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How BIG is a Project?

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  • How BIG is a Project?

    My Ongoing dilemma with GTD concerns projects and I'm hoping someone's comment will help me and others a little.

    I understand that a project is any action that requires 2 or more steps. This leads to a great many projects and consequently a great many next actions. The end result is a bit of a mess with clarity lost. Many projects are part of a larger project and as such I think most people tend to group them together and have sub projects. The issue then is keeping all parts moving and tracked appropriately.

    Let me try and illustrate with an example. I want to tidy my attic and make it a more usable space. More than 2 steps for sure so a project.
    I need to install some lights and electrics. Sub Project.
    I need to install floor boards. Sub project.
    I need storage containers. What sort? How many. Sub project.
    etc etc
    For the lights I think I need an electrician to do this for me.
    Find an electrician. Sub Sub project.
    Oh and while I have an electrician coming, he could do xyz elsewhere in the home.

    This is a kind of project link and really shows that all of these belong to a Home Renovation Master project.

    It's going to cost a fortune to do all of this work and so this really belongs in a Finance Budget Super Master project.

    I think you can see where I'm going with this.

    Where do you stop and say that's a project?
    Is install lights in attic a project?
    Is get an electrician a project?
    Or is home renovation a project?



  • #2
    Some suggestions

    You could well have an Area of Responsibility - Home Maintainence. This never really goes away, even if you rent.

    I actually group my projects into

    @Projects - Personal
    @Projects - Professional
    @Projects - Home Maintainence
    @Projects - Delegated

    But this is really to help me compare like for like and to identify areas of my life where I've got too much on.

    You probably don't need so many dependencies between projects - the lighting and floor boards are likely to be separate ones.

    For the financially dependent ones, next actions could be adding cost estimates to your budget planning sessions. And then once you've worked out when the finances are available, the project moves to Someday/maybe, and you put a tickler entry in your calendar for that month to reactivate the project.


    • #3
      I think you're on the right track. Sounds to me like you have a project called "Finalize home renovations". I suggest that you track this on your Projects list. All of the other sub-projects that you have identified go into your project support materials in some form (a list, a mind map, a formal project plan). Mambo projects like this usually have a binder's worth of support material.

      During the weekly review a thorough review of these support materials is vital to shake out the available next actions. This will take longer than most projects you'd have on your list but it's vital to do so to make sure you have all of your options for action decisions clarified and on the table.


      • #4
        Originally posted by SidTheBad View Post
        Where do you stop and say that's a project?
        My dividing line is that I tend to make a bunch of projects but group them in a folder if they are all related.

        For a huge complex project like that I'd spend a good bit of time planning the entire process. Start with dreaming what you want the space to be used for, then back into what has to happen. If you haven't done any construction projects before you may not now what can be done in conjunction with other parts of the process so you'll need to add research construction dependencies as a project.

        With a clear plan of where you are going the various projects will become a lot more obvious. A lot of folks use mind maps for that. I don't think that way so I use outlines. I'm using Omnifocus as my GTD list manager so I'd start with a project of

        Attic clean and set up as a reading nook (or whatever your final use is going to be) Then I'd start planning and initially in OF I'd create the pieces you describe as subprojects. Soon though it becomes obvious that the attic is an Area of Focus so gets it's own folder and then the sub-projects get promoted to projects.

        Each weekly review I'd refine it as needed and the final structure for me would likely be

        Folder - Attic reading nook
        Electrical Upgraded
        New walls/drywall installed
        Painted (on hold till electrical & dry wall done)
        Flooring re-finished (after drywall & painting, it's easier that way)
        Stuff sorted/decluttered and moved to attic
        storage options decided upon (on hold till stuff there and I know what space I have to work with)

        and so on.


        • #5
          There's no right or wrong, other than not being able to get it done is "wrong" i suppose.

          Its a bit like filing - at what point do you say a folder should be split up further?
          If I have one receipt it goes in a folder.
          If I have 5, I can probably just stick them in there too.
          If I have 50 I probably need to break the file into some rudimentary divisions.
          If I have 500, I need to start breaking into further sub-categories too.
          If I have 500,000, I would need a whole system just to keep track (and probably employ somebody to boot )

          But there's no point where you say "ahah 6 sub-projects, that means they have to become projects". There just comes a point where you look and say "you know, it would just be easier to treat these separately". That point will change with the complexity of the project.

          Short answer - trust your gut.


          • #6

            Thanks for the words guys. This helped a great deal. I think I've got my mind around where a project starts and allowing it to have numerous moving parts.

            My weekly review will catch the moving parts and keep me on track. Many thanks.