How to know if "completing an e-course" is a goal or a project?

msnjuegos

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Hi everybody. I have doubts about how I can clarify the item "complete X e-course" if it would take me a long time to complete it (about 6 months). I think a project should last a maximum of 2 months but I don't know if I can consider it as a goal because I can't break it down into several projects. Any orientation would be appreciated.

Thanks!
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Hi everybody. I have doubts about how I can clarify the item "complete X e-course" if it would take me a long time to complete it (about 6 months). I think a project should last a maximum of 2 months but I don't know if I can consider it as a goal because I can't break it down into several projects. Any orientation would be appreciated.

Thanks!
David Allen’s “standard definition” of a project calls for up to a year, but many people have longer projects. Two months is just way too short. There are many, many ordinary projects that last longer: renovating a kitchen, applying to college, getting orthodontia, reading War and Peace or Ulysses. These also often take longer than two months: getting married, buying a house, getting ready for your first child, planning a two-week vacation in another country, finding a new job. In short, your horizon should be longer, and you have a perfectly reasonable project.
 

Oogiem

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I have doubts about how I can clarify the item "complete X e-course" if it would take me a long time to complete it (about 6 months). I think a project should last a maximum of 2 months but I don't know if I can consider it as a goal because I can't break it down into several projects. Any orientation would be appreciated.
It's a project. There is no magic in any specific timeframe for a project to be a project. I've had single projects that were planned, started and finished within a few days up to some that were planned 40 years ago, started 20 years ago and took 10 years to complete. Granted those are exceptional but they still are projects and not really divisible. Starting point for GTD is something that has multiple steps and can complete within 1 year is a project.
 

msnjuegos

Registered
Why do you think so? I really would like to know which methodology uses this timeframe for projects.
Well, maybe it was a very rough timeframe. I think I should to read the book again because I still don't understand the difference between a goal like "Reach an intermediate level of Excel to June 2020" and a project titled "Finish intermediate level course Excel".

Thanks all of you for your answers!
 

David Parker

GTD Connect
"Reach an intermediate level of Excel to June 2020" and a project titled "Finish intermediate level course Excel".
In my view, both the goal and the project you mention are actually goals as they both define the "finishing line" of activity rather than what the activities steps are. The test is that you can't "do" either of them - you have to "do something" to attain them.

The goal of "Finish intermediate level course Excel" will be reached when you complete a project such as "Take intermediate level course Excel", which may consists of a number of Actions, such as "Complete Lesson 1" etc. Or you could just have it as an action rather than break it down into steps.

If I can slightly rephrase "Reach an intermediate level of Excel to June 2020" to "Reach an intermediate level of Excel BY June 2020" then that's a better goal (because it's time-based) than "Finish intermediate level course Excel" which you now might want to replace by the project "Take intermediate level course Excel".
 

Gardener

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Well, maybe it was a very rough timeframe. I think I should to read the book again because I still don't understand the difference between a goal like "Reach an intermediate level of Excel to June 2020" and a project titled "Finish intermediate level course Excel".

Thanks all of you for your answers!
Well, I'd say that the first ("Reach an...") is likely to call for several projects, including the second. Taking a course rarely gives a person the associated skill--there's usually a fair bit of practice, too. So I'd say that a goal generally involves several projects.

Now, the second ("Finish course") might have associated little projects--"Convince boss to approve and pay for Excel course", "Arrange child care for course evenings", etc. But if the actual course part is several months from beginning to end, I don't see a need to try too hard to split it up. If for some reason your system really doesn't deal well with multi-month projects, you could just break it up arbitrarily, creating a project for February, one for March, etc. Or creating a project for Modules 1 through 9, Modules 10 through 20, and so on.
 

msnjuegos

Registered
Sorry for my late answer.


In my view, both the goal and the project you mention are actually goals as they both define the "finishing line" of activity rather than what the activities steps are. The test is that you can't "do" either of them - you have to "do something" to attain them.

