How do I treat projects that I'm partially responsible for?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Matthew Hussey, Jun 1, 2019.

  1. Matthew Hussey

    Matthew Hussey Registered

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    I'm fine(ish) when a project is completely mine, such as "repair my car", but what about things that I am not completely responsible for?

    One example I have is my children's homework. I recently built a model volcano with my 8 year old son and I treated it as a GTD project because I was leading doing it with him. I ordered materials, set aside time to do it, etc. However, my 10 year old is old enough to do her homework herself most of the time but won't unless I keep reminding her. Homework varies from a week to a whole term (semester?). My input varies from "why haven't you done it yet?" to sitting with them and going through research.
    I am just as responsible and likely to help with homework as my wife is, and even our friends may help if they are visiting. My children are also responsible.
    It's obvious to me that my children's education is an area of focus, but how do I handle these "projects" when either myself, or my wife, or my children can do them? If I ignore them my children will do nothing. If I over-manage them it gets frustrating.

    Another example is organising my son's school trip. We've got packing to do, buying things for him to take, paying for the trip.. etc. However, myself and my wife are equally responsible for doing this.

    Not sure if it matters, but my wife does not do GTD and has no interest in it. She does things by scribbling out a todo list on a scrap of paper each day and somehow runs a PTFA as well as the children!
     
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  2. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer for this. Projects where you are responsible for initiating the project (“How about a volcano?”) and making sure it completes (“Don’t forget to take the volcano to school!”) are clearly a project for you, even if some weeks your responsibility is simply to make sure progress is continuing. Monitoring homework is going to drive your daily behavior, but whether you capture your commitment in an area of focus, a goal or a value is up to you. I don’t think it’s a project. Part of having kids is making sure you have time for stuff that shows up, like impromptu tutoring. Sharing responsibilities between spouses can be hard, especially if you don’t have a customary division of effort. If you feel you need it, put “Discuss division of school trip responsibilities with spouse.” or similar on your agenda list.

    Not GTD advice, but parenting advice: always empower your kids to take responsibility for the things they are ready to handle, and always let them know you are there to support them.
     
  3. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Do carve out your chunk of responsibility and leave the rest to others. How big this chunk should be? As big as necessary to make you stop worrying about the whole project.
     
  4. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I have a number of colleagues who do not "do GTD" and make simple lists and are incredibly productive. It is all about mindset and focus.
     
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  5. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I am working on them, though. Many have acknowledged the importance of capturing everything and processing what it means to them. I am now moving on to projects and actions -- many also see the beauty in identifying the very next action to do. So....the education process continues....:D
     
  6. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

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    I forget where I heard this approach -- probably on a GTD webinar -- but it's been really helpful to me: projects start with verbs, and there's always a verb that describes my piece of any project. "Support John in hiring XYZ coordinator," "Ensure child [does XYZ needed thing]," etc. This technique does prompt useful thinking about next actions. Good luck!
     
  7. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I'm just responding to a part of your post right now: Have you considered making somebody solely responsible for these things? So, you're responsible for the volcano, your wife is responsible for the school trip?

    When I say "responsible" I mean in terms of managing it, not doing all the tasks--the fact that you're responsible for the volcano doesn't mean that you can't ask your wife to pick up the the plaster of paris when she's going to the hardware store, or that she can't ask you to get your child some gym socks when you're going to buy that new tie. But you're responsible for confirming that she picked up the plaster of paris, and she's responsible for confirming that you picked up the socks.

    Similarly, she could be the math homework go-to and you could be English. Or she could be this month and you could be next month. Again, that doesn't mean that she can't ask you, "Hey, can you help Joey with math tonight? He's on long division, and watch out; he'll get you to explain it so thoroughly that you've done the work for him." But it means that one person is the responsible one.
     
