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Passive Projects

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  • Passive Projects


    I'm in a bit of a bind whether I have a project or area of focus on my hands here:

    1. There is a news story I am following, and I want to save all information I find relating to it. The only next action I can think of is "be aware of the story" or "track the story". Is this a project (no real outcome, as I just want to follow the outcome), or an area of focus (I don't have any projects with it, and once the story is over, that's it!) It seems like a "passive" project rather than "active" or "inactive"/"incubating"

    another example, but not as mind boggling for me.

    2. I want to gather materials for someday building something. If I put "Build Dresser" on a someday/maybe list, it's more of a parked object waiting to get moved to a project list. However, I want to keep gathering ideas, etc. over time. I'm pretty sure I can make someday/maybe work for this one.

    What do the masters think?

  • #2
    Not a master, but I'll tell you what I think anyway.

    The news story might be "waiting for". What do you actually do when you follow a
    news story? Do you do nothing special until you happen to see an article about
    it when you're reading the newspaper or online news anyway, and then make sure
    you read it? Or do you do news searches online specifically looking for
    news on this topic, or make sure you buy newspapers more often while this
    story is unfolding? It could be a reminder in your tickle file once a day to
    do an online news search, buy a newspaper, listen to the radio news etc.; or
    it could be "waiting for" when you happen to notice a news story. Reviewing your
    "waiting fors" once a week at weekly review will remind you about it so you'll
    remember to notice when you see news stories. For listening to the radio or tv
    news, setting an alarm can help you remember to turn it on.

    I'd suggest calling it a project, with the outcome "knowing how the story ends."

    Building a dresser: how actively do you want to gather ideas? If it's pretty passive,
    you can keep the project in someday/maybe and have a file folder to collect
    relevant newspaper clippings, your own handwritten notes of ideas you think up, etc.
    (and/or a file on the computer.) If it's more active, you might have actions like:
    once every two weeks, take 5 minutes with a blank piece of paper to brainstorm
    ideas about this project. Once a week, (briefly) search online for ideas. When reading
    newspapers, glance at the life section to see whether they have anything about
    furniture. Then this could be an active project, goal or area of focus (or part of
    an area of focus, combined with other similar things if you have them) with a
    very low (but nonzero) time commitment per week at this stage.

    It could be a project with outcome "have plenty of ideas by the time I
    decide, if ever, to build the dresser." If you ever find you have enough ideas
    (if there's such a thing as enough ideas), then you can make sure your
    ideas are sufficiently organized and well-documented so you'll understand
    them later on, then end the project and
    stop collecting ideas and leave it on someday/maybe.


    • #3
      Prune your files regularly! Also: Tickler!

      I find that cwoodgold gave a terrific rundown on how to handle the issue following standard GTD principles. I want to add one little thing to it.

      In the book DA suggests to do a yearly "dumpster day" on which one goes through the file cabinet and throws out everything no longer needed. However one deals with that, it is important to prune the files regularly. Otherwise you end up with tons of materials you never use and more relevant to the subject of this thread: it keeps "collections" like "ideas for building dresser" fresh in the mind. It's basically part of the Review, which is the part of the GTD that keeps everything going.

      Also, I noticed how cwoodgold mentioned the tickler. It's always good to think of the tickler, many many problems with GTD go away if one is on top of the tickler game.

      And the Review. Tickler, Review, Someday / Maybe. Most often overlooked.


      • #4
        The news story sounds like a "look into", "research" or "R&D" project. The purpose of such a project is to remind you of a commitment to gather enough information to decide if there's enough substance to make a real project out of it (e.g. Publish article re: x) or if it's a dead end with no further perceived value in pursuing.


        • #5
          News stories are following me!

          Originally posted by black.rhino View Post
          1. There is a news story I am following, and I want to save all information I find relating to it.
          I constantly have a feeling that news stories are following me. So my goal is rather to escape them - not to follow them.


          • #6

            I get a daily media report, and print out (send to OneNote) any articles of interest to me and keep them in a OneNote Notebook, and organise them by themes, so articles of the same topic are all kept together.

            I consider this as reference material, not an active project because I am not actually doing anything, there are no next actions.


            • #7
              I still sounds to me like you actually do have a next action ... you're tracking it somehow. If you can perhaps create a note in your list of inboxes / collection tools to remind yourself to scan for that particular topic / story, or create a next action in the most appropriate context even if it is @leisure / surfing to do a search for what's happened to the story, or link it to a routine item like when you usually scan the news.

              Would love to hear on how you solved this one - sounds like an interesting challenge for a GTD system!


              • #8
                Thanks for the thoughts and advice. I'll follow up once I figure out a plan.