Do you limit concurrent projects?

ivanjay205

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I'm curious about the general trends here.

I don't want to see, on vacation, anything that I don't specifically want to do and/or actively think about while on vacation. This applies to both work and personal stuff.

But there are some things in my system that I do want to do and/or actively think about on vacation--my novel, next year's garden, the Books To Read and Recipes To Try list. And when work thoughts come up I want to dump them in the system for post-vacation processing, so that I feel safe letting them fall out of my head.So I will be accessing my systems.

So I do actively hide stuff before I go on a vacation of longer than a weekend.

I suspect that this may be tied with my intolerance for long lists and my vehemence about limiting projects. I have very limited tolerance for too many un-sought inputs. (I specify un-sought inputs, because it's not as if I minimize input. I just seem to need my input level to be Just Right.)
I am with you here... I will still capture and do all of that stuff. But for me I have a better vacation knowing what needed to get done is done and the rest is neatly tucked away for when I am back.
 

TesTeq

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When you say "planning out" AND "putting it in someday...", I feel that you may be doing unnecessary planning. I would consider whether sometimes that should be planning out OR putting it in someday/maybe, or even just an ideas list.

Edited to add: Ah. As already stated, above me. :)
Really? Is some planning banned for Someday/Maybe items? For example you've got a Someday/Maybe Project to go to Paris and you talk to your friend and she shares with you some experiences from her visit to Paris. After this conversation you want to draft a plan for sightseeing but suddenly the GTD Police appears at you door and confiscates your partial plan for this Project?
Just kidding but I think there's nothing wrong in dumping Someday/Maybe plans from our minds to out trusted systems. @mcogilvie
 

ivanjay205

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Really? Is some planning banned for Someday/Maybe items? For example you've got a Someday/Maybe Project to go to Paris and you talk to your friend and she shares with you some experiences from her visit to Paris. After this conversation you want to draft a plan for sightseeing but suddenly the GTD Police appears at you door and confiscates your partial plan for this Project?
Just kidding but I think there's nothing wrong in dumping Someday/Maybe plans from our minds to out trusted systems. @mcogilvie
Lol kind of how I felt. To me when I put an idea in someday I am almost creating a written open loop. I know I need to do something but not exactly what. So by planning it out and put it in a waiting slot I kind of have the full brain dump done and when ready to tackle just turn the project on.
 

Oogiem

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To me when I put an idea in someday I am almost creating a written open loop. I know I need to do something but not exactly what. So by planning it out and put it in a waiting slot I kind of have the full brain dump done and when ready to tackle just turn the project on.
If that is what it takes for you to get something off your mind then that is the correct way for you to handle it.

I also tend to have a lot more planning done on my Someday/Maybe items than most people. But I also move active items in and out of someday/Maybe regularly and when I do I capture the current state including all the planning and work I have done to date.
 

RobertWall

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I'm a bit late to the party here, but just wanted to chime in....

Keep in mind that in GTD parlance a "project" is "anything that requires more than one step to complete", and that "project" is distinct from "next action". DA talks about most people having (I seem to recall?) 50 to 100 "projects", by that definition. And each of those projects has one or more next actions, with the caveat that "next action" must literally be something that can be done *now* - not something that can be done *after* another action is completed.

Thus the "next action" lists are the things GTD would have you working from on a day-to-day basis.

So rather than moving the whole *project* to "someday/maybe", what it sounds like you really need is a list of next actions for projects that must be finished before vacation, with whatever level of detailed planning is required for that.

Is there a way in your software to just prioritize the stuff that has to be done before vacation? Maybe a flag of some sort?

Leaving vacations aside, in the ideal world envisioned by DA, your project list would be a complete list of things that you're committed to achieving within approximately the next year - and next actions would be defined on all of them. That way when you're talking to Frank about the new software launch, you can also get the info from him about the new marketing initiative - even though the new marketing initiative isn't the most important thing for you to be working on right now.
 

ivanjay205

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I'm a bit late to the party here, but just wanted to chime in....

Keep in mind that in GTD parlance a "project" is "anything that requires more than one step to complete", and that "project" is distinct from "next action". DA talks about most people having (I seem to recall?) 50 to 100 "projects", by that definition. And each of those projects has one or more next actions, with the caveat that "next action" must literally be something that can be done *now* - not something that can be done *after* another action is completed.

Thus the "next action" lists are the things GTD would have you working from on a day-to-day basis.

So rather than moving the whole *project* to "someday/maybe", what it sounds like you really need is a list of next actions for projects that must be finished before vacation, with whatever level of detailed planning is required for that.

