Looking for clarity going from Next Actions to Projects

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Evan Siegel, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I thought that "old school" was printing your lists on the drum printer using a Fortran program run as a batch job on the mainframe to process punch cards with your GTD data... ;-)
     
  2. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Well, the point was to make people smile. Back in the day, I did everything with spreadsheets, including some complex Monte Carlo simulations: "To a two-year old with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." We use C++ and python now for simulations. For GTD, I use either Omnifocus or Things.
     
  3. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    It's all about accessibility, for me. Office and OneDrive are available at work, as well as at home. Due to employer security protocols, many of the other apps and platforms out there aren't. And hey, it could be really old school ie paper based (which can work too, of course).
     
  4. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    No old school is illuminated manuscripts on vellum aka sheepskins and the medieval PDA, the ubiquitous collection device or notetaker wallet of the day which was actually a real thing in some places. Although using wax tablets for collecting perishable info goes back to Grecian times and perhaps even a bit earlier. Roman tablets still survive as to medieval ones. Or you could go Sumerian and bring clay tablets and use Sumerian Archaic or the later cuneiform. Messy to carry though and need firing to be permanent. As a project for school I created a note taking system using knots on strings similar to how the Inca used their quipu. It was basically a physical code system. Easy to put a string of strings in a pocket and keep notes that way if you are a fast knotter. Processing can take a while though... ;-)

    Fun to think of interesting and unique ways to keep actions accessible and collect thoughts.
     
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  5. Evan Siegel

    Evan Siegel Registered

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    I have but the thing the book doesn't have is actual examples of completed lists/templates which for me would make it easier to digest. Even having read the book it is not entirely clear how to implement his system. Part of this is because in my world, a project is structurally a very different thing than David describes so thinking about a project as anything that requires one or more actions is challenging. In the business world a project is simply a series of actions with a defined start and end date.
     
  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    The real problem is that everyone's implementation can be different so there is no real defined structure or template. It's a method and a system not a rote list of do it this way things.

    Grasping the difference between a project in the traditional project management sense of a business is critical to understanding GTD.

    For me, Doing Laundry might be a project because I hate to do it and it's not an automatic habit. So is decide on Thanksgiving dinner, Ship Sheep to X and plan sheep breeding. Paying bills is a project too, I have to log on for the on-line ones, write checks for the paper ones and then go to the post office in town to mail them. Several steps so a clear project.

    Here is a simple example of some of my current lists by context

    Context Inside by Myself
    Skein off grey sock yarn 200yd skeins
    Write letter to Aunt M re Rock Art article from my mom
    Purge next file cabinet drawer​
    Context Outside with Help
    Move Warbler and Traehearn into Red Barn for breeding
    Pick up wood in W. Orchard pasture
    Weigh early lambs for post weaning weights (scrotal's on ram lambs)​
    Misc Mac Work
    Update car iPod with new music
    Clean out Safari bookmark inbox​

    And here are some of my current projects
    Restock yarns in the shop
    Complete annual file cabinet clean-up
    Get post weaning EBVs updated and into LambTracker
     
  7. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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  8. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    In GTD terms, a project is simply two or more actions that lead to a desired outcome. Think of it this way: people talk about things like painting a room or buying a house as "personal projects".

    The book does have some suggestions about what a "project" or "next action" is. But as @Oogiem has already pointed out it would be impossible to come up with templates that would be useful for everyone (or even the majority of people). People have different jobs, lifestyles, and thinking styles; and also use different tools.

    When you say "it is not entirely clear how to implement his system," what do you mean by that? That might provide a good starting point for us to better help you.
     
  9. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Apparently, your statement is true in some corners of the business world. But not in all. Project managers may or may not care about goals, but I assure you somebody does. And research projects often emerge from the mists with no clear start date and no clear end date for some time.
     
  10. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    GTD flies in the face of what a lot of us learned about "time management." I think the hardest thing on my GTD journey has been doing what Yoda counseled Luke Skywalker to do in "The Empire Strikes Back": to "unlearn." It's hard to challenge our assumptions because so often we don't know what they are. We just accept them -- wrongly -- as objective reality.

    To call anything that requires two or more steps a "project" seems counter-intuitive. It may even fly in the face of the generally accepted definition of the word. Hence, the "unlearning" needed.

    It's worth the effort, though.
     
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  11. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    Not sure why this is an issue. DA is clear on the GTD definition of a project and it makes perfect sense, particularly if you keep separate project and next action lists. As he says, the project list is the "stake in the ground" which prompts you to consider "what's the next physical, visible action to move this thing closer to the desired outcome". Most things I use GTD for are projects. Even simple things like "paint bathroom" are mini projects as they involve more than 1 action step eg decide on colour, measure area to determine quantity, buy paint from store, prepare room, paint walls.
     
  12. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    So I explain why it can be a serious issue.

    If you've learned that a dog is barking "bow-wow" it's not easy for you to relearn that a dog is barking "hau-hau" in Poland. I can tell you the new definition of the sound but you need time to internalize it.

    David Allen is clear about "projects in GTD" but it is not possible to relearn word definitions on the spot.

    It is easier to accept David's definition when you've never done any "projects". But if you have a strong experience in Gantt/critical path based "projects" it is harder to accept a new definition.
     
