Struggling with the weekly review: too many projects

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Sociologist, Mar 29, 2017.

  1. Sociologist

    Sociologist Registered

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    A bit of context: I am an academic (tenured faculty member), and as such I am involved in lots of projects, both in the GTD sense and the conventional sense. Just to give an idea: I am currently involved in at least 10 research projects ("papers"), I teach three courses, I run a lab facility, I supervise a research team and numerous students, and I sit on various boards and committees. On my GTD-lists, I count about 30 active projects and about the same number of currently inactive projects. I don't know how this compares to people in other industries but to me it's a lot.
    The consequence is that my weekly reviews take a lot of time, often more than two hours, and are often not very effective. The main problem is that I find it quite hard to review so many projects one by one, giving each the attention that they deserve. Especially with complex projects like research papers, it is almost impossible to quickly go through the project, assess it's state, list next actions etc., and move on to the next project. They simply require a bit more serious substantive thinking.
    Consequently I feel like I'm rushing through the weekly review, and often find out afterwards that for particular projects I actually missed important things. Especially in very busy stressful weeks, the time needed to review makes it tempting to skip the review altogether, which of of course creates only more stress because I lose control.
    In short, any advice on how to keep the weekly review manageable and effective if you have many non-trivial projects, especially from fellow academics, would be very appreciated!
     
  2. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I see a problem here with the definition of the "review" term. For me the Project List part of the GTD Weekly Review consist of making sure that for each active Project there is at least one Next Action defined. Most of my active Projects have Next Actions defined because they serve as Project bookmarks. When Next Action is done I continue working on this Project or write down the Next Action if I have to work on something else.
     
  3. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Thoughts:

    1: What if you stretched your thorough reviews out, so that each project gets a thorough review every four weeks, and otherwise just gets a quick glance for imminent deadlines? So each week, you thoroughly review one-quarter of your projects, and glance at the others.

    2: As TesTeq suggests, maybe there's an issue with the definition of "review". It sounds like your review is actually deep enough to count as project work, rather than project review. That may be misplaced project work--the quick glance may actually be the right level of review for a GTD weekly review.

    3: Is it necessary to work on all of these projects entirely simultaneously, or could you decide that this week or month you will focus on a subset of projects, and next month a different subset? You'd still glance at the others so that you don't miss critical opportunities. This sounds like the same as (1), except that (1) is just about your review, while (3) is about the work itself.

    4: Is it time for some things to go? I know that that often seems impossible, the person suggesting it just doesn't understand the reality, etc., etc. But it could still be a worthwhile thought exercise to figure out what would go if for some reason you absolutely COULD NOT do it all--say, someone passed a law that you could work only half as many hours, and they had the power to enforce it.
     
  4. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    It sounds like you're using your weekly review time to do project planning. The purpose of the weekly review is to keep your system current and make sure you capture everything that has fallen through the cracks as inevitably happens during the week. Making sure each project has at least one next action should be good enough for the purposes of the weekly review.

    If you find during your weekly reviews that there are projects that need more attention than that, these probably require some additional planning. Project planning is different from weekly reviewing and is therefore covered in its own chapter in the Getting Things Done book. If you find during your weekly reviews that there is a project or multiple projects that need more than just a glance to determine whether everything is clarified, I'd suggest blocking some other time on your calendar to do project planning rather than trying to get bogged down with it during the weekly review.
     
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  5. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I am a tenured full professor of physics at an R1 university. If you are teaching 3 courses per semester, I don't see how you are doing much else. You also wrote that you are "involved in" at least 10 research projects. That seems like a lot if you have any significant responsibility for the projects. If your research productivity target is x papers per year, then anything more than x+2 projects at any one time seems like too much. x is typically 1 to 3 in most fields, except for the book-every-six-years fields. If you are sitting on a committee and are not the chair, it is likely that your job is to read stuff, then show up at meetings and act intelligent.There may be few actual projects there. i sit on two arts and science committtees, and I deal with them by rapidly dispatching required work. I chair three department committees, and I try to do the same, not always so easily. You need to be ruthlessly realistic about your own time and energy, and dump, delegate or defer when possible.

    In general, when you do one or more related next actions, you should immediately write down the next action(s) for when you resume work on that project or area of focus. If you don't know what the next action is, then you have a process next action to determine the real next avocation. Even if you move as much work as possible out of the weekly review, you will most likely need an hour or more per week for the weekly review.
     
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  6. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    Unlike @mcogilvie, I am not an academic so I have no frame of reference for how much is too much in your world. But this isn't the first time someone has posted about feeling overwhelmed. If separating weekly reviews and project planning doesn't solve the problem, you may simply have too much to do. That isn't a GTD problem per se, although GTD sometimes reveals the problem by making explicit all of the commitments you've allowed into your world.

    If this is a case of having too much on your plate, you'll need to start making some choices and renegotiating some of these commitments.
     
  7. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I forgot the most important thing of all: as far as your institution is concerned, your time is an infinite, zero-cost resource. The tendency of faculty to say yes exacerbates the problem.
     
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  8. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    30 GTD projects is not a lot (i.e. projects as defined by all the stuff you've got to do that requires more than one step to complete). Is it possible that your projects can be broken up into smaller projects with their own next actions? Are you maybe currently spending time and brain power unpacking each project during the weekly review that could be saved by "officially" breaking up your projects on your GTD system. This would result in you having more projects to review, perhaps more representative of how busy you actually are, but less processing time required per project.
     

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