  8. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Interesting. My Project names never start with verbs. Why? Because Project names define outcomes and an outcome is not an action - it is a desired state.
    Unfortunately I really don't know how to convert your "Support John in hiring XYZ coordinator" Project name to my naming convention. I cannot identify the outcome. And "Ensure child [does XYZ needed thing]" is even more cryptic for me.
    If I need to hire XYZ coordinator I call the Project "XYZ Coordinator hired".
    If I need to fix the kitchen door I call the Project "Kitchen door fixed".
    On the other hand my Next Action names always start with verbs.
     
  9. Mateusz

    Mateusz Registered

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    Totally agree.
    Project is a desired outcome which needs more than one single action. In person I prefer to use less restrict rule when it comes to projects naming but I always have a short additional note to describe that desired result.
    Next actions are always presented by verbs. And this is a strict rule for me.
     
  10. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    Each approach is fine. Everyone is going to approach this a little differently - project names as verbs or as an outcome. Don't get hung up on these nuances, folks. It really is not important and is a personal preference. Be careful not to spend an inordinate amount of time on your system versus actually doing your work. Just some friendly, senior advice. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  11. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    So, dear friend, you are in the camp of language deniers? ;)
    I mean there is a theory that the our language shapes our perception of the world. So if you use a verb for naming a Project you focus on doing something, not achieving something. For me it is a huge difference. In the @AnneMKE 's example: what is the successful outcome of supporting John in hiring? Satisfied John?
     
  12. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    My dear friend....I think you are missing my point. I am not a "language denier". I maintain my position that it is a personal preference. If it works better for you for language sake to make it clear what the successful outcome is, then of course that is fine. Some prefer verbs to start their projects and then in the project notes state what the successful outcome will be. My main point, however, is for people to not get hung up on these nuances and spend an inordinate amount of time tweaking their systems....and not actually focusing on their work. One can become the most organized person in the world and have the best GTD system ever....and not accomplish their important work. That is why I was saying I have many, many colleagues that do NOT do GTD and rely on simple lists and they are some of the most accomplished scientists and professors in the world. GTD CAN help of course, but not if your primary focus is on the nuances of GTD at the expense of doing great work.
     
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  13. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    Please also don't think I am not a strong advocate for GTD in my discourse here. Of course I am; I only want to promote having a trusted system that works effortlessly in the background so you have a clear mind and can focus on your work. I guess that is my bottom line.
     
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  14. John Forrister

    John Forrister Moderator Staff Member

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    I can be overly fussy about language, so forgive me if this seems too fussy. For efficiency, my projects list is a list of outcomes. That is, each project title states the outcome, and I don't have to drill into digital or paper notes or rethink to reveal the outcome. The outcome says what will be true in the future when the project is complete. Because that is different than what is true at this time, action is required. I use a verb to specify the action. My preference is to list the project in past tense (Accountant hired), but present tense (Hire accountant) is also fine.

    We have a PDF in the GTD Connect library that has more examples, showing projects and their associated next actions. And we also have an upcoming webinar designed to help make lists of projects and actions clearer.
     
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  15. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    Of course, John. And you are not too fussy. :D So the example pdf shows what I do too -- beginning project titles of "finalize, develop, complete, etc. Others prefer having the absolute outcome in the title: Project X has been completed, New web site has been developed, etc. That is what I meant by personal preference.
     
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  16. John Forrister

    John Forrister Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Matthew, you may toss my advice because I'm not a parent, and my wife is okay at GTD. Here's how we handle shared projects. Even though we may both want the project done, our approach is to decide which one of us owns it. That person may take actions, or delegate actions to move the project forward. We also meet to review projects regularly, and make sure that we know what the next action is, and which one of us will do it. For us, owning the project doesn't mean doing all the steps. It's more about who is tracking the project. That may sound mechanical, but it has virtually eliminated friction for us. We even renegotiate who owns the project if the owner isn't moving it forward as fast as the other prefers.

    Shared terminology helps, of course. But even if your wife doesn't use GTD terms, and doesn't have a projects list, I bet she can relate to the idea that the school trip is a multi-step outcome that each of you will do stuff to make happen. You might already have this, but maybe it would help to have a bulletin board or whiteboard that says Awesomely Successful School Trip and then notes about who is doing what.
     
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