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  13. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    Perhaps, but I'd guess that most people who use GTD also had experience of dealing with projects in the conventional sense and have just accepted DA's definition to make GTD work for them. We adapt to words having new definitions all the time. "Sick" means ill; nowadays it can also mean something which is cool and trendy. It takes time to internalise it as you say, but generally speaking, we normally pick these things up quite quickly (and in most cases, by the end of the book).
     
  14. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Yes, that's the key to successful GTD implementation: one has to accept the GTD vocabulary. Project and Next Action are very important concepts that need to be learned by heart to fully understand the workflow. @Evan Siegel
     
  15. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    What's clear to you may not be clear to someone else. The fact that you can't imagine someone else having difficulty with this actually proves the point. We all know what we know. It's hard to step outside of ourselves sometimes.

    I had trouble wrapping my mind around DA's use of the term "project" at first. I was using an app with a traditional "project management" philosophy that included a little bar letting you know how much of your project was complete.

    The problem was that as a salesperson, many of my projects are sales deals which are usually impossible to plan more than one or two actions ahead. Yet I was stuck on trying to make the app work, and I would try to map out ideas actions for my sales projects that inevitably were rendered irrelevant by the curve-balls that sales deals always throw at you.

    This of course was in 2007. I've learned a great deal since then through trial and error. One of the most important things I've learned is to pick an app that does not dictate how I work, but rather one that lets me decide how best to work.

    So I understand why @Evan Siegel may be struggling. Rather than telling him he shouldn't be having the trouble he's having, I'd prefer to see if I can help shorten his learning curve in a way I wish mine had been shortened.
     
  16. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    While there is a place for GANTT charts and such, I think it is inappropriate for most people and most projects. Like linear programming and CRM systems, they are just fancy tools that are sometimes useful. DA’s definition of a project is useful and universal, and fundamental for GTD. Of course, one can use alternate terminology like “short-term goal” if one pleases.
     
  17. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

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    "Not sure why its an issue?" - Before you can help, you have to understand why its a problem in the first place. I didn't say just get on with it, I admitted that I didn't understand why it was a problem: two different things. My point was simply that you have to accept the definition to apply the system successfully. I made that point in an attempt to help the OP as s/he might be subconsciously fighting it, or failing to internalise it, as TesTeq suggests.

    I still think that most folks grasp this element quite quickly, as DA says, GTD is not rocket science (unless you are a rocket scientist), but that's not the same as me saying I can't imagine some people struggling, as you assert. I struggled with incorporating email management into my system and learned through discussion and trial and error when I first started - none of us are perfect!

    Hopefully your shared similar experience will strike a chord with the OP and provide the enlightenment needed.
     
  18. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    @Evan Siegel, I don't know if you're still following this thread but if so, the reason why I asked what you mean about it not being clear how to implement GTD is that that could mean a number of different things. Are you struggling with what list manager to use, or what to put in your lists, or when to review them? Or something else entirely?

    I realize that professionally, a "project" to you means a large, complex business undertaking. In GTD terms, a project is any outcome requiring two or more steps. That means a lot of your projects will be simple, straightforward endeavors requiring little, if any, planning. So using a tool like Microsoft Project to manage your GTD lists would be overkill.

    When you're deciding what to do, all you really need are flat lists grouped together by the person, place or tool you'll need to accomplish those actions. You'll want a list of calls to make, a list of things you can do your computer, a list of errands to run, etc. These things don't need to be connected to their parent projects. When you're actually making calls, running errands, or what have you, you don't want to be distracted by also having to do higher-level thinking about the projects themselves. That's because using GTD, you'll have already done that thinking and decided that the actions you have in front of you are the right ones to review in that moment.

    So if your struggle is with how to populate and manage these lists, you'll want to choose a tool that makes it easy to review and update your lists without forcing you to do higher-level project thinking every time you want to do something simple like make a call and cross it off your list. You could use paper, or a digital tool like the tasks feature in Outlook, or you could use one of the many other digital list managers out there.

    Linking next actions to projects is a "nice to have" for some, but not a necessity. If you're reviewing your projects at least once per week, and capturing and clarifying inputs on a daily basis, you'll be able to keep your lists current with the actions necessary to achieve your desired outcomes.

    If you do have projects that require more planning horsepower, you likely already have access to the tools needed to manage them. These sorts of things would be considered "project support" described by DA in the book. Project support should be kept distinctly separate from your next actions lists, and therefore there's no need for project support materials to be directly tied in to your GTD list manager. When you review your list of projects on a weekly basis, that will be the trigger to review project support materials if there are any that need reviewing.

    As a salesperson, most of my professional projects are relatively simple. As I've said, I generally can't determine more than one or two next actions at a time for sales deals. On occasion, though, I have more complex projects like responding to Requests For Proposals (RFPs). Because I have to work with multiple people to get the information I need for such proposals, I often create fairly elaborate project plans in a spreadsheet or similar tool. The spreadsheet doesn't directly connect with the projects in my list manager. But when I see that project in the list during my weekly review, I am reminded to check the spreadsheet to see where everything stands.

    I don't know if any of this helps. If not, feel free to speak up and help us understand what help you need.
     
  19. Evan Siegel

    Evan Siegel Registered

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    TesTeq and bcmyers2112 like this.
  20. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    @Evan Siegel: I'm glad you found what you needed. Good luck and keep us posted with how you're doing.
     
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