Is a project/action link needed or not?

kewms

Registered
andersons;44480 said:
Third, "there is no software that even comes close to the power and efficiency of your brain" is a ridiculous statement. Well-designed software routinely does certain tasks many orders of magnitude faster and more efficiently than any human brain can -- which is why computers exist.
And humans routinely do many tasks that still baffle the fastest computers, which is why most of us still have jobs. Humans can read my handwriting, for instance. :) In general, humans are far better at pattern recognition, and particularly at finding connections and drawing inferences from seemingly disparate pieces of incomplete information. *Any* human vs. computer comparison is "ridiculous" unless you first specify the task.

I can't emphasize this point enough, because the human vs. computer comparison is at the heart of statements like this one:

For me, if software can link related pieces of information together, I am not going to spend any time linking them with my own brain during a Weekly Review. Why should I?
What is the link for? Heck, what is the Weekly Review for? Is it meaningless clerical busy work? If so, then sure, automate it out of existence if you can. Or is it "capturing, reevaluation, and reprocessing time to keep you in balance?" (GTD, ch. 8 ) If so, then even if you could automate it, should you?

Yes, failure to do the Weekly Review is a big problem for many people trying to use GTD. Failure to eat less is a big problem for many people trying to lose weight, too, but complaining about it isn't going to change the fundamental biology of weight loss.

If you can achieve "Mind Like Water (tm)" without the Weekly Review (or something like it), go for it! Tell us how! But make sure you re-read Chapter 8 in GTD first, because as I read it the whole "project-action-link" question is a pretty trivial part of the Review. It gets one sentence in a five page discussion.

Katherine
 

kewms

Registered
andersons;44482 said:
The real question is how well your brain would know your projects and actions if you had never, ever organized them with external links.

The act of organizing information by somehow visualizing relationships changes the way your brain represents and recalls the information -- even after you stop visualizing the relationships externally.
Right. But that's true regardless of whether the "external link" is a section of a hierarchical outline, or a sketch scribbled on a cocktail napkin. I'm not sure it's even possible to *have* a complex project without *ever* organizing it with some form of external link, and I don't think anyone here is claiming that you should try. The question at the heart of this thread is how closely that link needs to be intertwined with the day-to-day mechanics of your GTD system.

The main reason is that because projects and actions ARE REALLY linked -- the actions are steps to complete projects -- you will have to do the linking sometime, somehow. The GTD way is in one lengthy Weekly Review.

Another reason is that it is often desirable to catch projects with no NAs more often than once a week.

Another reason is that if you can instantly switch to a project-context view of an NA, you can sometimes more intelligently complete that NA. Or even see a better way to make progress on the project. Or get into a "flow" of progress on that project.
All of these are worthy goals. I just don't find any of them particularly difficult in my clumsy, paper, weakly-linked system. Easier, in fact, than in my former slick, sophisticated electronic wonder.

*shrug* I guess that's why GTD is tool-agnostic, huh?

Katherine
 

gtderik

Registered
simplicity

my $.02, keep it simple... if projects and next actions have clear distinctions, you should have no problems going down and defining next actions for 50 projects and know what all of them are for when you go through them on your next actions lists....
 

andersons

Registered
kewms;44486 said:
And humans routinely do many tasks that still baffle the fastest computers, which is why most of us still have jobs. Humans can read my handwriting, for instance. :) In general, humans are far better at pattern recognition, and particularly at finding connections and drawing inferences from seemingly disparate pieces of incomplete information. *Any* human vs. computer comparison is "ridiculous" unless you first specify the task.
After I became friends with a bunch of computer scientists, I learned that computers are not as baffled as I once thought. There are excellent pattern recognition systems and handwriting recognition systems. There are amazing systems that draw inferences from seemingly disparate pieces of incomplete information. They are extremely expensive, though, so they are not commonplace desktop applications. In any case, though, I have learned not to say "computers can't. . ."

The task in question here, though, is linking projects and actions. More than once on this forum it's been said that David said that no computer can do this as well as your brain can. That's just not true. This is a simple task of relating two pieces of information.

It may be true that with some software applications, in practice, linking those two pieces of information might take more time than it is worth. But that does not mean that no computer software can make the effort worthwhile.

kewms;44486 said:
What is the link for? Heck, what is the Weekly Review for? Is it meaningless clerical busy work? If so, then sure, automate it out of existence if you can. Or is it "capturing, reevaluation, and reprocessing time to keep you in balance?" (GTD, ch. 8 ) If so, then even if you could automate it, should you?