Is there a way in your software to just prioritize the stuff that has to be done before vacation? Maybe a flag of some sort?

Leaving vacations aside, in the ideal world envisioned by DA, your project list would be a complete list of things that you're committed to achieving within approximately the next year - and next actions would be defined on all of them. That way when you're talking to Frank about the new software launch, you can also get the info from him about the new marketing initiative - even though the new marketing initiative isn't the most important thing for you to be working on right now.
In the software I use I have two options. Move an entire project to waiting which leaves it in essence as a someday (all of the actions within it) or put the first next action in a tickler mode with a start date. So it reappears when I am back. Both effectively do the same.

aside from the vacation thing I do follow all active project philosophy by DA. I just found it easier when focusing on prepping for vacation to further prioritize for this one instance to ensure I gave focus to what needed to be done.
 

RobertWall

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In the software I use I have two options. Move an entire project to waiting which leaves it in essence as a someday (all of the actions within it) or put the first next action in a tickler mode with a start date. So it reappears when I am back. Both effectively do the same.

Interesting. Yeah, in that case your method is probably the best way to do what you need to do in the software you have. :)

Either way, have fun on your vacation. :D
 

Gardener

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Leaving vacations aside, in the ideal world envisioned by DA, your project list would be a complete list of things that you're committed to achieving within approximately the next year
Are you saying that he prescribes that all of these should be in your active list, with none of them in Someday/Maybe or anywhere else?

I realize that I don't have to do it even if he prescribes it, and I won't, because my brain would explode. :) But I do like to know when I'm deviation from the prescription, and when I'm not.
 

ivanjay205

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Are you saying that he prescribes that all of these should be in your active list, with none of them in Someday/Maybe or anywhere else?

I realize that I don't have to do it even if he prescribes it, and I won't, because my brain would explode. :) But I do like to know when I'm deviation from the prescription, and when I'm not.
I didnt take the book that way. Certainly no certified expert but my interpretation was that things you want to “actively” work on means next actions and things backburnered for future go into someday so that they are free of your mind, in a place, and when of importance to you it is time to work on them. I understand in theory you could have 300 concurrent projects and through contexts narrow that down to a shorter list of next actions you can accomplish. But I didnt take that as David Allens intentions. I took it as everything had a neat place in your system so your mind is clear. And your next actions contain what you actively want to put focus into. If you honestly had so many concurrent things you wouldnt be able to make significant progress due to the sheer volume of items.

by doing in what I am doing in my opinion you are filtering out what is a priority and using context as a second level filtering minimizing the decision making process on what to do.
For example if twenty projects exist, ten in active feeding your next actions and ten in someday you can use context to subfilter the 10. You already have decided on priority during weekly review and during the week filter based on context. Next weekly review you look at what is left on active and what is complete. If there is enough bandwidth move next important projects into the active and repeat.
That is how I do it and I find I complete my projects of highest priority fairly quickly. And my mind is clear.
 

RobertWall

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Are you saying that he prescribes that all of these should be in your active list, with none of them in Someday/Maybe or anywhere else?
Let me quote from the current edition of the book:

“I define a project as any desired result that can be accomplished within a year that requires more than one action step. This means that some rather small things you might not normally call projects are going to be on your Projects list, as well as some big ones. The reasoning behind my definition is that if one step won’t complete something, some kind of goalpost needs to be set up to remind you that there’s something still left to do. If you don’t have a placeholder to remind you about it, it will slip back into your head. The reason for the one-year time frame is that anything you are committed to finish within that scope needs to be reviewed weekly to feel comfortable about its status. Another way to think of this is as a list of open loops, no matter what the size.”
and

“Someday/Maybe - It can be useful and inspiring to maintain an ongoing list of things you might want to do at some point but not now. This is the “parking lot” for projects that would be impossible to move on at present but that you don’t want to forget about entirely. You’d like to be reminded of the possibility at regular intervals.
....
“These items are of the nature of “projects I might want to do, but not now . . . but I’d like to be reminded of them regularly.” You must review this list periodically if you’re going to get the most value from it.”
(both excerpts from David Allen. “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” Current edition.)

Based on my readings & listenings (I've read all the GTD books and listened to GTD Live, as well as the other audio materials) it would seem that for purist GTD, if you're committed to doing it, it's a project on an active list. If you *might want to do it*, it's Someday / Maybe. The question is one of whether you have a firm commitment, not one of whether it's a high priority at the moment.

