How to (quickly and efficiently) see if a project has a next action?

mdtannet

Registered
I have read all kinds of threads here and elsewhere about whether or not it makes sense to "link" next actions in your GTD tool. Apparently I am not the first to have consternation over this.

The consensus seems to be that you should not "link" next actions to a project directly. Instead, GTD would seem to say you just need to have a complete Projects list and a Next Actions list. If written clearly, it should be obvious what project you are moving along while completing a Next Action.

That all makes sense to me. Where I get confused is when my brain is trying to make the link in the other direction. In other words, if these are truly separate lists, how can I quickly and efficiently make sure that each of my projects has a next action during my Weekly Review?

I have 50-75 projects. Am I really supposed to read each one, then click over to my Next Actions list, scan it to make sure I see a Next Action, add one if I don't see one, then click back over to Projects and repeat?

I'm hung up on this and appreciate any suggestions on what I might be missing.

*I use Todoist btw.
 

cfoley

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I usually put my project list and action list side by side.

I also use todoist and am aware that it only shows one list at a time. The way around it is to open two browser windows and arranging them side by side.
 

bupkes

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I use a Python script that checks each project in Todoist and if it doesn't have at least one @next_action or @waiting_for tag then I get prompted to create one (or re-evaluate the project!)
 

Gardener

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Do you have the impression that the objection to linking actions to projects is because it's inherently bad, or because it's an amount of work that might not pay off?

If it's the work thing, maybe the solution is a tool that gives you different views of your actions, allowing you to easily link them to a project but also easily view them without viewing the project link? OmniFocus is the only one I know for sure does that--are there others on the Windows side?

(Side note in the unlikely event that someone remembers,"Uh, didn't you stop using OmniFocus?" I spent a long time trying to stop using OmniFocus, because OmniFocus always ended up having too-long lists and all my complex strategies to reduce those lists failed. I'm back to it now, with a single much simpler strategy. Seems to be working.)

At work, where I can't use OmniFocus, I have tried prefixing my actions with a short string that represents the project. But that just tells me what project the action belongs to, not whether the project has an action. To see whether the project has an action, I have to search on the string. Plus, I don't reliably add the strings. So I don't have a good solution there. For me, the work GTD problem was solved coincidentally by the fact that I've changed assignments to one where I have fewer and larger projects.
 

mdtannet

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I use a Python script that checks each project in Todoist and if it doesn't have at least one @next_action or @waiting_for tag then I get prompted to create one (or re-evaluate the project!)
I am not smart enough to do this, but that sounds truly awesome.
 

mdtannet

Registered
Do you have the impression that the objection to linking actions to projects is because it's inherently bad, or because it's an amount of work that might not pay off?

If it's the work thing, maybe the solution is a tool that gives you different views of your actions, allowing you to easily link them to a project but also easily view them without viewing the project link? OmniFocus is the only one I know for sure does that--are there others on the Windows side?

(Side note in the unlikely event that someone remembers,"Uh, didn't you stop using OmniFocus?" I spent a long time trying to stop using OmniFocus, because OmniFocus always ended up having too-long lists and all my complex strategies to reduce those lists failed. I'm back to it now, with a single much simpler strategy. Seems to be working.)

At work, where I can't use OmniFocus, I have tried prefixing my actions with a short string that represents the project. But that just tells me what project the action belongs to, not whether the project has an action. To see whether the project has an action, I have to search on the string. Plus, I don't reliably add the strings. So I don't have a good solution there. For me, the work GTD problem was solved coincidentally by the fact that I've changed assignments to one where I have fewer and larger projects.
I don't have an objection to linking next actions to projects personally, it just seems that what I've read it's not "true GTD" (an example here).

My current Todoist setup is to use Sections as my "Areas of Focus" (I have one for each client, business admin, etc,) and then underneath those sections are all the tasks associated. If a task is truly a "Project" in the GTD sense. Any Next Action tasks gets a label.

It's not perfect, but it seems to be working okay for now.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Do you have the impression that the objection to linking actions to projects is because it's inherently bad, or because it's an amount of work that might not pay off?

If it's the work thing, maybe the solution is a tool that gives you different views of your actions, allowing you to easily link them to a project but also easily view them without viewing the project link? OmniFocus is the only one I know for sure does that--are there others on the Windows side?

(Side note in the unlikely event that someone remembers,"Uh, didn't you stop using OmniFocus?" I spent a long time trying to stop using OmniFocus, because OmniFocus always ended up having too-long lists and all my complex strategies to reduce those lists failed. I'm back to it now, with a single much simpler strategy. Seems to be working.)

At work, where I can't use OmniFocus, I have tried prefixing my actions with a short string that represents the project. But that just tells me what project the action belongs to, not whether the project has an action. To see whether the project has an action, I have to search on the string. Plus, I don't reliably add the strings. So I don't have a good solution there. For me, the work GTD problem was solved coincidentally by the fact that I've changed assignments to one where I have fewer and larger projects.
I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that linking projects to next actions is inherently bad, just that the overhead can be high, and people tend to get hung up with elaborate project plans. Todoist, TickTick and Nirvana have multi-platform support for both context and project views. Things has great support for projects, but relies on tags for contexts, which is only partially successful.
 

Gardener

Registered
I don't have an objection to linking next actions to projects personally, it just seems that what I've read it's not "true GTD" (an example here).
Ah, I see. That hasn't been my impression--my impression is that the debate is over whether it's worth the trouble, rather than any idea that it's actually wrong.
 
I'm studying to be a GTD trainer, and part of that is looking at the Set-Up guide for Outlook, as a lot of corporates will use that. I raised precisely this question! I guess the issue very much depends on how many projects and actions you have. Personally I have almost 100 projects across a portfolio of businesses, so it's a significant point. I use a project and task management tool called Wrike, and it appears that I have been spoilt! I can tag my actions with multiple project or context tags. So when I go through my weekly review, it's easy. I just go down my Project List and can easily see if any of the actions that are associated with that project have one of my Next Action tags (eg. @office, @computer etc) associated with them. Equally on every action, I can see if there's an associated project.
 

Oogiem

Registered
The consensus seems to be that you should not "link" next actions to a project directly. Instead, GTD would seem to say you just need to have a complete Projects list and a Next Actions list.
I don't think there is any real consensus. I cannot fucntion without that link so for me for sure it's critical. I use software that support it easily.
my impression is that the debate is over whether it's worth the trouble,
Exactly. For me if I had to do it manually it would be difficult. But I find it extremely useful, so I selected a task manager that supports how I think and want to interact with my lists. One that fully supports easy viewing of things by project or by context. I use Omnifocus BTW. Yes I know it's Mac only but I am actually forbidden from using MS tools by some customres and have been on Mac and Linux for decades so no hardship there.
 

Ariadne Marques

Registered
Similar to @Oogiem I like having next actions linked to projects. It's an organizational thing for me (OCD maybe?) and the best digital solution I've found to do that seamlessly is Nirvana. You can an unified list of all next actions across all projects, or a list of next actions by projects or even sequential next actions (if set up a project as "sequential" and not "parallel"). I think it's the best implementation I've seen for that.
Note: I've never tried Omnifocus because I'm a Windows user, so I can't compare.
 
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