Yes, failure to do the Weekly Review is a big problem for many people trying to use GTD. Failure to eat less is a big problem for many people trying to lose weight, too, but complaining about it isn't going to change the fundamental biology of weight loss.

If you can achieve "Mind Like Water (tm)" without the Weekly Review (or something like it), go for it! Tell us how! But make sure you re-read Chapter 8 in GTD first, because as I read it the whole "project-action-link" question is a pretty trivial part of the Review. It gets one sentence in a five page discussion.
The Weekly Review as described in the book is getting caught up. "It's going through the five phases of workflow management--collecting, processing, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding involvements. . ."

Steps listed in the book include collecting and processing loose papers and notes.

Evaluating the status of projects one by one, ensuring that each has a NA, may be described in one sentence, but can nonetheless be time-consuming to do. In fact, any one sentence in that list of steps to do during Weekly Review could take a long time. "Process your notes" could take a long time for someone who spent the whole week in various meetings.

I have noticed that when the Weekly Review is discussed on this forum, it sounds like few do the review described in the book. Maybe the concept has officially evolved, I don't know. But the comprehensive review described in the book is a big task, and most users seem to streamline it as much as possible. I personally decided to do away with it altogether, and found I generally don't need it at all.

I just offer a different experience. Many on this thread have complained that it is time-consuming and cumbersome to create and maintain a project-action link. In my experience, it's just not that hard. And it can all but eliminate the need for review. I don't think that people who prefer to rely on automatic project-action links should feel like they are GTD losers or something. There are legitimate, reasonable alternatives to keeping the links in your head and reviewing them every week.
 

Brent

Registered
I'm curious. How long does it take people do a Weekly Review, assuming:

You're doing Weekly Reviews regularly
You don't keep explicit Project/NA links

I have 30-35 active Projects, and it takes me about 20 minutes. This includes cross-checking Projects with NAs (and orphaned NAs), reviewing Waiting Fors, and reviewing Someday/Maybes.
 

kewms

Registered
Brent;44496 said:
I'm curious. How long does it take people do a Weekly Review, assuming:

You're doing Weekly Reviews regularly
You don't keep explicit Project/NA links

I have 30-35 active Projects, and it takes me about 20 minutes. This includes cross-checking Projects with NAs (and orphaned NAs), reviewing Waiting Fors, and reviewing Someday/Maybes.
Half an hour, give or take. Maybe as long as an hour if I skipped the previous week, or if I have some high level thinking to do.

Katherine
 

Brent

Registered
kewms;44499 said:
Half an hour, give or take. Maybe as long as an hour if I skipped the previous week, or if I have some high level thinking to do.
Thanks! How many active Projects do you have?
 

kewms

Registered
andersons;44493 said:
The task in question here, though, is linking projects and actions. More than once on this forum it's been said that David said that no computer can do this as well as your brain can. That's just not true. This is a simple task of relating two pieces of information.
That's literally true, and obvious. Verifying that every item in column A has a counterpart in column B is trivial for a computer. Verifying that every Project has *the best possible* Next Action, and that the Projects are in fact the ones you need to be doing is not trivial at all. That was the point of my previous post: if you automate the Weekly Review out of existence, what have you lost?

The Weekly Review as described in the book is getting caught up. "It's going through the five phases of workflow management--collecting, processing, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding involvements. . ."
It's also "whatever you need to do to get your head empty again."
We can quote GTD at each other all day, but since DA is tool agnostic I'm not sure what purpose that would serve in this particular conversation.

Evaluating the status of projects one by one, ensuring that each has a NA, may be described in one sentence, but can nonetheless be time-consuming to do.
If it is, your system is broken. I think we can both agree on that. the debate is about whether a technological fix is needed.

I have noticed that when the Weekly Review is discussed on this forum, it sounds like few do the review described in the book. Maybe the concept has officially evolved, I don't know. But the comprehensive review described in the book is a big task, and most users seem to streamline it as much as possible. I personally decided to do away with it altogether, and found I generally don't need it at all.
As noted elsewhere in the thread, I think mine usually takes about half an hour, and I don't see any steps that I'm skipping. Staying on top of things day-to-day helps keep the Review from being overly onerous. If I skip it, things start to drift, but the reasons have nothing to do with project-action links, and everything to do with mentally taking a step back.

