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How to use GTD to plan and complete a very big project?

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  • How to use GTD to plan and complete a very big project?

    Maybe this is really an area of focus--Total home re-organization and absorption of two adults into the household!

    After many years of discussion, the time has come and in a month or two are going to be absorbing two older adults into our home--who at this point are able-bodied and active. Each has pared down quite a bit and will sacrifice or contribute any of their furniture as needed. However, they will not part with the items that make themselves the individuals they are. One has many reference books and research files that are actively used but has reduced the books to 8,000 linear feet, 4 file cabinets, a desk and a desk-top computer The other has many interests, such as photography, knitting, sewing on a machine to be kept set up, and doing yoga to DVDs (needs TV and large mirror), also wants a desk and desk-top computer. Their cloths are pretty pared down to a few outfits for each season. They also have between them quite a few guitars, banjos, and fiddles, and recorders.

    They will be sharing a bedroom but it is too small for anything but their cloths, beds and a vanity/medicine chest (to reduce competition for the bathroom space).

    Our kids will be doubling up. We have to fit two kids stuff in one room--books, cloths, sports stuff. Thankfully, they use laptops and can park themselves anywhere.

    So we need to:

    1) Re-distribute the functions of the remaining rooms-- these were ill-defined and unsatisfactory to begin with.

    2) Determine what furniture fits into what room and suits the room's activities. This seems the hardest since we do not have the functions determined!

    3) Maximize opportunities for bookshelves.

    4) Find places to build more closet space for outwear, out-of-season cloths, bedding and linens, pantry items.

    5) Pare down ourselves.

    6) Maximize the vertical. Even alhtpugh we need shelves and cabinets, we still want to hange some pictures on the walls!

    7) Maybe get a second refrigerator or a freezer.

    Decide if we can afford, space wise, to have more than one eating area.

    We have no basement other than a furnace and tiny workbench and space to store holiday stuff, no attic.

    So far we have spoken to: an interior designed who had no ideas but thought our walls were too dark and the curtains are outdated (all true), and an organizer who thinks we should just throw out everything.

    I know for sure that we need to have a family communication area:incoming and outgoing mail, fax, shredder, paper recycling, maybe printer, bulletin board, emergency numbers, calendar, charging station, place to leave things that are to be taken out (library books, stuff to return to people). But, how do we figure out where we can put this?

    Where to begin?

    Just writing out the desired outcome of the project has my head spinning.

    Everyone seems to view me as the leader but I want everyone's input.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    You might re-read the "natural planning model", p. 56 of Getting Things Done,
    summarized below:

    *Defining purpose and principles
    *Outcome visioning
    *Identifying next actions


    • #3
      With that particular project I would start with the guiding principles.

      Also this seems to be 2 projects in one: there is the project that you see altogether and than there is the project that is between you and your GTD.

      I found that with big projects what often is the really going on at the beginning is to make a lot of deep decisions (that then lead to the big project). For instance I started to write on a brochure after I made the decisions about searching work in that particular niche, which took me months of self-examination, which in turn resulted in market research projects and so on.

      So, which decisions do you (and the other people involved) have to make before you can think of defining a successful outcome?


      • #4
        Start with a map & a perfect day

        I'd start with a fairly large poster size map of the house with all rooms in pretty close to accurate size/location on the floor plan at some reasonable scale. Make paper doll cutouts of the various furniture pieces as well at the same scale. Have a meeting of all parties involved and everyone brainstorm on the map each room and what they see as working or being done in there. For example, you have the bathroom, everyone needs to think about how and when they will use it and what items will be stored there. Each room, list it's current use/purpose and possible future uses.

        To get folks thinking ask them to walk through a perfect day in the space. For example: get up, go to bathroom, go downstairs make coffee, make breakfast , brush teeth, do yoga, read, take a walk, sew or whatever. Try to get each person to actually walk through in their head doing the actions and see if there are any glitches or things that have to be in a certain place to work. Ask things like where are you storing the X you need for that? Do you need a stepstool? If the item is in room Y is that better? and so on. Then use guided visualization to try out alternatives, "If the sewing machine was here instead of here how would that change things?"

        I'd expect it to take several times to get the purpose of the rooms right and what everyone wants and from that you can determine the successful outcome of all the various projects to make it all happen.

        We used a similar approach when we did our house remodel/refinishing project. We'd walk through all sorts of scenarios and try out in our mind different layouts and locations for stuff. It all ended up with a picture of a successful outcome that got translated into the remodeling plans for the house.
        Last edited by Oogiem; 11-28-2011, 08:30 AM. Reason: Add paper doll part


        • #5
          I agree with Oogie about the scale-model and walk-through. You can have
          everybody actually physically walk through the motions, e.g. sitting down
          for 1 second to represent sitting down for a meal.

