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New to GTD and help required please

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  • New to GTD and help required please


    Having read the book twice, read a lot of the posts on here, there are still grey areas. I understand the overall process as follows:

    Gather stuff in life and put into in tray to sort. If multiple steps, becomes a project

    A Project – has multiple steps and is located in separate file for each (manual or electronic). Here is all the appropriate reference material for this project also.

    The desired outcome for the project has a “title/goal” Eg. Organise successful Christmas ball, and this title is on the file and matches the title that is onto the active projects list (this list gets reviewed in the weekly review, when completed, gets removed)

    With each step needed to compete each project, it has a NA, this NA gets listed on the relevant task/tool list eg at phone, errands, at pc, in office.

    however, my problem is understanding these many details:

    Quest 1 - if you have a big proj like christmas ball and there are 20 steps you have brainstormed that need to be compelted eg organise tkts, venue, performers, staff etc. Do each of these which have more than one step become a smaller proj located in the main file? or just separate files that also get listed on the long list of active projects? (hints and tips please)

    Quest 2 - Do you have a list attached (like a things to do) for all the NA you need to do for that small or large project? Or, do you look at the step you are up to in the project and Eg. write down on the at pc - email venue re 14 dec date and that is that project finished for the moment ( then when at pc do all items on the list for all active projects) then when time avail you go back to your proj, assess the NA and repeat?

    quest 3 - Where do the folders of refernce a-z come into it, I presume they are just storing info kicking about the office/home you may need in some order, but could also be expired reference materials from completed projects. Is this correct?

    Quest 4 - Any tips that people can put forward with anything I have listed would really be amazing. thanks

  • #2
    I'll try to share some ideas of how I would handle it...

    Quest 1: If your project is "Christmas Ball", I would first sit down and mind map everything out that I could possibly think of that I need to do. After getting all the info down, I would then order it chronologically and list all the steps that need to be done. ALL of this material would go into the same support folder. I would put the first NA in the appropriate context. If there are a few things you could do in different contexts, then I would possibly put them there also. I try to keep it to one action per context per project. Remember, the NA's are simply a bookmark to pick up where you left off. So, if you process a NA in one context and still have time to work in that context, look in the project support for the next action for that context. If you do not have time, then put the next NA on the context list as your next bookmark.

    As far as smaller projects within your project, I do not practice this technique. I have every action as a physical action, not general that would be considered another project. You certainly could have your NAs broken up into categories like "entertainment", "decorations", but the NAs would be physical actions. The categories would not be written as NAs. I hope that makes sense.

    Quest 2: I'm not sure I understand your question, but I think I do. I do have all the NAs for the project listed under the project support. I may have to add some NAs as the project moves along, and I put them in the appropriate spot.

    My process is this: I copy/paste the next NA into the appropriate context. When I complete that NA, I go into the project support and type a little "x" in front of the NA so I know that it was completed. I can then continue working NAs or simply copy/paste the next NA into the appropriate context. By using a little "x" I can easily see the next NAs on my list during the review.

    So, in a nutshell, I do have all the NAs for the project in the project support, but I have the next NA in my appropriate context list as well so I know where I've left off on the project. I hope this is what you are asking.

    Quest 3: My A-Z reference are materials that are not in any active project or NA, but are things that I want/need to keep for the future. Records, medical info, car info, house info, etc. Basically anything you want to keep because you may need it at a later time. You could store past project info if it's something you feel you want to keep. In your example, Christmas Ball, if you think you may plan another Christmas Ball next year and you want to remember the info you gathered this year, then filing the material in a folder labeled "Christmas Ball" (under "C") might be a good choice.

    Hope this helps.


    • #3
      My take on things...

      I think graphicdetails gave a very good answer on how to approach things. I follow a similar mantra, but with perhaps some differences.

      I have been doing GTD for a long time. One trap that I have seen myself and many others fall into is that one can become very good AT GTD versus getting things done. I know that sounds silly, but this forms the basis for a lot of the negative comments by people on blogs about how GTD makes one very organized, and doing many next actions, but really not making a lot of progress on the large projects. I have posted on this before -- does GTD make one very busy, but not necessarily productive.

      So here is how I approach major projects. I keep a next action on my lists as a bookmark only as to where I have left off the last time I worked on the project. When I have decided it is time to go into "project-centric mode", I perform that next action and afterwards just keep working on the project. I do NOT go back to my action lists as the only active action I had on the lists is done. One needs to focus to get hard work done! I may work on that project for an hour, a morning, or a day. But always off of the project support folder. When I am done for the time being, I think of what the next action should be, then put that action -- and that action alone -- on my context lists. A bookmark!

      I do have a number of one-off actions on my lists, and of course when I am working in that mode, I scan my action lists for things to do. THAT is what I see the action lists for -- next actions only!

      One other thing I do is to set start dates and target due dates for all of my projects. This way, I have a realistic timeline for when things will get done. Of course it is not fixed in stone as things change, but in this way, I can tell people when they ask me when I might have something done -- AND -- how much work I have on my plate.

      At any approach to projects and integration with GTD. Be careful, NOT just become good at GTD...that is not at all what David Allen expects you to do -- it really is about focus and getting things done!

      Best wishes,


      • #4
        Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
        Be careful, NOT just become good at GTD...that is not at all what David Allen expects you to do -- it really is about focus and getting things done!
        amen to that.

        RE the the original post. Deal with projects as you see fit, it probably depends on your job & your personality. I generally dont bother too much with sub-projects, but sometimes when a project has a dozen or so sub-projects, it just gets too busy to have it as one super-project. In that case I split it down and just keep a mindmap of the different moving parts so I can tell at a glance what they all are. This is also the case when you're dealing with a project thats almost a 20K foot item. For example at the mo we're completely redoing our HR processes at work, with new contracts, new staff handbook, change in holiday and sick entitlement, etc. Helluva lot of work, including lots of negotiation and referring to legal advisors. It's just easier to deal as separate projects, so I do.

        RE support materials, I keep all paper materials in a single filing cabinet, active or nay. Most other people seem to keep a separation of active and expired projects.

        When I first got into GTD (and even now, though less so) I did a lot of trying out different ways of doing things. You seem like you're going by the book at first, which is definitely the way to do it, but if you need to evolve your system to keep up them do so, the system is only there to support the job, not the other way round.