Katherine
 

tominperu

Registered
andersons;44480 said:
First, the Weekly Review as described in the book is a long process that many people find difficult to do. Compliance is a big problem with this stage of the GTD process.
I agree with Katherine that the issue of the project/action link has little relevance to the time taken for the weekly review. The project/action link has relevance to the time taken to check each project has a next action but this is a very small part of the weekly review for most people. In fact, this is the point that those that question the need for a project/action link are making. As a test I've just timed how long it takes me to check all projects have a next action and it took me exactly 1 minute. Okay, I have probably half the projects of most people and I did a weekly review 5 days ago (rather than 7) but I would say it takes a maximum of 3 minutes.

I take the point made my andersons that checking the project list for actions is easier with tools like Life Balance etc. With these tools I guess it takes a few seconds and then one might then do this more regularly which can be a good idea for some projects.

I'm hoping to test out Life Balance in the next few weeks to see if its advantages makes up for any added workload that might be involved in using an outliner rather than a simple action list and project list (a la Outlook). I will do this because I'm curious to the answer to this debate and also because I enjoy playing around with new tools.

I think the reason this discussion gets so heated is because people spend a lot of time getting the hang of new tools and then either feel annoyed by the idea that this is a waste of time, or annoyed because they themselves later decide that a very simple list system was the best implementation anyway.

I certainly agree with andersons that people who use tools that make the project/action link explicit should not feel like "GTD losers". That would be totally ridiculous and I assume DA would be against that.
 
E

Eleazar

Guest
What an interesting thread!

This has been a great discussion!

Everyone has had great points that have really helped me to better understand how to work with projcts in general.

I'm just getting started and this has been some of the best outside info I've gotten yet.

Thanks
 

jpm

Registered
andersons;44482 said:
Hmm. Well, maybe so, but then I guess GTD is not the only way to get things done, or even necessarily the Best Way.
Well I suppose that is a reasonable hypothesis, but it's not one I think most people on this board (all about implementing GTD) would agree with.

If you had been linking them previously, and reviewing them every other week, then of course you should be able to identify the correct project for each action, given a list of actions.

The real question is how well your brain would know your projects and actions if you had never, ever organized them with external links.

The act of organizing information by somehow visualizing relationships changes the way your brain represents and recalls the information -- even after you stop visualizing the relationships externally.
This is exactly David's point, I believe, that the act of doing the weekly review and getting it all out of your head and on to your lists is the process by which you achieve the sense of mind-like-water or creative flow or whatever. There is so much more that comes from the weekly review than embedding the project-next action link into your brain that it makes sense to focus on doing the weekly review and not spending time fiddling with software bits to embed an explicit project-next action link in your system.

Those additional benefits include:

1. Visualizing every one of your projects completed every week. This makes you much more likely to achieve those results.

2. Going down what David calls "Constructive Rabbit Trails", and by this I believe he means identifying critical next action steps that will allow you to achieve your results faster and with less effort. I find this happens much more frequently now that I'm doing my reviews at least weekly....

3. Identifying elements in the matrix (from next action to 50,000 feet) that should be either dropped or added in order to align your next actions with your total life goals.

Oh and you'll be able to instantly recall what project a next action goes with too... but that's just a side benefit.
For me, 3 seconds is a worst-case, not the typical case. And no, 3 seconds is not too much. It saves much more time during Weekly Review, when it probably takes more than 3 seconds to make sure your project has a NA.
And it's not really the 3 seconds per next action that is the real time killer, its the hours spent looking for a solution to this problem that would be better spent focused on doing the weekly review. How many hours did you spend twiddling with software before you found your current system? Does it give you all the same benefits as the weekly review? If it does, great, but I think David's point is that the systems he's seen are so over-engineered as to nullify the small benefit early on of linking next actions to projects.

Doing the weekly review is a fundamental of GTD. Work on the fundamentals first before trying to do the advanced stuff and you'll gain more benefit from it than you will if you try to bring in more complexity before you've mastered the fundamentals....

....

The main reason is that because projects and actions ARE REALLY linked -- the actions are steps to complete projects -- you will have to do the linking sometime, somehow. The GTD way is in one lengthy Weekly Review.
Actually 52 lengthly reviews a year... "You'll have to think about your stuff more than you thought you might, but not as much as you're afraid you'll have too."

