Define a project


Hi - new to the forums. Been trying to get a grip on my life with GTD and in that phase (seems many others are) where I am just struggling to develop this into the habit it needs to become.

The one thing that is confusing me is how to define a project. I am in sales and I use an app called Asana which I find useful. I can define a project and within there, multiple tasks each with its own responsible person etc - great for delegation. But my question is - what is a project?

Eg in the sales area, would SALES be a project and then each lead is a task with its own subtasks? Or would each lead I am working on be a project and then the tasks go under that? At what level would you work at?

Thanks for the help.


In GTD, a projects is a defined outcome that requires more than one action to reach, generally with a timeline of a year or less. New carpets are a project. Closing a sales contract is likely to be a project. Sales is not a project. It could be an area of focus, an ongoing concern which encompasses projects and next actions. If your job includes sales but also other things, Sales is a good candidate for an area of focus. However, if you see your whole job as almost entirely sales, probably not. Most people have more than one hat they wear at work. A sales manager has personnel and budget responsibilities, may interface with marketing, et cetera. Similarly, sales itself may carry delivery, installation and support responsibilities. Different kinds of selling usually require different projects and next actions: a few large accounts to manage is very different from cold calls every day. Some people might want to make each of a few accounts an area of focus. You might want to make a qualified lead a project, but maybe a semi-regular order where you check every three months is just a recurring next action. You have a lot of flexibility, so try things out and find what works for you. One thing to avoid is duplicating the detailed functionality of in-house systems. It’s usually unnecessary. If you tell us more about your job and sales process, people who know more about sales than I do can probably give more targeted advice.


mcogilvie really hit this on the head.

I can tell you this was my biggest struggle when I started. I own a design and construction company so I thought I knew what a project is. I had to throw that out the window as that thinking does not work.

I can also tell you that in the beginning it seems really wasteful to list out every step you take as a next action when working on a "project." But once you do it a bit and start getting a feel for it you realize you never miss a step, never are unsure where you left off in a process, etc.

You literally need to define EVERYTHING as part of it. Every once inawhile I will cheat and combine very short actions I know I will do together, but it takes some discipline and getting used to.

So based on your sales reference.... Lets say a Project is to Submit Proposal to Client X. That might be broken down into (not knowing your workflow just as an example)
  1. Cost out products
  2. Determine markup strategy
  3. Submit markup to "Manager" for approval
  4. Submit proposal to marketing for compilation
  5. Submit proposal to client
  6. Follow up with Client

After that could be more steps on managing the approval process etc.


Yep. I'm a programmer, so to me a "project" is an application/codebase. As in, "Who's the lead programmer for this project?"

But at the GTD level, a project is something like "Fix Widget import bug" or "Write weekly Gadget report" or "persuade management that we need more budget" or "buy upgrade".

Well, they wouldn't necessarily be phrased that way, but that's the size that I consider a project.

Inhuman Artist

I'm pretty new to all this too. I have to keep out Simple right now. I want to do something like email jo Prospect it's a Next action. I want to bring on Walker and Jack Ltd as a new account it's going to take more than one action so it's a project. That's as complicated it gets for me right now. The rest I'm working on. Hope this helps.