I think the idea is that if you have something that's coming up in (for example) six months, you might have next actions that can move that project forward *now* - and those next actions might batch well with other stuff you're currently doing. So you derive maximum efficiency by having the ability to execute on them in the present, rather than (for example) having to call Fred three times over the next six months over information you could resolve with a single phone call tomorrow.

That said, if you can't possibly do it *now*, but you're committed to doing something about it and you need to pick it up at a defined point in the future (i.e. you can't plant a garden in January in Wisconsin!) that's what the tickler systems are for.

So if you *might* want to plant the garden in April, you can just throw it on your Someday/Maybe list and trust that you'll review it.

If you've *decided* that you need to make a particular decision by February, you can tickler a reminder in February for the "decide what to do about the garden" project / next action - because that decision is an active thing you've committed to.

If you *know* you want to plant the garden in April, you can use a tickler to defer the entire project. Or you could just create an active project and set the next actions of "buy soil", "buy zinnias", etc. with a context of "@ Store".

And you can re-negotiate your commitment to any of this stuff at any time. But if you're moving something to/from "Someday / Maybe", that's what should really be happening - re-negotiating the commitment.

Hoping that makes sense. :) And as you indicated, you're always free to do your own thing. :D
 

Tom_Hagen

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Let me quote from the current edition of the book:....
"Another quote (re-translation from polish edition): If you come to the conclusion that one of the projects has no chance of implementation in the next few months (or longer), move it to the list 'Someday / Maybe' "

In my opinion this rule is not so simple as it looks. If you focus on too many projects at the same time you won't achieve anything or it'll take a lot of time. This may result in a lack of appropriate motivational stimuli and be a burden on the psyche. Balance is necessary. Perhaps the list of current projects should consist of short-term projects and only a few or even one long-term one.
 

RobertWall

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"Another quote (re-translation from polish edition): If you come to the conclusion that one of the projects has no chance of implementation in the next few months (or longer), move it to the list 'Someday / Maybe' "

In my opinion this rule is not so simple as it looks. If you focus on too many projects at the same time you won't achieve anything or it'll take a lot of time. This may result in a lack of appropriate motivational stimuli and be a burden on the psyche. Balance is necessary. Perhaps the list of current projects should consist of short-term projects and only a few or even one long-term one.
Can I ask approximately where in the book that's from? It's hard to search for a translation of the text, and I'd like to see the context. :)

I would agree that you can't *focus* on too many things, but again - DA semi-routinely talks about project lists with over 100 projects. You don't have to be *focused* on every thing on your project lists, but you *do* want a menu of "next actions" you can take to move any commitments forward. And of course keep in mind that "next actions" can exist without projects, and projects can have multiple next actions - so one's "next actions" lists for over 100 projects might have significantly more than 100 items.

Without seeing the context for that quote though, I think the key with the "no chance of implementation" line is that if something *can't* move forward, you shouldn't *try* to move it forward. But that seems to be more a matter of just acknowledging reality, rather than determining to move something you've committed to achieving to a list whose purpose is to hold items you *might* do later.

Just a couple more quick notes from the appendix, again from the revised edition of the book:

“Horizon 1: Projects—Anything we’re committed to finish within the next year that requires more than one discrete action step. Includes short-term outcomes such as “Repair brake light” and larger-scope projects such as “Reorganize Western Region.” The critical inventory of the Weekly Review.”

“someday/maybe—A common category used to organize projects and actions one is committed to review only for potential action at a later date”

I think the key there is "potential action". If the action is required, it's not really "potential", is it? For required actions that one is punting out into the future, with no intent to track or take action on *now*, that would seem to be the purpose of a tickler file (or deferral methods in software).

Think about it this way.

In an ideal world, if you know now (in January) that you're not going to do anything about a project until June, but it's required that you take action in June, it shouldn't be on a Someday / Maybe list. This is because reviewing that item on your Someday / Maybe list will be taking your mental attention many, many times between now and June.

So you make the decision about what/when, and tickler (or software defer) the action.

Whereas if you have the same project, but whether or not the project even comes to fruition depends on half a dozen other factors, and the timeframe might even be questionable, that would make sense to go on a Someday / Maybe.

DA talks about this in one of his audio talks. Basically he talks about looking through something like a catalog, seeing something he wants, and deciding *not* to buy it just yet because he's not sure if it's an "impulse purchase" or not. It's something he definitely wants to buy, at least now - so it doesn't go on a "Someday / Maybe" - he puts it in the tickler file for a couple of weeks out, with the intent that he can make a final decision at that point in time. The idea is that he'll be smarter about that purchase in two weeks, so he can make the decision then.

