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Managing small projects

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  • Managing small projects

    One area where I feel I might be able to improve my implementation of the GTD process is the management / tracking of small projects. And by 'small', I mean projects that have only 2 to 5 action steps. Usually, I know what all the steps in the process would be, but they need to be performed in sequence, so only the first step can be put on my next action list.

    Now I feel that if I don't write the individual steps out in advance, I have to put too much effort into remembering what the second next action for that project is. But writing it down as a 'project planning', storing it, and having to retrieve it when I finish one action seems overkill for this project.

    Maybe the real problem is that I don't have a good system or place for project planning / project support material. How do you handle such situations?

  • #2
    Use notes fields

    If you are managing your project lists in a software that allows notes to the items in your lists, you can just enter these as notes to the corresponding project item. In fact, many projects are such small projects in my experience, that a separate "project support material" is an overkill as you say.

    In fact I use these notes to write down to remind me of the place where I kept the project support material in case of large projects. It could be a folder name on my computer, or a paper file label.



    • #3
      If you keep your information electronically, you mostly have the possibility to add these NAs without much overhead.

      I myself use for any new project a page in a wiki. If it is a small project I use only a plain page and just write my thoughts to it. If the project is larger, I use a template for my palnning method.



      • #4
        Write out all the steps in your NA lists. The GTD Police won't kick down your door and arrest you if you do (I've put in a call; I know people in high places...).

        Seriously. Go ahead. You can have more than one NA per Project in your lists.


        • #5
          OneNote and Outlook for project management

          I use OneNote 2007 as my main project management program because one can easily link next actions into Outlook. I do this for my list of major projects -- ones that take multiple steps and weeks to months to complete. For the many small projects like mentioned here, I have a category in Outlook named "Mini-projects". I then list the next actions needed to complete this mini-project in the notes section. So once I get a next action done, I go back and look at what is next in this mini-project and then add that to my next actions lists, broken down by context. This works well for me...



          • #6
            It's OK to cheat once in a while, in this case by embedding a few steps into one action, e.g.,

            Call Mat re: Drupal site -> finish edits -> announce
            This is risky, though - you can lose track of projects, not review them, etc. Plus, as others point out, it's a very good practice to have a project folder (digital or paper) where plans are stored. If the project gets bigger than expected (often the case), you must remember to "upgrade" it into a proper one.



            • #7
              Re: Managing Small Projects

              If you start putting undoable items on your Next Action lists, they will soon get cluttered and lose their effectiveness. Maybe instead put those future actions in a "non-actionable" context (as opposed to actionable).

              Say for example you have project called "Replace Watch Batteries" and you identify three actions: find out battery size, buy battery at store, and replace battery. The first item is truly a next action so you put it on your @Home list. You can't do the next two yet, but it's pretty obvious you will be doing them soon. Rather than placing them on your @Errands & @Home lists (where they would go if they were currently do-able), place them on a @NotYet list (or Todo category). Then after you complete the first item, simply goto your @NotYet list and change the the context of the next guy from @NotYet to @Errands.

              This method allows you to create all your NA's up front during the planning phase, without cluttering up your action lists. This should work fine for smaller projects, but be careful about taking it too far. If you do it for every project on your list, your @NotYet list will soon become quite cluttered and many of the items on the list will become irrelevant and outdated.

              Anyway, just a thought. Maybe it will help someone.

              Bob O'Malley


              • #8
                Originally posted by daan View Post
                One area where I feel I might be able to improve my implementation of the GTD process is the management / tracking of small projects. And by 'small', I mean projects that have only 2 to 5 action steps. Usually, I know what all the steps in the process would be, but they need to be performed in sequence, so only the first step can be put on my next action list.

                I have similar small projects that come up regularly. I use a macro to fill in the specific steps (i.e. Print, Review, Write, Submit), and the software I use has a setting that I can toggle so that only the first item shows up as a next action.

                - Don


                • #9
                  Software could definitely help you out here, as others have said.

                  I use* MyLifeOrganized, and it has a "Complete subtasks in order" option, so that only one Next Action will show up in your To-Do list at any given time.

                  (Also, the new beta version, which just arrived about four hours ago, has a new filtering engine, which seems like it should let me automatically look for any project that does NOT have a next action. Yay weekly review!)

                  *By "use", I mean "throw stuff into and never look again". But I'm drinking milk, so someday...


                  • #10
                    Keep it simple

                    Hello everyone

                    This is my first post on this forum and I would like to share my thoughts on this subject.

                    First of all I strongly believe that any GTD system, be it paper or electronic should stay as simple as possible, so you don't have to think over and over every time what to do in which case.

                    In my case, the standard GTD setup works just fine.

                    It also took me some time to figure out how to handle projects in a natural way, big or small should be handled in the same way in my opinion.

                    For my personal system, I use Outlook. Then I synchronyse to a Windows Mobile phone for out of the office use.

                    When I come up with a new project, I put it on my master project list (I have one business and one personal, because this works better for me).

                    In the notes fields I put all the actions related (this can be 2 or as much as 20 or 50 for large projects). Put only the one next action that can kick the project forward.

                    I strongly disadvise to put actions on to your NA lists that are still have other dependences. In the battery example just "check battery size" should be on your @home list. If you are in the shop and you find "Buy batteries" on your @errands list, without having checked the size, you will end up losing time in the shop. In the long run you will stop using your system because you loose faith in it.

                    These tips are all from personal experiences and beleive me I have given up on GTD over the past few years. The best tip for me still is to keep it as simple as works for you.