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Advice needed on "GTDing" 2 huge projects

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  • Advice needed on "GTDing" 2 huge projects

    First, let me say I will be very appreciative of any input and I thank you in advance for reading the following long explanation.

    Having reduced my job to very part-time hours, I am undertaking two really big projects. I would be grateful for suggestions on how to break down these projects and keep all the parts together and schedule myself. I will be having about 6 hours a day to do them in x 4 days a week. The only time I will have for me (dentist appts, working out etc.) is in that 6 hour block and on weekends. Weekend time gets a little iffy because the family needs me for various things (driving, staying with kids at events, community functions, helping older folks). Evenings are very chaotic with people coming and going, dinner hour shifting around, driving people to activities, etc.

    These are the projects:

    HOUSE-I am undertaking the planning of renovation of our home, including in this is catching up on a lot of "deferred" maintenance and making repairs; some I will do, some will he hired out when I can figure out what needs to be done and who can do it. Sometimes the cost of repair and maintenace is so great that renovation of part of the house or a whole system is the better option. But, this means getting people in for estimates and keeping track of their evaluations. Along with this is trying to find ways to use existing furnishings in the oddly proportioned rooms. Also, moving stuff from room to room for access to various areas and making room to store things from other rooms ("swing" space), and in the process culling out what is needed and what can be passed on to others or the dump, or sent out to be refurbished. I have been collecting information on materials and methods (although I may not be doing the work, I feel a need to make decisions from an informed perspective) and I have many photos and clippings of how I think I want things to be but these are not really organized although they are sort of categorized.

    Two related factors- I will living in it all the while and trying to keep some semblance of normality for self and family, meals, paying bills and taxes, laundry, etc. andmy spouse is not exactly a helping partner in this, just wants to choose colors and look at styles, wants summaries and data and plans (what are the bottom-line choices, the pros and cons, what will it cost and can we afford it), does not have much interest in structural or mecanical things.

    STUFF-I will also be processing the work and personal files of myself and several family members. This is a total of about 30 file-drawer size boxes and 12 plus odd boxes of trash mixed with treasures of various family members.

    So you might say that these two projects are my new jobs! How can I use GTD to do this work with as little stress as possible? How do I divide these? By room? By system? What other tools of this type do I need?

  • #2

    I'm also currently struggling with determining what granularity my projects should be at.

    Have you considered going up a level and calling "House" and "Files" major "Areas of Responsibility" rather than projects? Then your projects can spawn off of them.


    • #3
      check out

      Flylady has a nice section on how to declutter paper in manageable steps - this could help with your file project and help you develop a mental framework for dividing up the other project. I suggest you start with the files and when you are GTDing them well, begin the planning process for the home reno project= you will set yourself up for success instead of overwhelm. Good luck!


      • #4
        Jamie, that sounds to me like a lot more than 2 projects!

        I think it would be easier to plan if you started writing down sub-projects or more specific outcomes. Maybe even wander through the house and sit in each room for awhile as you do a mind dump and just write down everything you want to change or do.

        Then you have to pick a few things to tackle first since you can't do it all at once. What has to be done before you can get people in for estimates? Can they get to the areas they need to? Do you know exactly what to ask them or who to ask?

        I think you would get some really great ideas on There are some GTDers there too. Good luck!


        • #5
          whole thing could be a one project


          I would keep this as a one project and have the detailed project plan in the support folder. Project will have many sub- projects e.g evaluate plumbing system etc. You could move these sub-projects as projects in your GTD system or you could just move just the next actions in the GTD action list. During weekly review NAs could move from your project plan to GTD action list.

          Hope this helps.


          • #6
            Originally posted by SLPgtd View Post
            Flylady has a nice section on how to declutter paper in manageable steps - this could help with your file project and help you develop a mental framework for dividing up the other project. I suggest you start with the files and when you are GTDing them well, begin the planning process for the home reno project= you will set yourself up for success instead of overwhelm. Good luck!
            I whole heartedly agree! By starting with the files, you will reduce your clutter and find that your physical space is more open and flowing and allowing for all the physical changes you want to make. By ridding yourself of the old and saving/organizing only what you need and love, your mind will free itself to see all the possibilities and outcomes that you truly want for your new living space.

            Flylady's timer and philosophy of 15 minutes at a time is a lifesaver for any large project.

            Let us know how you work it out.


            • #7
              Biiiig projects...

              Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
              So you might say that these two projects are my new jobs! How can I use GTD to do this work with as little stress as possible? How do I divide these? By room? By system? What other tools of this type do I need?
              Yikes! Go large, why doncher? Okay, here's my swing at it...

