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Non-action or action?

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  • Non-action or action?

    Lately, I have been getting emails from my boss like "please keep Joe informed of progress on project X."

    Is this an action? It seems like there is something for me to do, but what is the action? Where do I put it in my trusted system?

    To be a bit silly, it could be a Waiting_For with trigger, "whenever there is progress."
    It could be a someday / maybe, but I fear that I won't check it timely enough if I park it there.
    It could be part of a daily checklist, "Review project X: if progress then tell Joe."
    Since progress doen't happen each day, or even at regular intervals, I am keeping this action in my head but would really rather get it out.

    Any suggestions?

  • #2
    Originally posted by kglade View Post
    Lately, I have been getting emails from my boss like "please keep Joe informed of progress on project X."
    Excellent topic. So, what is that thing?

    In my opinion, it's an outcome. That implies it's a piece of a project.

    How to go about achieving that outcome is where the rest of the Natural Planning Model comes into play. There's lots of potential ways to reach the desired end state.

    My personal failing in this regard is that I'll often tend to attack the problem unilaterally, when it's really obvious that it would be very helpful to get Joe's input on a project like this. So I'll mention that as a pitfall to watch for.

    Hope that helps you get your head wrapped around it.



    • #3
      How would you keep Joe informed?

      I agree with Roger that it's not a stand-alone action, but an outcome: "Set up project xyz status reporting agreement with Joe". It's a process project.

      I wouldn't necessarily track that as a project, because most likely I could set up the agreement by having a single conversation with Joe about how he'd like to be kept in the loop (weekly status meetings, weekly status e-mails, etc). Then I'd set up whatever recurring reminders I'd need on my calendar to make sure I fulfill the agreement with Joe (Every Friday: E-mail project xyz status to Joe, for example.)


      • #4
        I usually keep such things as notes in my project support. During the weekly review, when I check these notes, I can recall whether there was any progress and what was it, and add an action to 'update Joe about ...' in the appropriate actions list.

        If it is not specific to a project, I have a 'hold-all' checklist, which is also reviewed during the weekly review. If there is any action regarding that item, I add it to the actions list. Nothing otherwise.

        Of course this assumes that a daily report is not required... and a regular weekly review.

        Last edited by abhay; 02-04-2010, 09:22 PM. Reason: Added regular weekly review assumption.


        • #5
          if that was me, any time i made progress on the project i'd capture an action saying "Inform Joe of latest project X progress" then in the notes i'd say what that progress was. Then later when you process your inbox you will get to that item and put it in your system how ever you see fit (i'd put it in next actions list)

          IT takes some getting used to spotting actions in mail etc because they are often not direct actions given. So you gotta look at it and find the action within a bloated email or whatever.
          Last edited by NewbGTD; 02-05-2010, 05:13 AM.


          • #6
            I would translate it into actions. Its life would probably be:

            - When I read the mail from my boss, I'd add an action to my "single actions" bucket:

            Action: Write a project for figuring out how to keep Joe informed of progress on Project X.

            - Then I'd get around to making the project:

            Project: Establish a routine for keeping Joe informed of progress on Project X.
            Next Action: Spend ten minutes thinking about how to keep Joe informed.

            - When I'm done with that project, I'll probably have an item in my repeating triggers:

            Action, Weekly: Do Joe report routine.

            The action would include notes describing the Joe report routine: If there's anything to report, do so, and make a note of when I did, in a particular place. If there's nothing to report, but it's been a month since I reported, send a meaningless spacefiller report anyway so that Joe doesn't feel neglected.


            I realize that this is all irritatingly multi-layered. If I'm feeling clear-thinking when I get the email from the boss, I may create the repeating trigger action and choose the place to record the date, on the spot.

            But if I look at the email and my response is, "Yeah, how am I supposed to do that?" I feed it through the Create a Project, Do The Project process.



            • #7
              I would put something like that in a tickler file, either physical or digital (I use outlook). "status report for Joe on project X needed?" If no, I would just forward it for how many days/weeks you think you should check back again. Or you could tickle it to remind you every Friday or so.


              • #8
                Thanks to all for so many good suggestions.


                • #9
                  I think there are some edge cases where the action list/project approach doesn't seem to fit.

                  I think that the circumstance described is probably quite common when projects are managed using a RACI matrix -

                  I can appreciate why people think GTD is process heavy talk about creating an action and a project to figure out how we should keep someone informed.

                  Does your organisation have a process for how projects are run? It may have mechanisms or guidelines for how different stakeholders are kept informed.

                  A recurring calendar item would seem an obvious approach here.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LifeButBetter View Post
                    I can appreciate why people think GTD is process heavy talk about creating an action and a project to figure out how we should keep someone informed.
                    Well...but...why not? "Figuring out" something is work, so it would go into the system that manages your work. And if it needs figuring out, it can't go in as a clear-cut action, because, well, it needs figuring out.

                    So the first time you need to do something that you're not sure how to do, a project to figure out how to do it seems perfectly appropriate.

                    Sure, it may seem silly to create a whole project to do something that you feel should be obvious. So you avoid creating the project. So the task sits there as an action that you don't know how to do. But you should know how to do it, because it's so simple. So you don't create the project. So it sits there.... you see how this is going?

                    I think that one of the most valuable things to learn about GTD is that if you don't know how to act on a task, that means that it needs to be cut into smaller tasks. And _that_ means that it needs to be a project.

                    Now, once you've figured out that apparently-ridiculously-simple task, it really does become ridiculously simple, and the next time you need to do it - the next project that requires you to status a third party - you don't need a project. You just add the new status requirement to your ticklers or your calendar or your weekly cleanup worksheet or whatever solution you chose.

                    But the first time? If you can't figure out how to do it? Project.



                    • #11
                      Excellent explanation Gardener, I agree 100%.

                      I think that each of us has things where we are a little at a loss, and other things we can do in our sleep, just depends on our specific work experience. If you are asked to do something the 50th time you likely don't need to spend a lot of time deciding how to set it up. The first time you do.

                      And if you are in the early stages of your GTD system, everything takes on a small but extra learning curve as you try to understand how it fits into the process with everything else.