If I can slightly rephrase "Reach an intermediate level of Excel to June 2020" to "Reach an intermediate level of Excel BY June 2020" then that's a better goal (because it's time-based) than "Finish intermediate level course Excel" which you now might want to replace by the project "Take intermediate level course Excel".
Well, I think the examples that I gave are goals too, but I have created projects to have more control over it with the weekly review, because I review my goals every 3months.
Thank you for your clarification. My English is not the best, but I think we mean the same thing when I have used "to" instead of "by", but I will keep it in mind in the future.

Well, I'd say that the first ("Reach an...") is likely to call for several projects, including the second. Taking a course rarely gives a person the associated skill--there's usually a fair bit of practice, too. So I'd say that a goal generally involves several projects.

Now, the second ("Finish course") might have associated little projects--"Convince boss to approve and pay for Excel course", "Arrange child care for course evenings", etc. But if the actual course part is several months from beginning to end, I don't see a need to try too hard to split it up. If for some reason your system really doesn't deal well with multi-month projects, you could just break it up arbitrarily, creating a project for February, one for March, etc. Or creating a project for Modules 1 through 9, Modules 10 through 20, and so on.
Thank you for your advice. I think you are right, a course is not enough to reach certain skill about a topic. Finally, I decided to create a goal with several projects, including taking a course of Excel intermediate level.
 

OF user

Registered
They're both outcomes so does it really matter. I usually bring my goals down to the project level anyway to achieve the outcome.
 

PeterByrom

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It’s all about the time frame.

If you can do it in less than a year, it’s a project (horizon 1).

If it will take anywhere between 1 & 2 years, it’s a goal (horizon 3).

Notice the horizons too:

h5 . purpose & values (on-going)
h4 . visions of the future (3-5, maybe even 10 years)
h3 . goals & objectives (1-2 years)
h2 . areas of focus & accountability (on-going)
h1 . projects (<1 year)
G . next actions (ASAP / specific dates)

This raises two distinct differences:

1. Because goals are above your areas of focus, they inform which areas of focus you ought to have, or at least which areas need most attention. Projects, on the other hand, sit below areas of focus, and often are driven by them. Goals will also drive which projects you ought to have.

2. Every project ought to have a next action (in order to get the project done), whereas every Vision ought to have a goal (to get you closer to achieving the vision).

In short, if this e-course can be completed within a year, then it’s a project, which might have sub-projects.

If this were a goal, you’d be raising questions about which areas of focus need attention, and what the projects ought to be, to help achieve the goal.
 

John Ismyname

Registered
I consider completing a course to be an "objective" based on my hierarchy that may not be the same as GTD.

MISSION part of my life mission is to keep learning - to grow intellectually, to learn from my life's experiences

GOAL - something lofty that may have a "done" criteria (e.g., MBA completed) or be ongoing (e.g., become a better financial trader)

OBJECTIVE - quantifiable - there is definitly a "done" criteria (e.g, complete Managerial Accounting course for my MBA or the Hurst Cycles course for financial trading.). However, it is not a project becuase you do not necessarioy know or need to know all of the tasks.

PROJECT - I agree with the GTD definition. The brilliance of the GTD methodology is to "flesh out" what ostensibly appears to be a task (e.g., "put new tires on car" into a "mini-project" with known tasks sequenced. An academic course may have projects within it (e.g., a term paper)

TASKS - a discrete element of work that has a "done" criteria that can be completed in a work day or less (e.g., study 25 pages in "Managerial Accounting For Dummies" or "complete module 3 in e-course")
 

mcogilvie

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2. Every project ought to have a next action (in order to get the project done), whereas every Vision ought to have a goal (to get you closer to achieving the vision).
I think this is a bit too restricitive. You could have a vision that has no current projects, or perhaps only has next actions. ( I personally think vision is a bit too grand a term. It is often used in insincere corporate-speak, too.)
 

