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Waiting for an email before I can then email 3 others

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  • Waiting for an email before I can then email 3 others

    So the email I am waiting for is on my "waiting for list" but how to I record that I need to send out other emails when that email comes in (with the addresses that I need)

    One next action of email x and y when email from z comes in? but it isn't an action I can do straight away? Im a little confused (I admit it doesn't take alot )

    How do I leave a bookmark that this is what i need to do next?

  • #2
    Sounds like a project plan to me, which belongs in Project Support filing. The specifics of where you put this depend on your system.

    I use Toodledo for my lists, and it lets me have a note for each task. I have project tasks and action tasks. Small project plans like this go on my project task's note. That way I don't lose them when I check off a task, and I don't have the overhead of using a paper folder.

    If you don't have anywhere for project support material, I suggest you create some space for it, and start with paper and folders until you have used it enough to work out what might work better for you.


    • #3
      Be cautious about overplanning

      The example you gave is extremely simple; don't complicate it by overthinking and overplanning.

      Your action lists contain bookmarks; right now that @Waiting For e-mail is your bookmark. You're simply waiting to see what shows up. Perhaps the response you get might make that predicted future action null and void so don't track that in your system. Your mind will connect the dots when you get a response and your weekly reviews will keep you on track.

      I once heard D.A. say on video that if you plan beyond your next physical action chances are you're overplanning.


      • #4
        Thanks for your reply ellobogrande. You are so right! I have a bad habit of over complicating things. To be honest I think that a few of the actions that I have in next action lists should be in project support. With some although they are an independent action I don't want to do them until after I have done another action - but I have them all listed as next actions. I am thinking that maybe I should have them in project support with the actual next thing I want to do on the next action list, which I suppose should be "look at plan for x" from which I can get the next action

        my real life example is is this - I have a research paper to submit and am in the process of doing some initial reading.

        I use omnifocus btw

        Under the project heading "paper" in the folder "Phd" I have these actions listed

        a) read in re- brisanoe
        b) Go through those 12 or so questions to be answered in blue note book
        c) look at the notes / feedback from work submitted and plan
        d) Look at the supervisor report sheet of early march and plan
        e) Look at those pink issues in the JK/JY/GRL meeting notes - there are only a couple

        I have chosen this order as this is the most logical way to go through what I want to do. I guess this means that b)-e) aren't really next actions at all and need to go into project support

        Really I suppose I should get rid of b) to e) and put them in project support? and just have a) as the hard next action that I need to do. Then on completing that look at project support and and move b) to the next actions list?

        From doing a) there will be more actions (things to read) but these are not something that has to be done before b)

        I am thinking that I am maybe planning in the next actions list (not good) and also that I am also not breaking this whole thing down into more elements / projects instead I am looking at it as one big things
        Last edited by macgrl; 03-21-2012, 06:27 AM.


        • #5
          I don't use omnifocus, so sorry if I don't understand your problem. From what you say, there might be two different obstacles present, in my understanding:

          1) You have tasks depending-on-tasks. This seems to be the case with b), not so sure about e). Recommended practice: take them out of your lists until you have completed the tasks they depend upon. It is a waste of energy having them in your face every time you review your action lists while they are not really actionable yet.

          2) You have independent tasks out of a whole range of things that you can/want to do. Maybe e), if it is not dependent on d). Recommended practice: depends on your urge to finish the project, your energy... One can have more than one next action for a project in the na list, as long as they are really the actual next action, the thing that has to happen next, each of them referred to the different 'fronts' of a huge project. Using GTD nomenclature, I guess 1) would be sequences and 2) components or priorities.

          Sorry if I misunderstood. Good luck with your paper.


          • #6
            Thank you very much for your reply. You are right about having them in my face each time I have a look - it's exhausting ! What I have done is to take them all off my action list except for (a). I have then put them into a word document called "initial research plan" this is now the project plan support materials and contains b) to e) and also other notes and ideas.

            Even though technically (b) could be done at any time - before a, after c, in my head I wanted to do (a) first so in many ways b,c,d weren't really next actions at all as I didn't want to do them before (a) and so (a) had to be completed first - making (a) the only real next action followed by more planning

            So all I have in my next actions under the project "paper" are (a). When that is done I will probably go on to (b) etc but that may change depending on what comes out of (a). If I don't go onto (b) I can do a bit more planning to decide what my next action is in order to move the project on. I will still have a bookmark for it as I have a project on my projects list - "paper"

            I am thinking though that with a project being something that requires more than one action to complete that I may have to break the "paper" project down into smaller projects.

            It's amazing how complex it can get when you start to really think about it

            How do people organise projects that are part of a bigger project? sub projects? next actions for each one under one big project and then other things in project support materials?
            Last edited by macgrl; 03-21-2012, 08:53 AM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by macgrl View Post
              How do people organise projects that are part of a bigger project? sub projects? next actions for each one under one big project and then other things in project support materials?
              I make every independent sub-project it's own separate project. Sub projects get too complex to manage at weekly review. It's not uncommon for a "project" of mine to generate 5-10 projects in the GTD sense. That is one reason processing takes me such a long time and why inbox 0 is so hard for me to achieve. A single 3 word note scribbled on my notepad might turn into 8 projects spanning several years once I really process it.