More to the point, just because they are linked, why do I need an explicit link to crank the widget?

Another reason is that it is often desirable to catch projects with no NAs more often than once a week.
Why do I need a link to do this. Since I've completed my weekly review recently it is enteirely natural for me to instinctively think "what's the next action" when I complete the previous one. I simply enter it in my vanilla palm implementation without a project link and I'm good to go.

Another reason is that if you can instantly switch to a project-context view of an NA, you can sometimes more intelligently complete that NA. Or even see a better way to make progress on the project. Or get into a "flow" of progress on that project.
I've never understood this. When in the thick of quickly cranking widgets I am much less likely to "sometimes more intelligently complete that NA. Or even see a better way to make progress on the project." I'm too busy cranking widgets to do that. I'm much more likely to go down these constructive rabbit trails when I'm doing my weekly review.

As for being in a flow on progress on a project that may happen, but generally for me it only occurs in the @Office or @Home project or when I've blocked out an hour or two (Hard Landscape) to really focus on that project. In that instance, I'm really doing a mini-weekly-project-focused review; which reinforces the system and the fact that I don't really need an explicit link.

I think David's point is that doing the weekly review is fundamental. That it helps you in lots of ways that a project-next action link doesn't, and that in fact, such a link is a crutch that actually prevents you from making the kind of progress you'll need to make in order to master this stuff.

In fact I wonder if it would be a reasonable hypothesis to state that it may take less than 2 years for someone to "really get" this stuff if they didn't go down the destructive project-next action link path?
 

wowi

Registered
no "either or" of project link and weekly review

The discussion which goes along the line "you should have either a link between projects and NAs or you have to do your weekly review" does not reflect my experience: The weekly review has much more in it than just to check the next actions for a project (as stated in a number of posts) . And it can help in many respects: Among others, it may help to overcome the problem of finding the right place for a new next action in the system:

I'm using an outliner (MLO). I like to see the context of a NA and the context of subprojects (and you may tell me, that's not necessary - but it helps me to trust the system when I can see all these connections very easily). But I used to struggle with the additional overhead which is necessary to keep everything in place. This was particular difficult with Result Manager because the idea is to spread the projects over different files, it was easier with an hierarchical outliner but still more than the 3 seconds which were mentioned somewhere. But I discovered that one reason for that was my lack of continuity in the weekly review. For a few month now I managed to do the weekly review weekly - and now the handling of NAs and their incorporation into the system gets much easier. Just because I know its internal structure better and know where to go for incorporating new NAs - regardless from where they are triggered.

Thus, for me, both is important: Having the whole picture outside of my brain and connecting to it through the weekly review.

Wolfgang
 
L

LJM

Guest
The most important part of the weekly review for me is, as others have pointed out, the "higher level" thinking.

If there's an "active" project I haven't been making progress on, I ask myself whether I should be honest with myself and nix it, or move it to deferred, or whether I really need to stop procrastinating on it and make time by moving some other things to deferred until I've made progress. There's no way to automate that decision! I also review my areas of responsibility (do I have a "current" or "pending" project for each?) and my long-term goals (ditto).

ETA: if there's an NA I've been procrastinating, then at the weekly review I ask myself whether it's because 1. it's not really a NA, but actually a small project that needs to be broken down 2. Theres a more appropriate NA that should be there instead 3. I'm just not going to do it, and should cross it off 4. It's something I have to do despite not wanting to, and perhaps I should either do it now, or remove some distractions from my lists until it's done.

I don't have an explicit link between projects and actions in my (paper-based, despite being a technophile geek) system, but i don't find it takes long at all to make sure every active project has a next-action.

Additionally, during my daily review after glancing at all my NA's, I scan my current projects list. If there's something both important and time-sensitive, seeing it on the projects list will remind me to make sure that particular project has a next action. So one or two key projects get checked for NA's almost daily, and the rest get checked at least weekly.

(I do have an unconventional "pending" area conceptually between "active projects" and "someday maybe". This is because I've found that I will let my "active" projects list grow out of control if I'm scared a project will get lost in my cauldron of someday maybe ideas. The "pending" list, which I review weekly, has things which I need/want to start, resume, or consider starting sometime in the next couple of months. The "someday-maybe" area is for things further out than that, or things that are more tenative. I only review the someday-maybe cauldron monthly. The managably-sized "pending" area allows me to be ruthlessly honest each week about what will really be an "active project" in the next week or two, thus allowing me to keep my project and next action lists focused, rather than scattering my energy across things that are just cluttering up the list.)