It seems like as much as possible, definite action should be scheduled for definite future dates - and "Someday / Maybe" should be reserved for things where the taking of the action is uncertain and / or optional.
 
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Gardener

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In an ideal world, if you know now (in January) that you're not going to do anything about a project until June, but it's required that you take action in June, it shouldn't be on a Someday / Maybe list. This is because reviewing that item on your Someday / Maybe list will be taking your mental attention many, many times between now and June.
I think this partly depends on at least two things:

1) How you manage your Someday/Maybes.
2) How much overhead is incurred by having a project in your Active lists.

If a project is in my Active lists, I'm going to see it every week, and I'm going to see it in a context that means that I should be doing something about it. That's what my Active lists are. I'll have to remind myself--or read the reminder--every week, "Oh, yeah, do nothing."

On the other hand, if I have a quarterly-review or annual-review Someday/Maybe list and I put the project there, I'll rarely see that project. The eventual tickler will remind me to take that project out of Someday/Maybe and make it active.

So if the project is in my active lists, I'll touch it every week. If it's in my quarterly Someday/Maybe I'll touch it perhaps once before I need to.

It sounds like your active projects cost you zero attention if they have no actions. That's never been true for me.

Now, this means that I should be calling Someday/Maybe something more like, "Someday/Maybe/Later". But that's already what it means to me.
 

RobertWall

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I think this partly depends on at least two things:

1) How you manage your Someday/Maybes.
2) How much overhead is incurred by having a project in your Active lists.

If a project is in my Active lists, I'm going to see it every week, and I'm going to see it in a context that means that I should be doing something about it. That's what my Active lists are. I'll have to remind myself--or read the reminder--every week, "Oh, yeah, do nothing."

On the other hand, if I have a quarterly-review or annual-review Someday/Maybe list and I put the project there, I'll rarely see that project. The eventual tickler will remind me to take that project out of Someday/Maybe and make it active.

So if the project is in my active lists, I'll touch it every week. If it's in my quarterly Someday/Maybe I'll touch it perhaps once before I need to.

It sounds like your active projects cost you zero attention if they have no actions. That's never been true for me.

Now, this means that I should be calling Someday/Maybe something more like, "Someday/Maybe/Later". But that's already what it means to me.
Keeping in mind that we're talking about "pure GTD" here, I think the core of the discussion revolves around the definition of "Someday / Maybe" in the GTD book:

"A common category used to organize projects and actions one is committed to review only for potential action at a later date"

The key there is "only for potential action". "Someday / Maybe" and "Decided To Do Later" are distinct categories in GTD. "Someday / Maybe" is something you haven't committed to doing. "Later" signifies something you've committed to do and either puts a project on your current "Actions" list with defined next actions, to be done whenever time / context permits, or utilizes tickler files and/or calendars (or the software equivalent) to defer something until a particular point in time.

Or maybe put a little differently....

If something goes on a "Someday / Maybe" list, there's no future commitment in any way. You could take it or leave it. If you only review your Someday / Maybe list annually (a scenario you've indicated), you shouldn't miss anything that's you've committed to do because you didn't review that list on time.

So if you put "reorganize retail sales division" on "Someday / Maybe", that's something you *might consider* doing at some point - but not something you've made any actual firm commitment to do. It's on the menu of *potential* things to do.

But if "reorganize retail sales division" is something that you've decided is going to happen, but you can't take action on it now, you can set a future date to pick it back up and then toss it in a "tickler". It's off your current "active" list in at least some sense, but there's still a definite future commitment.

Active projects cost attention, and so does your Someday / Maybe list if you're reviewing it consistently. This is why ticklers (or the digital equivalent) exist - to defer something to a definite point in time, without costing further attention.

If that's not the way you do things, and your way works for you, that's cool too - but it doesn't seem to be the way GTD is designed.
 
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Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Keeping in mind that we're talking about "pure GTD" here, I think the core of the discussion revolves around the definition of "Someday / Maybe" in the GTD book:

"A common category used to organize projects and actions one is committed to review only for potential action at a later date"

The key there is "only for potential action". "Someday / Maybe" and "Decided To Do Later" are distinct categories in GTD. "Someday / Maybe" is something you haven't committed to doing. "Later" signifies something you've committed to do and either puts a project on your current "Actions" list with defined next actions, to be done whenever time / context permits, or utilizes tickler files and/or calendars (or the software equivalent) to defer something until a particular point in time.