              • #8
                Hello oogiem,

                Thanks for your reply. How do you link the the projects? Do you keep them in the same folder? or do you treat them as independent projects? Do you find it hard to plan and keep materials for many projects?

                What worries me is that I won't join up all the little projects that are part of a bigger project.

                Many thanks


                • #9
                  Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                  Really I suppose I should get rid of b) to e) and put them in project support? and just have a) as the hard next action that I need to do. Then on completing that look at project support and and move b) to the next actions list?
                  I also use OmniFocus, and this is a common problem for me - the ease of putting one more action, and then one more action, into OmniFocus leads me to overplan. Once I've overplanned, I frequently end up with a tangle of actions that aren't really Next Actions, because they depend on other actions. When I entered them, they looked like a nice straight line, but the project has changed since and now they're not. So in the discussion below I'm not even going to call these things "actions", I'm going to call them "items". They're somewhere between real project support materials, and next actions. They're essentially clutter.

                  While the long term goal is probably to stop entering these items, instead trusting myself to figure out the obvious next action and to put the real project planning where it really belongs, right now that won't work because those items will clutter up my brain. I won't trust my brain to remember them or figure them out, I won't trust my system to hold them, and without trust I won't progress in using the system.

                  However, the fact that the items are often _totally useless_ means that I don't want to add all the infrastructure of storing them outside OmniFocus. That will add a big step to my weekly review, one I'll probably skip, and then I won't trust my system then either.

                  So for now, I want these items in OmniFocus where they're handy for reviews, but out of my way when I'm doing daily work. I have two ways to handle this.

                  The first method is to enter those items into the project, giving them a Context of "Info". The "Info" context is set to On Hold. This way, those items won't float to the surface as actions and they won't clutter up any of my normal views, they're just notes that are handy when I actually go to look at the project by itself. If the next action for the project is obvious when I've finished the last one, I enter it. If I'm at a loss, the Info items are there to scan for ideas. If an Info item belongs in a real, solid project plan somewhere, the weekly review is when I have a chance to see that.

                  If I pile up more than a few Info items with this strategy, I'll move on to the next strategy, which is to create a _separate_ "Agenda" project, either for that project or for an area of focus that's logically above it. (Why do I call it an Agenda project and not an Info project? Nobody knows; that's my brain.) So I might have a current active project of "Fix bug reported by Jane in Widget Database 3.0" that has workable actions, and I might have another project named "Widget Database Agenda" where I put all my stray thoughts about the Widget Database. All of the Agenda projects live in a separate folder, and are usually only scanned during the Weekly Review.

                  Looking at your sample actions, I'm thinking that some of them may be too big, and may in fact be projects. Also, you asked:

                  "How do people organise projects that are part of a bigger project?"

                  I make them parallel projects; I dislike nesting. If a parent project depends on a child project, I just add a Next action referring to the child project. So, starting with your examples, I could imagine a series of projects like

                  Project: Complete Paper X
                  WAITING FOR: Plan this quarter's reading for Paper X.
                  WAITING FOR: Plan this quarter's work for Paper X.

                  Project: Plan this quarter's reading for Paper X
                  A Past Action that you've already completed: Create spreadsheet to list possible sources
                  Next Action: Spend one hour searching Y catalog for possible sources, add to spreadsheet.
                  Info: What was that book Joe mentioned?
                  Info: Is there a new edition of Book Z?
                  Info: Does my ID get me into the library at Institution A? Do I have borrowing privileges?
                  Info: Should i ask Professor Smith about sources, or have I bothered him too much already?

                  Project: Plan this quarter's work for Paper X
                  Past Action: Combine all notes/feedback from work submitted into one physical folder and one electronic folder.
                  Past Action: Create a document for notes about notes/feedback.
                  Next Action, Repeating: Spend one hour going through notes/feedback folders and entering notes in file, until done.
                  Info: Supervisor report sheet from early March also needs looking at.
                  Info: Pink issues in JK/JY/GRL meeting notes also need looking at.
                  Info: Format for plan? Maybe create a brainstorming project.

                  In OmniFocus, you could even add a last action for the projects that the other project is waiting for, referring to the initial project. Something like "Return to parent project Complete Paper X".

                  In addition to my dislike for nesting, this also frees me from necessarily having what would be "subprojects" entirely subordinate to the parent. For example, instead of "Plan this quarter's reading for Paper X" that project could simply be "Plan this quarter's academic reading". Several projects might be dependent on finishing that project, but the planning project itself might quite logically be a single project.



