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

Murray

Registered
For most of my GTD history I have not systematically linked actions to projects. However last year (after reading the setup guide) I started experimenting with using hashtags in mstodo for this purpose and I have found that for me, once I was doing it consistently it felt easy and natural, and it supports my process by helping me clarify what the project is.

Here are two screen shots from my phone - the first showing a section of my project list, each with a tag. The second showing what I see if I click on the tag for the #BikeRack project. Likewise if I were looking at the action list (in this case Waiting For list) I could click on the tag to be taken to the project.

Feels quick and easy and worth it for me, but I wouldn't try to force it on anyone else. I like how it means I have to boil the project outcome down to a word or two for the tag (even though the full project title is longer)

(By the way, the dates are not due dates - they are the last date on which I added a new next action. I add these manually and again, wouldn't recommend that additional processing step for everyone.)
 

Attachments

  • Screenshot_20210908-043738_To Do.jpg
    Screenshot_20210908-043738_To Do.jpg
    232.7 KB · Views: 20
  • Screenshot_20210908-044401_To Do.jpg
    Screenshot_20210908-044401_To Do.jpg
    70.3 KB · Views: 19
Last edited:

mcogilvie

Registered
Hmm. I checked my phone to see what I think, and was reminded that I'm using OF 2. :) I don't know if that version did it better, or if I'm just extra tolerant of the way it's done.
My vague recollection is that OF2 did seem better on the iPad than OF3, which has a very busy interface. That could just be the absinthe speaking, as I sit at my table in the Paris bar, thinking of the old days.
 

AlexWinn

Registered
If you're just talking about cutting out the extra clicks required to create the links between actions and projects in your system, then that's totally understandable. However it sounds like you may also be talking about cutting out the need to *decide* whether an action is part of a project, and which one. Which to my mind would be a core component of the GTD process.
Murray, thank you for your perspective. To my awareness, deciding which project an action belongs to is not a part of the classic GTD clarifying process. Deciding whether something in the inbox warrants creation of a NEW project certainly is a core component. I can't find any justification in the official GTD literature that supports the notion of deciding which project an action belongs to as being a core component. If it is, then I have certainly missed something, and would like to update my knowledge. So would you mind sharing what prompted you to mention classifying actions by projects as being a core component?
 

AlexWinn

Registered
@AlexWinn As the GTD Police Officer on duty I have to ask:
  • What is the successful outcome of your "BIG ROCKS" Project?
  • How will you know that your "BICK ROCKS" Project is done?
The "BIG ROCKS" Project is a list of discrete next actions. The successful outcome of the project is the successful completion of all the actions on the list. Once I have completed or renegotiated (which is rare but has definitely happened) all of the actions on the list, the project is done. A new instance of the project is spawned once a week. Then I will decide what is most important to complete the following week and populate the new BIG ROCKS project. I'm sure it's not cannon but it keeps me more appropriately engaged with my world according to my priorities than when I don't use it.
 

rupertonline

Registered
Two things:

1. An issue with linking next actions is that sometimes they might be in your calendar, or they might be in a tickler, so you can't link everything and will have gaps.
2. @mdtannet have you tried it out without linking in practice? I rarely have to hunt through my next actions, because when I see a project I generally remember if I've done the next action or not. Plus in my weekly review, I've usually just scanned my NA list.
 

Gardener

Registered
Two things:

1. An issue with linking next actions is that sometimes they might be in your calendar, or they might be in a tickler, so you can't link everything and will have gaps
In my case, I don't put actions in my calendar--if an action has an associated meeting, I'll just enter the meeting separately. My ticklers live with the rest of my actions, as actions with a defer date.
 

Murray

Registered
An issue with linking next actions is that sometimes they might be in your calendar, or they might be in a tickler, so you can't link everything and will have gaps.
True, I can't link everything in the sense of a clickable link, but I like to think I can include all the breadcrumbs I need to find my way there. For example I have a quick and simple way of formatting my project titles slightly differently that shows me at a glance if the next action is in my google calendar (which also happens to be where my tickler system lives.) And I often put a very short line in the notes field to remind me if the details are important.

Then, cut to google calendar and if an item in the calendar or tickler is part of a project, I use the same hashtag as in mstodo. Obviously I can't use it to click through to my lists, but it's still a consise reminder and it reinforces the outcome and the system as a whole.

It works well for me, at this stage at least :D
 

Gardener

Registered
And what do you do if the meeting is the next action?
The meeting would be in my calendar, but the primary representation of it as an action would be in my normal lists
in OmniFocus. So the sequence of events might be:

Project: Blah
Action: Contact Janet for a meeting.

Then I arrange the meeting and put it on the calendar ("Janet re Blah"). Let's say it's on October 10. Then I check off the above action, and then in my normal lists (just to add a tickler and maximum complexity to the scenario):

Project: Blah
Action: Prep pre-meeting notes for Janet. (Deferred until October 3.)
Action: Send pre-meeting notes to Janet (Deferred until October 7.)
Action: WAITING FOR: Meeting with Janet. (I would include this even if the whole project isn't stalled waiting for the meeting, because I want the meeting to be represented in my lists.)