Or maybe put a little differently....

If something goes on a "Someday / Maybe" list, there's no future commitment in any way. You could take it or leave it. If you only review your Someday / Maybe list annually (a scenario you've indicated), you shouldn't miss anything that's you've committed to do because you didn't review that list on time.

So if you put "reorganize retail sales division" on "Someday / Maybe", that's something you *might consider* doing at some point - but not something you've made any actual firm commitment to do. It's on the menu of *potential* things to do.

But if "reorganize retail sales division" is something that you've decided is going to happen, but you can't take action on it now, you can set a future date to pick it back up and then toss it in a "tickler". It's off your current "active" list in at least some sense, but there's still a definite future commitment.

Active projects cost attention, and so does your Someday / Maybe list if you're reviewing it consistently. This is why ticklers (or the digital equivalent) exist - to defer something to a definite point in time, without costing further attention.

If that's not the way you do things, and your way works for you, that's cool too - but it doesn't seem to be the way GTD is designed.
In Nirvana, there is an option to have a "Later" list. I use this extensively for those projects and actions that I want to do and will do, but don't have the bandwidth to do now. I like those there versus Someday/Maybe, which is exactly how I describe - someday/maybe.
 

RobertWall

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In Nirvana, there is an option to have a "Later" list. I use this extensively for those projects and actions that I want to do and will do, but don't have the bandwidth to do now. I like those there versus Someday/Maybe, which is exactly how I describe - someday/maybe.
Out of curiosity, does Nirvana allow you to schedule the "later", or is it literally just a list called "later" that doesn't allow dates?
 

Tom_Hagen

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Can I ask approximately where in the book that's from? It's hard to search for a translation of the text, and I'd like to see the context. :)
...
I have got an "Getting Things Done" ebook, so I can't provide the exact page. The quoted text can be found in Part II, Chapter 7, section Someday / Maybe List.
In my opinion, the problem is different. It is indeed, as DA writes, that after clearing the mind and transferring everything to the system, creativity is triggered. DA even encourages us to catch every potentially useful thought. I agree that GTD increases productivity and allows us to cover a wide range of issues. On the one hand, the system includes such prosaic projects as "Replacing the battery in the remote control", but also "Learning a foreign language" or "Expanding the house". In my opinion, placing a large number of long-term projects on the list of active projects has negative effects, including sense of overhelming. I assume that among 100 projects, at least half are medium- and long-term. Each of us has a list of at least a few books to read, skills to master, and things to do at home. I think that they cannot be implemented in parallel because the cost of switching between these projects is too high and the end result is much further on the horizon than when focusing on one project in this case. Let's assume the following scenario (I skip work-related tasks). You decided to build a workshop from scratch including the furniture: shelves, cabinets, table and so on. Because you do it in the afternoons, you have an average of 2-3 hours per day to carry out this project. In this case, it makes sense to have got on your projects list projects such as "Replacing the remote control battery" or "Dinner with friends at the weekend" because these things do not interfere with each other and can be done in parallel, but if you put on the list the project like "Learn Linux / Polish cuisine / Sing like Paul Anka" or "Write a book", then: or realization of all of these projects will take more time - longer than a year or most of them will not be carried out during the year at all. That's why I wrote that balance is necessary. Putting everything on the list of active projects is in this case very controversial.
 

mcogilvie

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In Nirvana, there is an option to have a "Later" list. I use this extensively for those projects and actions that I want to do and will do, but don't have the bandwidth to do now. I like those there versus Someday/Maybe, which is exactly how I describe - someday/maybe.
if you don’t have time, energy and attention to give something you want to do, you put it somewhere where you will see it when you want to or need to. As long as you are reviewing all your lists at appropriate intervals, you will be ok. I have no problem with putting a project on someday/maybe even if I think I am really, really gonna do it for sure. First, someday/maybe is just a name, and second, things change and I might not do it. This is not a criticism of Nirvana or Longstreet. I think you should use the features of software that are helpful to you. In some programs, you can schedule the start date of a project. I sometimes write the project as “Start squirrel farm?” which triggers an appropriate response: start the project, schedule a new date to consider It, move it to someday/maybe or drop the project (Not much meat on squirrels!).
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Out of curiosity, does Nirvana allow you to schedule the "later", or is it literally just a list called "later" that doesn't allow dates?
You can select anything you have in Later of Someday/Maybe and schedule it. This is very powerful and a great built-in tickler. At the date you specified, the item - whether a project or action - appears in your focus list. Until then, you will not see these items on your project or actions lists.
 
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