              1) You can divide by room and by system. By that I mean that some things, like major plumbing ("Oh, mate, I've just discovered the entire drainage for this block goes under your house and down a pipe the size of a toothbrush"), are inherently a sub-project, even though other sub-projects, eg bathroom tiling, may depend on plumbing stuff being done first.

              Other sub-projects, like kitchen cupboarding, are room-based. I'd say everything that takes more than one step to complete is a sub-project, and you work out what they are by looking at your overall wish list. In general, if it feels to you like a sub-project, then it is. Each gets its own folder to hold its own paper, and all are tracked within the large outer project.

              2) The wish list for your major projects: what do you want from the renovation, and the decluttering? Once you stir that around in your brain for a while, and pour out the results, you'll have a reasonably good idea of what the sub-projects are. For instance, you might want some rooms repainted, so 'Painting' would be one sub-project.

              3) My bestest advice is to start with the two as vague, wishy-washy projects, do the brainstorming, and then see what falls out. You might be surprised. Or not.

              4) My other bestest advice (hey, I cheat ) is to do as much decluttering and getting-rid-of-unwanted-stuff as you can before you move into action with the renovations. It's always, always, much easier to see what needs doing, and what can be done, when there's less Stuff. You can still do plenty of research, collect as much information as you like, but hold off on committing yourself to anything until you've at least got rid of some stuff (preferably the bulk of it).

              5) Semi-ditto with repairs and maintenance: if you know that the plumbing, or painting the gutters, or whatever, will have to be done regardless, then you might as well get that underway. But if the renovations might add to the roofline, you may want to put off the gutter-painting until you've got all your gutters.

              In short (otherwise I'll go on all day), I'd say your sub-projects are anything that's multi-step and reasonably self-contained, and get the cruft out of the way before you start building the shangrila.


              • #8
                Multiple Benefits

                Just a quick comment.

                If you're looking for swing space for something, then clearing the files up would also have a benefit in that area. Paper when its organized can take up a lot of space, and when its not organized, it seems to take up at least two to three times as much room! Thus, by starting with that project, I see a few benefits:

                1) You're getting started with (arguably) the project where it will be easier to see more rapid results and thus building momentum;

                2) You won't be fighting the system when you're trying to keep all your data organized for the renovation/repairs project, and will be able to manage that in a more efficient manner;

                3) In said papers, you may find things that remind of other (sub-)projects you want to include in the reno/repairs, and it could be easier to have those at the beginning rather than halfway through (perhaps after you've already had a trade in or bought supplies), and;

                4) By getting those in line, you might find a little more space, which could lessen the amount of work in trying to find/arrange swing/living space.

                Hope this helps, and good luck!!


                This could be something that would be an interesting case study, both for your own uses and to help others as well. Perhaps a series of blog or forum posts would be in order? In addition, the act of writing out those updates could be a form of journaling your progress, which, while nice for posterity is also a nice way to clear a mental picture of current and planned progress.


                (Not as quick a comment as I first thought)


                • #9
                  I'll throw my hat into the ring on this one:

                  1] Available time - you do not have 6 hours per day over 4 days to do these projects. Realistically you will have 3 to 4 hours per day once you account for ALL the stuff going on in your live. Start keeping a time log plus schedule your time (particularly the little stuff - take kids to sch, pick them up, cleaning , go to the store etc).

                  As to the weekends, it's not iffy its a write off ... unless your partner will take the kids away.

                  2] House - given the scope of what you are looking to do get a professional in now and have them document what needs to be done with a likely cost, timeline and difficulty factor (ie contractor or DIY). With that in hand you can start to make smart choices on were to start etc.

                  3] Spouse - if they not involved you're in for tough time. Find out why.

                  As to their desire for only high level ideas with a yes/no option it's understandable. Usually one partner does the hard work while the other gets approval. So I would just live with it. Present 2 to 3 options with costings and let it be ... for my money your talking "builders specials", mid range and finally high end. The best value is in the "mid range" ... once you and your partner understand that then go to the yellow pages and find local suppliers. Get to know then and give then your business ... life will be much simpler! I talk from experience on this point.

                  4] Staging - creating space is a key. The first step is to do a house wide cull, start getting ride of stuff now. A simple way forward is to hire a "skip" and start tossing ... great family activity plus it saves lots of runs to the tip. Worth the money.

                  Then you can get into individual rooms. Again do a 2nd culling before the work. Your goal should be to reduce your stuff by 2/3's.