          You can schedule frequent meetings of everybody involved, maybe
          sometimes even more than once a day.
          You can try to keep them short and positive. Aim for a feeling of everybody
          working together to solve a problem, rather than people against each other. Try to
          have lots of appreciation (both compliments and thanks), e.g. "That's a good idea!".

          You can be mentally prepared to give each of your kids some empathetic
          focussed attention if they want to talk about problems stemming
          from the doubling-up.

          You can arrange for food during the transition process. I would cook a huge pot of
          something like spaghetti or chicken soup and leave it in the fridge for everybody
          to live off for a few days. People could take turns making meals. Good food may
          help give you the energy to do all that work and can help contribute to
          feelings of togetherness.

          The meetings can follow David Allen's natural planning process. You may need
          to jump around somewhat, for example re-visiting the Purpose stage after you've
          spent some time on Brainstorming.

          I suggest thinking of the physical stuff in terms of a small number of big categories,
          in order to avoid getting bogged down in details, e.g. "home-office stuff",
          "person X's books", "person X's non-book stuff".

          8000 linear feet? Maybe someone has miscalculated? I think that's
          about 400 shelf units of 6 shelves each, 3 feet wide. You'd need
          about 4 big rooms stuffed with shelves like a library.

          You can attach shelves to the walls, right up to the ceiling, and may
          then need a stepstool or small movable ladder to be able to reach them.
          Or, hang pictures on the walls above the shelves.

          You can fit more books on shelves by stacking them 2 deep, or
          sorting them by size and having shelves just the right height for the
          books, or stacking them in piles sideways, or stuffing more books
          on top of ordinary rows of books, or leaving them packed in boxes.

          Maybe you can make heavy use of your communication area
          during the transition process and keep redesigning it to work
          well for that, which may lead to a better long-term arrangement for it.

          You can put a big calendar on the wall and put agreed-on target
          dates for things like "move everything out of room X", with
          an understanding of who will do that.

          The transition process may continue for a few months after the people
          move in, and you can continue to have meetings about it but
          perhaps gradually less often. After trying out the new arrangement
          people may want to change things.

          Good luck!


          • #6
            Here's a way to fit more books onto shelves while keeping them reasonably accessible.

            Use deep shelves, about 1.5 to 2 feet from back to front.
            Have the shelves vertically separated by only about 6 to 8 inches, so you can fit
            lots of shelves in a unit.
            Put plastic bins on them, with the length of the bin stretching from back to front of the shelf. The end of the bin can protrude a bit off the edge of the shelf.
            Put the books in the bins with the spines up.
            To access the books, you pull out a bin like a drawer, with one end
            still supported by the shelf, and look down at the spines of the books.

            You can put fake walls in front of the shelves, to hang pictures on,
            that swing out like doors (hopefully not causing the pictures to fall).

            You can put one shelf unit in front of another, and have it hinge out
            like a door so you can get to the books in behind.

            Some libraries have sets of shelf units stacked close together, and
            they're moved with cranks or electric motors to make a gap so you
            can go in and access the shelf you want.


            • #7
              It's really important you plan this as a team. Maybe setup a white board or put white paper on the walls so you can plan so everyone can see it.

              And given there is likely to be conflicts in achieving different goals I would suggest you get each family member to list their top 5 values in order from most important to least important. Then maybe do an integrated list to get a group. This will help with design, you can start by putting the most important features in first (room for study/work) with medium priority next (family needs) and then lowest priority(space for individual fun/hobbies).

              Also for each individual item like knitting, studying, etc, write down what the key ingredient is to making it successful. Eg for quilting I absolutely must have good natural light, but for study I like proximity to my files and bookcases as number one (I am happy to use artificial light or lower levels of light).
              Also getting clear in the details and making this accessible to everyone will help come up with innovative clever ideas.

              I have fought a lot with my husband over designing the house as we are almost totally opposite personality types, but keeping really clear on the reasons for our ideas helped resolve the arguments. Eg I wanted the office in the front room - hubby said absolutely not, without even hearing why. When he explained it was because it is the first room everyone sees and he doesn't want them to see a mess, I came up with a design that looks neat and presentable to visitors, and he supported my choice.


              • #8
                Well, I found

                Coping with your Difficult Older Parent by Kane and Lebow

                useful for emotional support when my very difficult mother was living with us for a while.
                The strategies for coping were not particularly helpful, but at least I was pretty sure which one of us was crazy.