PeterByrom

Registered
Agree on wanting to avoid the insincere corporate use of the term “vision”. I’m going purely by what GTD says about the horizons of focus. According to that model, and I think it’s common sense too, if you have a vision of what you want life to be like in 3-5 years time, then naturally one ought to ask what goals they should be striving to reach in the shorter time frame of 1-2 years in order to get there, which in turn naturally ought to trigger what standards and areas of accountability they need to be maintaining, and what immediate projects therefore ought to be completed in the even shorter time frame of less than a year.

given the nature of the original poster’s query, of whether an e-learning course counts as a project or goal, I would therefore ask whether this e-course sits beneath a 3-5 year vision and will be triggering all those questions below it.... or does it just need to get done in less than a year? :)
 

msnjuegos

Registered
Well, thank you all again. This e-course have a duration less than 1 year and, for that, I put it on my project list but tagged it for more in-depth review than other projects to check my progress.
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
According to that model, and I think it’s common sense too, if you have a vision of what you want life to be like in 3-5 years time, then naturally one ought to ask what goals they should be striving to reach in the shorter time frame of 1-2 years in order to get there, which in turn naturally ought to trigger what standards and areas of accountability they need to be maintaining, and what immediate projects therefore ought to be completed in the even shorter time frame of less than a year.
I didn't get that from the discussion of the Horizons model in the Getting Things Done book. What I got was that clarifying the upper level horizons (anything above projects level) gives you something to review periodically to make sure you have the right mix of actions and projects to get you where you want to go. But there's nothing I read to suggest that a vision must have a corresponding goal, AOF, project, etc.

Think of it this way: my 3-to-5 year vision could include being physically fit and healthy. If I regularly exercise at a healthy level, my doctor feels my diet is also healthy, and my other health indicators are good, that vision may be on "cruise control."

But it's still useful to have it as part of my vision, if for no other reason than to be able to periodically review it and say, "Yep, I'm on track."

I see the horizons as suggestions about what to review and when in order to help me keep a "mind like water," rather than as a rigid hierarchy. The rigid hierarchy would require care and feeding without a commensurate benefit in my opinion.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
I see the horizons as suggestions about what to review and when in order to help me keep a "mind like water," rather than as a rigid hierarchy. The rigid hierarchy would require care and feeding without a commensurate benefit in my opinion.
Yes, absoposilutely.
 

Hasan Bjaili

Registered
I think
It’s all about the time frame.

If you can do it in less than a year, it’s a project (horizon 1).

If it will take anywhere between 1 & 2 years, it’s a goal (horizon 3).

Notice the horizons too:

h5 . purpose & values (on-going)
h4 . visions of the future (3-5, maybe even 10 years)
h3 . goals & objectives (1-2 years)
h2 . areas of focus & accountability (on-going)
h1 . projects (<1 year)
G . next actions (ASAP / specific dates)

This raises two distinct differences:

1. Because goals are above your areas of focus, they inform which areas of focus you ought to have, or at least which areas need most attention. Projects, on the other hand, sit below areas of focus, and often are driven by them. Goals will also drive which projects you ought to have.

2. Every project ought to have a next action (in order to get the project done), whereas every Vision ought to have a goal (to get you closer to achieving the vision).

In short, if this e-course can be completed within a year, then it’s a project, which might have sub-projects.

If this were a goal, you’d be raising questions about which areas of focus need attention, and what the projects ought to be, to help achieve the goal.
I like this explanation.

What is a goal?
It is some outcome someone would like reach. Right? so is a project.

If I have a goal to visit Himalaya mountain in 2024, it would be project when I reach to 2024. Basically, I think of it like:

Goals
-- Project 1
-- Project 2

Also each project has some tasks

Goals
-- Project 1
----Task 1
----Task 2
----Task 3
----...
-- Project 2
----Task 1
----Task 2
----Task 3
----...

I think it is about size. Some goals require only one Project; some requires many project to get done. Project has not size or limit.
I, myself, get confused when I come to a goal that has only one project to get it done. We, human beings, think bigger is better. So we don't imagine that a goal could be as "Complete X Course"
I could be completely wrong.
 

ML1

Registered
This can be tricky. What I do in these situations is ask myself “how often do I need to review this outcome and its support material to feel comfortable about how Im going about it (get it off my mind)?” If it needs to be reviewed on / or around a weekky basis, then I organize it as a project; if longer, then any of the other horizons (of course there can be a mixture of them where they cannot be “perfectly” match the recommended time frames).
 
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