                  Moving stuff during work will depend on what is being done and how long it will take. If it's DIY you're looking a 4X the time you budget. Professionals run up-to 2X the time budget. So think carefully about were you're going to place stuff.

                  5] Other stuff - cull and cull quickly. 42 boxes of stuff --- 1 box per day spending only 30 min on each. Will take you just over 10 weeks to get this project finished.

                  6] Day to day - set up a mobile office so it can move as the work goes on.

                  7] GTD - Once you start work each "section" of work should get it's own file and be handled like any other project.

                  Personally on the house front I would delegate as much as possible. The total cost of having a professional do the work is usually less that what you can do it for (particularly as most DIY's don't factor in their labor costs, new tools costs etc).


                  • #10
                    I would set aside a certain amount of time a day to go through the boxes, separating into trash, shred, file, action item support (Do, Defer, Delegate). Then another set time to do the filing and setting up the action items. Then a given amount of time of reward to do something you want to do. (45 minutes, 15 minutes, 15 mintes?)

                    You'll need to reserve a certain amount of time a day to do action items.

                    In general, I would recommend that you not consider weekends project time, unless you can do some mindless shredding or something else interruptible.

                    For the House project - again, I would establish a certain amount of time daily.
                    Set up a notebook dedicated to the project.
                    In the beginning you need to spend your set time for the house project planning.
                    As suggested above, spend some time in each room, identifying projects/outcomes for that room. Write them in the notebook. Include the photos, clippings and information you've already collected.
                    As you go through each room, identify things that can be disposed of
                    Identify the time frame you'd like to have everything done by.
                    Identify the budget - either overall or how much per time period.
                    See if you can identify a project or subproject that will be smallish on the effort and cost side but give big results. OR pick a room to work on first that can then be a refuge when other portions of the house are in flux.
                    Once you have your lists that represent everything you want to do, sit down and study it. Then take a break - perhaps a weekend. Let your mind mull over possibilities.

                    Take the projects that you have and think of them in different categories
                    All floor projects
                    All woodworking projects
                    All projects that don't require purchases
                    All projects that you don't know how to do
                    Projects that you need to do research on
                    All projects that you think cost more than $xxx
                    All infrastructure projects
                    Decorating projects
                    Plumbing projects
                    Electrical projects
                    Projects that have to be done
                    Projects that would be nice to be done

                    You may want to manipulate the projects either in a spreadsheet or on index cards to put them in different groupings.

                    Then try to order the projects in a logical time sequence - what needs to occur before something else - this is still at a project level - not a next action level. The order may change before it's all done.

                    How many of the first projects does it make sense to tackle at once? Put those on your current projects list. Do some brainstorming on those projects. Put next actions on your lists for these. While you're working on these could you start researching some or start getting estimates for work others will do? As you're doing research or getting estimates, keep this information in your notebook.

                    Then you can start working through your actions and following GTD to work through the projects.

                    I'd suggest setting a pattern for your work. Make one day an errand day - shopping for materials, library research. Perhaps you could do some of your shopping on weekends. You could try to get estimates, make phone calls and do planning on a given day. Then you'd have two days to do.

                    Just some thoughts.


                    • #11

                      I appreciate these thoughts and am open to additonal ones. I'll let you know my plan.


                      • #12
                        I moved my family to a new/old home this past summer. It was actually the house that my wife grew up in, so while it is is a great situation (shape, size, yard, neighborhood, etc.), there was much "updating" to be done to bring it up to date.

                        We are still not done make changes by any means, but the most helpful thing for me has been to keep a hierarchical list of what we want to happen and where. For example, the top of the list is "Upstairs", "Downstairs", and "Outside". Then each one breaks down to rooms or areas ("Master bedroom", "Master bathroom", "Living Room", "Landscaping", etc.). Under each of these are a series of projects ("Replace baseboard in upstairs hallway", "Add two new shelves to the pantry closet", etc.) Then I make sure I have one or two next actions for each project.

                        I started this in a mind map but am now working off a hierarchical list in Outlook (via PlanPlus). As part of my daily/weekly reviews, I find it easy to prioritize what the most important project is to be working on, while keeping others either moving along or in a peaceful stasis.

                        One piece of advice: Don't get too detailed in your lists when it comes to next actions unless you feel you really need it. I found myself going down rabbit holes with every project by trying to think out and record detailed step by step plans through completion, but I've found it was a waste of time and mental energy and often ended up being useless anyway as my approach to each project tended to shift depending on a variety of unforeseen factors.

                        We are definitely not done with changes around here, so I envy you being able to make it a formal job (I think that would be a lot of fun--for a while at least). Good luck!