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Undefined projects

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  • Undefined projects

    Forgive me if this has been discussed already, but how do you all handle ongoing projects that really only have one next action (that will probably never end)? For example, recently it fell into my lap to overhaul our offices' filing system. Getting it set up was no problem, but now I'm faced with having to file stacks upon stacks that went unfiled because there wasn't a good system. I have entered "filing" as a next action, but more filing is constantly generated, so I never get to take it off my list (which makes me crazy). I've tried scheduling time to do it, but since there are few things I hate more than filing I ignore the schedule. What ways have you some up with to deal with endless tasks not associated with a particular project, and not due by a particular date? Thanks in advance for any input.

  • #2
    Undefined projects

    My 2 cents:

    Your project to set up the filing system is complete.

    The actual filing of the "stuff" that was previously unfiled is not a project or a next action. To me it falls under collection. You've got your "stuff" in a pile, now you are going thru it and apply the workflow diagram to it - looking at each piece of paper and deciding what to do with it. Never mind that in most every case the answer will be reference, someday/maybe, or trash... you are still processing the stuff that has been collected - running the flowchart for each piece of paper.

    So to me the filing activity is neither part of the filing system project, or a next action... the act of conducting the filing is more an analysis activity out of which may come new projects or next actions as you go thru the stuff to file it.



    • #3
      Too Large Next Action

      It sounds as if you have completed all the steps of your project except for the actual filing. Since you cannot complete the last step in one shot, it could be treated as a separate project. The next action might be "File for 15 minutes", the succeeding next action might be "File for 15 minutes", etc. - whatever time you can schedule/bear. Current Filing, as opposed to catch-up would not be part of this project.



      • #4
        re: one dimensional actions

        Have you considered "what" you are filing? Break it down into focused segments and implement the previous time constraint suggestion.
        Example - File left pile could be a next action. or file back pile, or file half in-box. There is always a next action as long as the project remains. Remember.......what is the next action that can keep moving toward completion of the project.
        Hope this helps


        • #5
          Undefined projects

          ams -

          I agree with andrew in that if you are hitting a block because, as you said - ".....few things I hate more than filing I ignore the schedule" break it up into a chewable, quantifiable Next Action. One trick I've used is even more forgiving than the 15 minutes; give yourself just FIVE! that's all you have to do. You'll probably find that it feels so good that you'll do 6, 10, 15 and get an immense sense of relief. Works for exercise and so much more, too!


          • #6
            Re: Undefined projects

            It sounds like you have to archive a lot of stuff into an already-designed system. It's going to take a long time because there's a lot of it, there's no deadline to compel you, and you don't enjoy doing it.

            (First be sure that there is no unidentified next action, something that needs to be done first. Make sure you know exactly how to start filing.)

            Then, try as many motivational tricks as necessary until the job is done.

            1) As another poster suggested, break it up into small doable chunks. The action "filing" is quite accurate, but SOUNDS as if it will take a long, indeterminate amount of time. You won't even want to start. "File 15 minutes" or "File 2 inches (stack of paper)" are likely to be more motivating.

            2) Set a self-deadline to finish. Hopefully, there's someone besides yourself who wanted this done and assigned it to you. They really should have given you an incentive or deadline, but since they didn't, impose it yourself. First, spend some time filing so that you can more accurately estimate how long it will take, total. Then add 50% to your estimated time, and announce to someone that you will complete it by then.

            3) Make a little chart to document your progress. You could document the amount of time spent, estimated percentage completed, etc.

            4) Do a predetermined amount of filing at the very first opportunity you get in the day. This trick has worked well for me; as soon as I get to my desk with time that I can decide how to use, I look at my list of actions, and pick the most undesirable/hardest/highest-procrastination-factor action. What do I LEAST want to do? Do it now.

            I have a similar situation with filing, at home. I have implemented one of the above suggestions, with some success, but I'm still not done either. Maybe I'll try some of my other suggestions! I AM getting sick of seeing that stuff!



            • #7
              Re: Undefined projects

              [quote="AMS"]...but how do you all handle ongoing projects that really only have one next action (that will probably never end)? quote]

    've reminded me of something I've been putting off for a while! Something that shows up on my radar from time to time (seems to be every month or so) is weed abatement in my garden. To me this usually means taking the gas-powered machine to the 5+ inch growth around the yard. It always shows up, and I always resist it.

              Well, this is what I did yesterday...ahhh, the power of completion!

              I made a deal that I would put gas in the machine, start it to make sure it still worked, and walk the entire perimeter of my yard carrying the powered-up machine. No, I didn't agree to actually CUT anything, simply to act-as-if.

              Well, it wasn't 45-minutes later that I looked around, and I had actually cut the growth down to the dirt! Ah ha! I didn't put it on a to-do list, I didn't force myself to do it, I just pretended to do what it would take to do the actual action. (Does that make sense?)

              Take one small action in the direction you want to go in...then, see what happens!