. Future projects (work on them during the next three months)
        3. SDMB (all that other stuff)

        Numbers at Work:

        Current Projects : 15
        Future Projects: 80
        SDMB: Too many!

        Numbers at Home and elsewhere:

        Current Projects : 5
        Future Projects: 22
        SDMB: Also too many (does "someday" ever come?).



        • #5
          Tasks and "Action to Outcome"-Management


          after re-reading your question and my reply, I'd like to add this:
          It's not the number of projects that drives us crazy but the number of next actions.

          When I learned project management about twenty years ago, projects consisted of phases, milestones and tasks. Tasks are assigned to persons who have to perform all the work that is necessary to deliver the result of the assigned task (deliverables).

          Of course "real" projects are still handled this way by me. But now that I got used to always ask "What is the next action?" and "What is the wanted outcome?" (asking these questions is great for clarifying my thougts, btw) , I need and can turn the term "task" into a useful lever for my kind of "Action to Outcome"-Management. A task now is a small sub-project consisting of several next action steps leading to the wanted deliverable.

          Though it is nice and useful to ask "What is the next action?" and "What is the wanted outcome?" , it's more important to me to ask the question "How does the chain of actions between the already performed actions and the next milestone look like?" when I am the person who has to deliver a result for a project (either mine or an other person's project).

          "Which tasks consisting of which next actions are necessary to go from the the project's very first action to the project's outcome?", that's what we need to know (with the "five phases"-model coming into play,

          PS: Did anybody of you out there notice that the "Process/Decide/Define"-step of the GTD-workflow it self can become a task with several next action steps ?


          • #6
            Another thing that can make you crazy.

            Good points Rainer. One thing I don't see a lot of discussion about in this thread or on the board in general is @WaitingFor. This is a critical catgeory for me and an important part of every review (daily and weekly) because it can become a black hole into which projects get drawn. By keeping track of the actions that are in someone else's hands at the moment and that one of my future actions depend on, I avoid a lot of open loops.

            Of course, at every review, there is the potential that an @WF item will create another next action for me - following up on the status of that task.


            • #7
              I'm surprised that most of people here seem to have so few projects. I use the DA definition of a project as anything that requires more than one step to complete, and I typically have 80-90 projects (as few as 50 or more than 100 on occasion) and about 50-60 Someday/Maybes. Also, my Next Action and Waiting For lists can easily combine to total as many as 150 items. While that may sound like a lot, I typically complete about 60-70 Next Actions and 10-20 projects per week. Even with all that change my Weekly Review only takes a couple of hours because I process incoming paper, emails and notes daily.

              BTW these projects are grouped in about eight or nine of what I call Focus Areas such as Family, Friends, Work for (name the customer), Personal, etc., which may be closer to the definition of a project that most of the people posting here are using. To me they are a higher level of category than a project in large part because they can last for years or my entire lifetime and are rarely "completed". They also tend to require less frequent, but deeper, thinking than my projects because they are intimately linked to how I view my life and its direction.

              How does each of you define a project?



              • #8
                How does each of you define a project?

                GTD defines projects as outcomes which require more then one step and in which one can define what done looks like.

                I have what may seem like so few projects because my job, while professional, is 90% showing up and doing the work that appears. Thus most of my projects are non-work. Also, many of the things I am working on in my life are ongoing and have no "done" e.g. yoga and weightlifting, or changing habits/behaviors which don't have more then one step. And again, If I'm not going to get to it this week, it does not go on my list of projects (it goes on the "not this week" list).



                • #9

                  Thanks for explaining how you handle projects. Our definition of a project appears to be the same (The DA definition you give). I think the main difference is that we have very different work streams. I'm a professional too, but I have relatively few things that just appear during the day compared to you. It means that I have to recognize and plan a lot of projects or I just plain wouldn't accomplish very much. Instead, I'd sit in meetings half the day, and do the enjoyable parts of my job, instead of all of my job, during the other half of the day.

                  Also, I like to keep Projects active even if I may not get to them during the week. They are not Someday/Maybes because I really want to get them done, but instead of having a Not This Week category, I like having their Next Actions in my context sensitive lists just in case I get a chance to work on them. For instance, I completed some of my non-strenuous @Home Next Actions yesterday (Sunday) because I was too sick with a cold to go out and do anything, but too bored to do nothing. Keeping lots of projects & Next Actions on my lists also helps me get a lot of little errands done when I just happen to be in the right place to do them, and since I travel a lot, a spare hour in an airport can be a great time to check my @Anywhere list.

                  In many respects, I think these differences show one of the greatest strengths of GTD. It is truly a flexible system that can be applied to virtually any kind of work and life.

                  Thanks again,



                  • #10
                    My Count

                    I found I was having a signficant problem getting through my project and someday maybe list because there were more than 100 in each category.
                    I purged many of the projects to sdmb and added subcategories.
                    This is now possible for me because I use a PPC vs. Palm. Palm can do it but not without an additional utility (I believe).

                    Changing to sub categories has helped me feel like I can at least look at the lists and getting me closer to really completing a weekly review. My focuses include Business Analyst/ Software Testing & Prj Mgmt. I am still stuggling getting it all out of my head..but getting closer.

                    Counts and categories look like this:
                    PROJECTS Total 68

                    16 Projects - Active / Misc Work no due dates specifically but more than a SDMB.
                    9 Projects - Personal
                    8 Projects - Testing
                    9 Projects - Delegated (too many things were bigger than a single @Waiting for hopefully this will help me check in with the delegatee)
                    26 Projects w/ Deadlines (or Deliverables that have a specified due date)

                    My SDMB was up to 112+ and took too long to review. My mind went numb evertime I looked it over.
                    I've set up Categories like: [S/M Wk (stands for Someday Maybe Work)]

                    S/M Wk_Dev (Projects that require Database development)
                    S/M Wk_ISRC (an actual product I support)
                    S/M Wk_ISRC Enhmt (This is a series of sub projects related
                    S/M Wk_Proc (Procedures I will write someday)
                    etc. I have a total of 8 sdmb categories for work.

                    It seems like a lot but at least now I can review them without blowing a fuse and going numb.