Growing project lists

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Greg Rolling, Dec 22, 2017.

  1. Greg Rolling

    Greg Rolling Registered

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Hello all,

    I've been a "fringe GTD" user for a few years now, and I recently re-started my efforts. I've come into the situation where I normally fall apart, so I thought I'd ask for some tips and advice.

    I find myself with a list of projects that I intend to work on, but after setting the next action there is always something else that takes priority. I end up with a long list of projects, each with next actions defined, but I'm unable to move them forward. My project list becomes unwieldy and somewhat overwhelming and I end up just making a list of whatever's on fire at the moment.

    So I'm curious how you all handle this sort of thing. Do you move projects to a "someday/maybe" list once they aren't making any headway for a given amount of time because they are obviously not important enough for me to take action on them? Do you prioritize your project list using A-B-C method and work top-down?

    Any thoughts are appreciated.
     
  2. ggray50

    ggray50 Registered

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2017
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    20
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Scotland
    How many projects have you got on the go? 70-150 projects is normal. First, be sure that all the projects and their associated next actions actually sit with you. Can you/should you delegate any of them? If the project is a nice-to-do, rather than a must-do, then you might want to add it to Someday Maybe, if you've got too many live projects on the go.

    So, what are we left with? Is there still a huge list of projects and associated next actions for you to action that are becoming overwhelming? It can feel stressful to have so many loose ends dangling for extended periods of time if you're not used to it, but if they're all tracked in your trusted system, you can take some comfort from the fact they are still very much on your radar - you've not forgotten about them, and you just have to accept that, at any given time, you are working on what you think you should be working on. You can't do everything right now; you need to just accept that you will get round to the other actions eventually, in due course.

    I can sympathise though. I work in the emergency services sector. There is always a new project just around the corner, which is expected to take priority over everything else, which knocks back previous priorities and longer term plans. But what increases the stress levels is that the culture reinforces that every new project should be your latest priority which, of course, is not sustainable or even true (the only "latest and loudest" which truly defaults to priority status is a turn-out to an emergency incident). All you can do, is take heart from the fact that you're doing your best to make the best choices you can, given the context and time available, your energy levels, and your perceived value of the project. If that's not deemed good enough, be prepared to justify your position. Having it all captured, makes that much easier. It might also be worthwhile to sit down with your manager to discuss your project list and see what feedback is given.

    On the whole, I use my gut to prioritise from my lists. I occasionally move stuff to someday/maybe, but more often I just accept that some of these live projects will have to progress more slowly than I would like, due to other projects which take priority. Because managers have wider responsibilities these days (which in the past might have been shared between multiple roles), we have larger workloads than ever before and managing shifting priorities has become an inescapable aspect of modern management.
     
    chirmer and Greg Rolling like this.
  3. Greg Rolling

    Greg Rolling Registered

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Solid advice, thanks ggray50. I typically run in that 75-100 projects I suppose. It's difficult to see unfinished business, but maybe I just have to get used to it. At this moment, I am adding 5 new projects for every one that gets completed. It's daunting. I understand your point that the workload is what it is, however. I think discipline is the key, from what you're saying. Too often I think I do what's easy instead of what's important, just to get that rush of having done something...
     
  4. chirmer

    chirmer Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2013
    Messages:
    122
    Likes Received:
    45
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Web & graphic designer, marketer
    Location:
    Indiana, USA
    Home Page:
    What an awesome answer, @ggray50 ! I'm printing this and putting it in my notebook for those times when I feel my growing projects list looming over my head.
     
  5. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2002
    Messages:
    1,047
    Likes Received:
    292
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Professor of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
    Location:
    University of Iowa
    All very good answers. I am going to take another view, though. What projects are REALLY important to your work, field, etc.? Not all projects are things that will have impact. Of course, there are things you have to do that are just part of your job, but otherwise, you need to trim things down so you can focus on what matters. Really use your someday/maybe list! Be ruthless. And then.....time block! Make protected time on your calendar for those important projects. It is called time investment - not time management. You have the same number of hours as everyone else. How you choose to spend that time is up to you. You can enjoy cranking widgets and making just a little headway on a huge number of projects....or you can focus on what is going to have the most impact and pursue that. Block time to make sure you keep other balls in the air that you need to, but do focused, deep work!
     
    Rhone likes this.
  6. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Messages:
    717
    Likes Received:
    77
    Trophy Points:
    28
    70-150 active projects is absolutely not normal for me. I suspect that "number of active projects" and tolerance for larger numbers is one of the things that varies enormously by individual. I don't want more than, say, 20 active projects. Everything else gets ruthlessly shoved into Someday/Maybe, or maybe even demoted below Someday/Maybe and into my lists of thoughts. I'm pushing harder and harder to add a Kanban philosophy to my tasks and minimize work in progress.

    Now, I realize that "I don't want" and the reality of one's job/life may not map together. But to some extent I twist the lists to force them to do so.

    For example, if I know that a bunch of projects are just going to be on life support, I may shove them and their support material to Someday/Maybe and create a single project that I call "life support". That project may manage things like checking with managers against a list to see if any of the projects on the list are likely to come to life, communicating with internal customers to give them the "Sorry, no room in the schedule for you yet," news, begging for software license funding because I know it will take six months to buy and we might be able to work the project by then, and other minimum-maintenance tasks.
     
  7. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,504
    Likes Received:
    322
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Female
    I love lots of choice, so I routinely have available to me 150-200 active projects. Any project that I could potentially work on during this season is active. On my quarterly reviews at the equinoxes and solstices I swap out those projects for ones i could work on next season. They swapped out projects go into someday/maybe until the next year when I could work on them. Keep in mind that most of my projects have seasonal relevance. I can't work on irrigation in winter, sheep breeding in spring, lambing in the fall etc.

    So for me, I'd look at what you can potentially work in in this next 3 months and keep them active. Put the rest into someday/maybe.Review weekly in case things change. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

    Some won't get moved on in this season and that's ok, your own intuition will let you work on the ones that are truly important.

    Just by way of comparison I currently have 210 active projects. I'm in the middle of my swap for the solstice so once I finish my weekly review this week I expect to be back down to about 175 or so.

    Also I haven't done a recent count but think there are something like a couple thousand potential projects in my someday/maybe lists. Everything from the really unlikely bucket list stuff to just abut any cool idea I have thought it might be useful or fun or important to work on someday. The key for me is a good capture system so I can save them and a good review system so I can find those gems when the time is right.

    Weekly or more frequent review is your friend.
     
  8. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Messages:
    717
    Likes Received:
    77
    Trophy Points:
    28
    And for me, I'd move everything that you won't work this week or next into Someday/Maybe. :) I say this not as disagreement, but to chime in from the extreme side of the other end of the spectrum.
     
    Longstreet likes this.
  9. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,504
    Likes Received:
    322
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Female
    Exactly, this proves that the GTD method can handle widely differing ways to implement it. I love large lists but that might not work for you. Figure out what works and ignore suggestions that don't.
     
    Longstreet likes this.
  10. Instigase

    Instigase Registered

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2002
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    I think the use of the Natural Planning Model into your workflow could help you in managing your lists of projects and next action lists.

    Use that workflow to discern if you should do the project, and your project folders to house your notes which define your: (1) purpose and principles, (2) vision of what done looks like, (3) brainstorming/research notes and project plans, (4) your organized project plans and sub projects, so that (4) next action is only the action in your current context list.

    Your weekly review will help with discerning if you should keep going on the project and make sure that your context lists stay current and manageable.

    Good Luck!
     

Share This Page