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If you can’t “do a project”, how do you process it?

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  • If you can’t “do a project”, how do you process it?

    I guess I am just going to start reposting my questions, since all the answers got lost when the forum crashed. Here is the first one:

    I understand that a project is a series of next actions, and that you can’t “do a project”.

    So when I am doing my weekly review and I think of a project, where do I put in it? I should say here that I am 100% Outlook based.

    I can’t put it on my @calls list (in Outlook’s Task section) because it is a project, not an action.

    One thought I had, was to make a @projects list (in Outlook’s Task section), or create a Note called “–Project List” (in Outlook’s Notes section) and just list the various projects out in the note. This second method has a few limitations such as 32k limit, and no easy was to sort), it is essentially the same as making a list in WordPad.

    • What would be the GTD way to deal with this?
    • If you had a project, where do you notate it and where do you notate the various actions that makeup that project?
    • Where do you notate the desired outcome? Is this even important to do, or is it enough to think of it w/o placing a note on some list.
    • Let’s say that a project/action came from an email, Where do you now put that email (in outlook)? What is the process of purging it?
    • What is the @Next Actions category/list all about?

  • #2
    Processing Projects


    Although many of your questions are of the "How do I do this in Outlook" variety, some looked to me like they were concerned with how do do some things in general. I'm on a manual GTD system, so I'll leave the Outlook particulars to someone else, and deal with some general issues. If you are not looking for general answers, then in the words of Emily Litella: "Never mind."

    The first thing is that you should keep one or more project lists. (I have two: Work and Personal.) Whenever you recognize a project, whether it is during your weekly review, while processing the items in a collection bucket, or being the victim of drive-by management you should enter it into a project list. This means that you have (been) committed to creating an outcome that you know will take more than one action to create.

    The next step in processing the project is to determine its next actions. For example, two common, but not universal, next actions would be to create a project file to hold the stuff that projects tend to collect, and to plan the project. Once recognized, you should enter the next actions into either your Calendar, Tickler File, or Action Lists depending on when they need to be done.

    Many projects are so simple, however, that they don't need to be planned. You can just determine each next action as you finish the one before it. Complex projects, on the other hand, will require a plan. A project plan is a good place to flesh out the project's outcome.

    Where you keep all of your project stuff depends on what you do and the system you use. I keep project plans in a planner section for that purpose. I keep everything else either in a physical folder or in a folder on a hard drive. The key principle is to keep the project stuff in as many places as necessary, but as few places as possible.

    Hope this is useful.


    • #3

      Regarding your many good questions about how to GTD in Outlook.

      I suggest:
      In general: Read the book. Over and over. I've read it about 4 times in the last 6 months. Get the CDs. Listen over and over.

      1) Get the outlook add-in. It steamlines much of the GTD processing of emails.
      2) Get set up the Projects as Contacts way, ala Bill Kratz at
      3) Get the "Implementing David Allen's Workflow Processing Using Microsoft Outlook " guide available on this website.

      My quick answers to your questions:
      1. Have a project list. Add new projects to it. Unless you are completely paperless, keep a separate paper file folder for each project. Put notes, desired outcome, future actions, etc. in that folder and review it at your weekly review. If you prefer, you could keep the desired outcome, etc. in the note section of the task or contact for each project.

      2. @Next actions are where you put the single, very next, physical action for each project. More about this is in the book.


      • #4
        Projects / GTD / Outlook

        Hi Jim --

        I have a 'Projects' category (no @ because it's not an action) where I store all the projects I have going. If there are ideas on actions I want to do for them, but they're not the NEXT action, I toss them in the note of the project, and look at the notes/actions in my weekly review (or when I cross off a next action for that project).

        Hope that helps!