                Seriously, are you sure everyone isn't looking to you for guidance because they are pretty sure there are going to be problems? My mom is a hoarder, and the last thing I would want is for any older adult to bring their lifetime of paper into my home, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Even if everyone is saintly, it sounds very difficult. I am lucky that my parents are now in a good, supportive living situation, even though they were not able to take much with them. My mom is still complaining. I wish you all the luck possible.


                • #9
                  Maybe I'm being the bad attitude poster, but I'm seeing some issues here:

                  - Do you really mean eight _thousand_ linear feet of books? At four to twelve books per foot, that's twenty-five thousand to over one hundred thousand books. I'm hoping that there's a digit wrong, or you mean eight thousand books (a substantial number all by itself) and not eight thousand feet of shelf space?

                  - Is there any special reason why the adults must have desktop computers, which are relatively bulky and hard to use flexibly, rather than laptops? And is every other person in the home getting a desk of their own? If not, is it really appropriate that these adults each get one while others do not?

                  - You say "they will not part with the items that make themselves the individuals they are". How much of their identity are the people, including the kids, already in this household giving up? Are they being permitted to keep anything like eight thousand books, "quite a few" musical instruments, multiple filing cabinets, and so on?

                  - Yoga and a large mirror seem like something that could be supported outside the home, at a health club. And if you really are looking at many tens of thousands of books, I'll bet that _some_ of those books are commonly available at libraries. In general, I'd like to suggest that not every wish of these adults can be supported within the home.



                  • #10
                    Another thought

                    Another thought. Use post it notes for the major activities and tasks for each room so they are easy to reposition on the big map.

                    Regarding comments about the number of books, I can certainly see that many books being necessary, I have no idea how many books we have, but we do have floor to ceiling bookcases in nearly every room, bathroom included. I know we have more than 2000 separate authors represented in physical books and nearly 500 kindle books. For some authors we have many or all of their books. Hardly any of the physical books we own are available in either the local library or on kindle. Many cannot be gotten via interlibrary loan either as that costs a lot of money to do here. I'd say find a space for all the books as books no matter what.


                    • #11
                      I agree with Suelin about having everyone list their top 5 values. That can help towards
                      having everyone work on solving the same combined problem (How do we meet
                      everyone's most important needs?) rather than being in conflict.
                      Some needs are easier to meet than others, so smaller needs also need
                      to be respected and considered and overridden only if necessary and with
                      expressions of regret.

                      One method that might or might not help is: whenever a conflict occurs, (a conflict of
                      needs, not necessarily a heated conflict; even if one person says that's OK
                      I'll do without it) you can list it on a log, with each person involved recording
                      the level of importance to them. Then, glancing over the log you can see if
                      someone has listed a lot of things as "very important", and later when they
                      say another thing is "very important" you can take it with a grain of salt,
                      interpreting it as equivalent to another person's "moderately important";
                      and conversely if someone has come out on top on very few conflicts or marked
                      very few things as important then you
                      can pay more attention when they do indicate something as important.
                      Knowing this is the purpose of the log, people will likely tend to only
                      mark something as "very important" when it really is.
                      (But you also have to consider the difficulty of achieving things.
                      If it's "very important" to stuff the whole house with 8000 linear
                      feet of books so nobody can move around, even that might have to be
                      Ideally most conflicts can be solved by creative problem-solving to meet
                      everyone's needs rather than having one person "win", though, so it might
                      actually be better not to start using this sort of method.

                      You can act as leader in the sense of chairing meetings and summarizing
                      what everyone seems to be agreeing on, without taking on blame for
                      the decisions! If a decision needs to be made you can propose a method
                      of deciding (ordinary voting, or a bunch of other possible methods:
                      more complex voting methods, using random methods such as dice,
                      or final decision going to the people who own the place. etc.) and if
                      nobody steps forward as leader and proposes a different method then
                      you can lead people through it and refuse to take blame for the result
                      because they will have acquiesced at the stage where you say
                      "So does everyone agree on using this method?"
                      Also if there's lots of creative problem-solving and trying to meet
                      everybody's needs, then people will likely accept decisions because
                      they can (theoretically at least) see that there wasn't a better way.
                      Most or all problems should be solved by creative problem-solving
                      and consensus decision-making.

                      You can use humour: using interesting names or phrases for the
                      various collections of stuff and activities (making sure the person
                      affected isn't offended by the name), using humourous methods
                      of decision-making such as a ridiculous contraption for random
                      decisions instead of dice, etc. or have joke-telling or
                      "laughter yoga" sessions before meetings or when you
                      need a break, or just laugh when the opportunities arise.
                      You're not just building a physical space: you're building moods
                      and ways of getting along,
                      and what's laid down during this period will tend to stick in people's minds
                      for a long time.

                      I find that use of random decision-making methods can
                      (under some circumstances) help lift the mood and have people
                      feeling more cooperative.