Then I do the notes things when they pop up, meet with Janet, check off the Waiting For, and add whatever the next next action is.

Project: Blah
Next Action: Incorporate info from Janet meeting into project plan.

More normally, it would likely just be:

Project: Blah
Action: Contact Janet for a meeting.
(Add the meeting to the calendar.)
Action: WAITING FOR: Meeting with Janet.
 

Murray

Registered
More normally, it would just be:

Project: Blah
Action: Contact Janet for a meeting.
(Add the meeting to the calendar.)
Action: WAITING FOR: Meeting with Janet.
Sounds like a good system, even though different to how I handle calendared actions. I appreciate the logical consistency of including everything as a separate item on your lists. Sounds trust-engendering.

However your project title needs some work!
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
It's not to get me to the meeting. It's to show me what's up with the project, when I'm reviewing the project.
Okay, I can see that. Is this a real waiting for though?

If you have the appointment, you are not waiting to receive the meeting, the project is. It would be more logical to have the NA denoted as "@calendar: meeting with Janet on Oct 10".

That way you wouldn't pollute your @waitingfor list with items that a) are not about things you are not waiting for and b) can't prompt action during review the same way a classic waitingfor item would/could do.
 

DKPhoto

Registered
I’m a photographer so all my photoshoots are projects and the actions to completion are almost always the same (I use templates so I don’t forget to do anything) so I always add tasks to projects and give the next action a context tag. I always have multiple photo projects on the go at varying stages of completion and the next action acts as a bookmark for where the project is at.

Seeing a task “Add photo captions” would be meaningless to me without it relating to a project.

At the end of the day i check my done list which shows me which next actions I have completed in which projects. I then jump to that project (there’s a shortcut in 2do which i use) and then add a context to the next action.
I have created smart lists that show me all next actions as well as lists of next actions by area of focus which i use during the day to work from.
During the weekly review i go through each project and make sure they all have a next action, waiting for, or scheduled task (be that a tickler or calendar item).
Seeing a task “Add photo captions” would be meaningless to me without it relating to a project.
Sometimes i see a next action and decide to take that project to completion or ready for archiving so just jump straight to the project and work my way down the action list.
 

Murray

Registered
Murray, thank you for your perspective. To my awareness, deciding which project an action belongs to is not a part of the classic GTD clarifying process. Deciding whether something in the inbox warrants creation of a NEW project certainly is a core component. I can't find any justification in the official GTD literature that supports the notion of deciding which project an action belongs to as being a core component. If it is, then I have certainly missed something, and would like to update my knowledge. So would you mind sharing what prompted you to mention classifying actions by projects as being a core component?
Hi Alex, nice to get your reply. Perhaps it would explain my point better if I start by emphasising that I'm *not* saying that all actions need to be part of a project.

Now, let's say I'm processing my inbox, or just responding on the fly to any of life's random ideas and inputs (sometimes I clarify and organise a new input straight onto a list.)

If I go through the 'clarify' process as described in the GTD book (p 35-9 in my 2015 edition), I will ask the question "what is it?", followed by "is it actionable?" Let's say I decide it is actionable. Now at this point in the process I actually am prompted to decide what the outcome is that I am committed to. This outcome may be achievable in one step, in which case it goes on my lists as a standalone action. Or the outcome may require more than one step, in which case there is a project going on, whether it is a new project or an existing one. Let's say I identify that the desired outcome is a project I have already identified and is on my projects list. Great! I add the new action either to my lists if it's a "next action", or into the project notes if it's a potential future action. I can choose to link the next action to my project or not, according to preference.

So to summarise, no GTD does not recommend actions to necessarily be visibly linked to projects, or even for every action to be conceptually part of a project. But it does spell out a process where each actionable item has a clearly defined outcome decided before it is put on an action list, whether that outcome is a new project, an existing project or a just the single action.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if I have still misunderstood what you are saying. Thanks!
 

Murray

Registered
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that. Could you please clarify?
I have heard some of the GTD trainers who record webinars etc talk about how there are best practices but "there are no GTD police who are going to come to your house if you do things differently."

There has accordingly been some joking around on the forums about being the GTD police when correcting or informing each other. Mcogilvie's comment seems to be a two levels deep play on this trope, responding to another user's "GTD police" joke.

What I take from it is that "we care about getting the process right, but also life is too short to be taken seriously"

I'd we wanted to really ratchet up the silliness I could imagine using the Agents from The Matrix as the image of the GTD police. eg see attached.

(By the way I'm not assuming your gender in the attached meme, I'm just sticking to the original movie wording in the absence of any contrary information)
 

Attachments

  • 5mezqn.jpg
    5mezqn.jpg
    86.4 KB · Views: 7
Last edited:
Top