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Getting Clear on Project Planning

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  • Getting Clear on Project Planning

    DA Described 3 types of projects.

    The majority just need a defined outcome and the next action

    15% need some mind-mapping, brainstorming.

    5% need massive 50k-20k outcome vision, planning evaluation.

    For the first type. How would this work?

    Project List

    Project One Outcome -- NA for project one
    Project two Outcome --- NA for project two

    Then what happens after you complete THAT NA for project one? You just erase it and fill in the next one? Trying to figure out the best paper-based, phone based, or computer based system for keeping track my insanely endless array of projects.

    Differentiating between those three categories will do wonders for me b/c I had projects like "improve financial success" (no doubt a type 2 or three project) mixed in with the type 1 projects of simplistic things like "add blog to site".

    And then how do you decide which project to "do"?

    I'm realizing GTD breeds OCD. It's just obsessive compulsive to have lists. I've seen people who gtded with google notebooks every frew days, hand drag over new actions from another notebook. Then the rewriting of's just psycho and breeds neurosis, I'm beginning to realize after gtding for months. Plus it feels like a cult, too. The @phone lists are great, and the 50k to runway idea is great, but most the rest is just, I fear, a breeding ground for ocd or just compulsive over-analysis. I wish there was a healthy balance between "out of mind" and "in a good system".

    I also just haven't been motivated to do the projects on my project list mainly because they don't seem relevant. But everyone raves about "well a smarter part of my brain put them there!!" Well, so did an "older" more antiquated mental outlook. For that reason it can lock you into past habits, impeding necessary change. Maybe I need a better evaluation discard/keep system for projects. I love being organized. I thrive on that. Organization is just a massive form of clarity and freedom when done right, but I think the solution here is just eliminate crap from my life. 50k to 40k simplification.
    Last edited by validatelife; 06-09-2008, 08:28 PM.

  • #2
    If you don't think a project is relevant, then don't do it. There's no ironclad rule that says you MUST do the stuff on your project list. Identifying and pruning stale tasks is one of the goals of the weekly review. Another is aligning your projects with your higher level priorities. It sounds like you might need to do a bit of higher level thinking.

    "Improve financial success" is not an outcome, and therefore not a project. It might be a goal or an area of focus, but a project has a defined endpoint. How do you know when you are done? When creditors quit calling you? When you sign the papers for that South Pacific island? Clearly the two target outcomes belong to very different realities, and will probably require different NAs.

    I wouldn't say that "add blog to site" is a simple project, either. At a minimum, you need to decide what software to use and what you want to talk about. Both of those questions might require brainstorming and/or research.

    For the projects that *are* truly simple, yes the record keeping can be as simple as "@call garage to discuss brake job." When you complete that, cross it off and write "@agenda ask Bob if he can handle support line while I get car serviced," or whatever the next step is. Though it's true that some GTD users spend some time obsessively tweaking their systems, that obsessiveness is *not* inherent in GTD. In fact, I'd say that obsessiveness about systems is a sign that someone hasn't truly internalized GTD yet: the point is to Get Things Done, not to have presentation-quality lists.

    Last edited by kewms; 06-09-2008, 10:45 PM.


    • #3
      Validate, dude, aren't you the same guy who is my hero and wrote a few weeks ago about how GTD helped you move and start dream life?! I really looked over your system, found it amazing, and so complicated I couldn't make it work, but was impressed with your success nonetheless. And now, we have this post! What gives? How did all this come about? The OCD thing?


      • #4


        I've recently been having difficulty with Projects also. As I tried to get my system more watertight, I was getting confused in the Projects area. For example, I'd have "pay off credit cards" as a project, then lump that into "get debt-free", then lump that into "financial independence", and all the way up to "live my life" or some other 50k view thing. Kewms' response to your post clarified my problem, at least in part.

        I did want to point out that you don't decide which Project to do. You decide which Next Action to do, and this is an intuitive decision. However, Allen points out that it is only an intuitive decision if there's no insecurity or procrastination. I have had times that I've been making Next Action choices and picking Next Actions that were more personally desirable (not more valuable) in order to avoid other Actions that were more valuable but less desirable, for whatever reason.

        When things are working properly in my system, here is what happens: I'll look through my Next Actions list to refresh my memory, then choose one. I'll accomplish that task and sometimes continue on in the same project (example: call Fred about mechanic recommendation, then call the mechanic and set the appointment right away). When I stop working on that project I will write in the Next Action to pick back up where I left off.

        Other times I will only do the Next Action that is listed, and that's it. This especially happens on lower-priority items. When I accomplish the Next Action and cross it off I IMMEDIATELY write down the Next Action for that project. This is a good habit to get into--every time you finish a NA, write in the next NA for that project. It will help keep you up-to-date on all your moving parts in between your bigger Reviews.

        Hope this helps.


        • #5
          I recently had a breakthrough about this very topic, thanks in part to this post. Much of the difficulty I believe comes from not having a clear picture of how to manage the higher level altitude thinking.

          "Improve Financial Success" is not a project. It's a 50,000 ft focus area.
          "Get Debt Free" is a long term goal (3-5 year time frame), Eliminate credit card debt is probably either a short or long-term goal. Paying off an individual credit card is probably an intermediate objective (3-9 months) while paying down a specific amount on a specific credit card is a project (1-5 weeks). I've attached a view of a mind map with this particular item laid out.

          One of the key problems I've had with this approach is that with the altitude metaphor I ended up with way too many projects on my list. What I had been missing is that the altitudes are realy just a vantage point from which you can assess progress along the time horizon. You can't operate at 50,000 feet, all action takes place on the runway.

          The challenge of the hierarchical approach is that unless you understand the significance of time horizons then you can suffer from the cartesian product problem. [6 focus areas x 1 long term goals x 3 short term goals x 4 objectives x 12 Projects = 864 projects and their individual next actions.]

          The key thinking however is that your GTD system (Runway) is really focused only on the active stuff. Not all 864 projects should be active at any given time. In fact, since this covers a three year period, there are 3 years x 48 weeks a year gives 144 project weeks; It would be possible that as few as six projects would be active at any given time.

          While six may not be realistic, part of GTD is about figuring out what you're not going to do this week (and having your higher altitude thinking done is a very effective way to make this happen).

          An insane project list is to me a clear sign that higher level thinking and planning along longer time horizons hasn't been done. Too many projects leads to bad multi-tasking and not getting things done.

          Attached Files


          • #6
            Higher Altitudes & Motivation

            This is an excellent thread. Understanding how to maintain vertical control while managing the horizontal dimensions of ones' system is something lots of GTDers don't realize until much later.

            As you mention in the initial post, it's hard to stay motivated when you lack the relationship of the runway to those higher altitudes. I made a Quicktime movie titled "What About Sub-Projects?" explaining how vertical dimensions work in my own system. One of the things I've discovered is how valuable "seeing" these vertical dimensions is when processing each next action. For my own system these higher altitudes show up as Finder windows tiered in the background showing the relationship of the runway action to the higher outcomes. Having that background when processing any given task creates a motivational backdrop that gets me into getting a lot more of them done.
            Last edited by Todd V; 08-08-2012, 01:21 PM.