                  • #10
                    Thank you very much for your detailed reply. Very much appreciated. I agree with you about maybe having projects that are to big, that should be broken down into smaller

                    The problem I have is making sure they are all linked and that nothing gets missed out

                    How do I get around that? Have then all in one overarching project folder?

                    Many thanks



                    • #11
                      Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                      The problem I have is making sure they are all linked and that nothing gets missed out

                      How do I get around that? Have then all in one overarching project folder?
                      Instead of an overarching project folder, which annoys me by hiding things, I generally have an overarching project that refers to the other projects. In my example above, that would be the "Complete Paper X" project, the one with the two WAITING FOR actions. It's possible that Complete Paper X might _never_ get an actual workable action; it might forever just exist to "wait for" related smaller projects. But by existing, it does link those smaller projects together.

                      And adding a final action to the smaller projects when those projects are created, something like "Go back to Complete Paper X" adds another backup link. Or, for the example of "Plain this quarter's academic reading" you might have a final action of "Projects X, Y, Q, and R are waiting for this project," reminding you to return and look at all four of those projects. If that extra action seems like clutter, you could instead add the dependency to the project name itself. ("Plan this quarter's academic reading. Needed by X, Y, Q, R.")

                      Again, this comes from the fact that I dislike nesting and feel that it adds complexity and increases the risk of missing something. I'm sure that many will disagree.

                      Edited to add: My mind has no problem building a purely mental hierarchical structure from these notes (WAITING FOR, parent project, etc.) on the fly when and only when I need it, and reshuffling these structures based on where I started. A visual reminder of that structure is not only unnecessary for me, but annoying, because the visual reminder can't be easily reshuffled. But I seem to remember reading that programmers tend to be in the ten/fifteen percent of the population that form mental models in one particular way, and the rest of the population forms them differently. The majority way may be aided rather than annoyed by visual hierarchical layouts.



                      • #12
                        Thanks for the advice


                        • #13
                          When does a project with many next actions become a big project with satilite smaller projects with their own actions?Is it when it has many independant threads / big next actions require their own actions? Is it down to personal choice of how you use project support materials to plan next actions? You could have multiple next actions mapped out for various aspects of the project there to keep your next action list uncluttered? I could then work out what the next action from the plan

                          With some projects that I work on say for a few hours at a time I am going to do many next actions as I go that won't go my next actions list as I just do them as I go. I could then put see plan? Do more planing on my next actions list as a marker?
                          Last edited by macgrl; 03-21-2012, 01:28 PM.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                            When does a project with many next actions become a big project with satilite smaller projects with their own actions?
                            I may be over-responding in this thread. You may have been hoping someone else would answer.

                            But, for me, it's as soon as it has even one independent thread that I want to work separately. And it is definitely personal choice, heavily influenced, I think, by your expertise in the area where you're working.

                            For example, let's say that I want to bake a cake for someone's birthday. If I'm an experienced baker and have often brought cakes to places outside my home and I have a kitchen that's always well-stocked with every baking supply I could need, that might just be a single action on an Errands-type list:

                            Action: Bake cake for Jane's party and bring it over on Saturday

                            If I'm not quite that ready, it might be a project:

                            Project: Provide cake for Jane's party.
                            Next Action: Choose recipe.
                            And the next Next Action might be: Inventory kitchen for ingredients, make list.

                            If this is all very new to me and I want to make extra sure I do a good job, on the other hand, it could be a whole structure of projects:

                            Project: Provide cake for Jane's party.
                            WAITING FOR: Choose recipe.
                            WAITING FOR: Figure out how to transport cake.
                            WAITING FOR: Obtain springform pan

                            Project: Choose recipe for Jane's cake
                            Next Action: Ask Joe if he has the recipe for that cake from Fran's baby shower.

                            Project: Figure out how to transport Jane's cake
                            Next Action: Google for appropriate Tupperware

                            Project: Obtain springform pan for Jane's cake
                            Next Action: Check Williams-Sonoma site.

                            (You notice that all of these titles refer to "Jane's cake" so that hopefully I won't forget why i created the projects.)

                            On your last question, I agree that if you're working away on a project, there's no need to keep entering Next Actions as you're working those actions - unless for some reason that gives you a good sense of structure, which is sometimes true for me. When I do stop working on a project, I may enter the next logical action, or I may enter a Next Action of "Write another action." I also do this when I'm at a loss for a next action, so that the project will appear in my OmniFocus lists and won't be submerged until my next weekly review.



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                              I may be over-responding in this thread. You may have been hoping someone else would answer.
                              Absolutely not, thanks so much for taking the time to reply in such detail. It really is very much appreciated.

                              It is this that I struggle more with than anything else. The organisation of projects that are part of a bigger over all project or goal really I suppose is a better work.

                              I am out and about at the moment and am replying on my phone so I will read it in detail when I get back.

                              Again much appreciate you reply. This is an area that I want to get a grip of as these goals with many projects below them are a big part of my life at the moment