Oh, and my entire weekly review is generally about a half-hour. Plus an additional half-hour once a month to sort through and organize the volumous someday-maybe file.
 

packmatthews

Registered
Could we try applying a little GTD Natural Planning to this thread?

Why are we having this meeting? Or, why are we perpetuating this thread? If I had spent as much time clarifying my projects and NA's as I've spent following this thread would I even care whether the link needs to be automated or not?

What is "done" gong to look like when we've found the perfect Project-NA linkage system? Would I be spending the extra time contributing to this thread? Are we talking about a three minute per week gain, or an hour per week gain in productivity or what? Are those in favor of automation of the link offering a replacement to the weekly review? It's already been demonstrated that the point of Weekly Review is to make the decisions that are a pre-requisite to cranking through the widgets of Next Actions. I confess, I'm not quite to that stage yet. I still look at a lot of my Next Actions and go numb. More defining needed I suppose.

Because I can't physically see any of the contributors to this thread actually getting more done with My Life Organized, or Outlook contacts as projects etc., compared to folks with simple paper based systems, I have no way to verify that it would be worth my while to follow their lead. It's just opinions at this point. David Allen seems to be the only one whose seen it all in all sorts of different contexts. Anyone have data?
Pack Matthews
 

mcogilvie

Registered
packmatthews;44579 said:
Why are we having this meeting? Or, why are we perpetuating this thread? If I had spent as much time clarifying my projects and NA's as I've spent following this thread would I even care whether the link needs to be automated or not?
...
Because I can't physically see any of the contributors to this thread actually getting more done with My Life Organized, or Outlook contacts as projects etc., compared to folks with simple paper based systems, I have no way to verify that it would be worth my while to follow their lead. It's just opinions at this point. David Allen seems to be the only one whose seen it all in all sorts of different contexts. Anyone have data?
Pack Matthews
Just a wee bit cranky the day after Christmas, are we? Did Santa not bring you the GTD gear you wanted? :)

After much research and hard-won experience, also known as flailing around, I have come to believe that these tool-related issues are mostly matters of style, personal psychology, and aesthetics. DA says our next actions and projects either attract or repel us. If that's true, then how much more so the tool we use to track those projects and next actions. I like to have a clear snapshot of a project available when I am working on it. Not much information, typically a page or less. Linking next actions to projects can be a way to get this overview- or not, depending on the software. With all the software I've tried, and I've tried plenty, there are subtle features that attract or repel. Your preferences are undoubtedly somewhat different, and that's fine.

Now one could take the attitude that some tool at hand, e.g. Outlook, is probably adequate, and with sufficient effort, one can acquire the habits to make it work well. In extreme cases, this leads to people programming themselves for the program's convenience, rather than the other way around. There's obviously a balancing act, and everyone's center of gravity is different.
 

1drummergirl

Registered
I've been following this thread with much interest over the past couple of weeks. It seems we are mainly discussing tools here, not methodology. Tools will not do GTD for us. It's the habits that we develop, not the tools we use.

However, tools can (as posted above) either attract us or repel us. A paper system would drive me crazy. I prefer a digital system and I also prefer to use an outliner. That works for me. I have been using an outliner to do GTD for three years now. My personal GTD system has evolved over the years and it still periodically goes through changes to adjust to my ever changing lifestyle. By "changes" I mean minor things like adding a new context or blocking out time in my hard landscape for tasks that are not yet "automatic" for me.

I have a friend who uses a different digital system without an outliner. It's his personal system and he has modified it to fit his needs. He has shown me his "system," but I don't really care what tool he uses for GTD as long as he is keeping any commitments he made that affect our relationship.

The bottom line is that the tools don't matter as long as the user is getting things done. Personalities and lifestyles are a huge factor in the types of tools we will use and the amount of time we are willing to spend with those tools. My personality type is INTJ which is a "systems builder" and I am driven to see the big picture and think about my current reality. An outliner allows me to build that picture and assist me with my analyzation. Other personality types may see this as a waste of time and that is why threads like this pop up. I actually enjoy discussions of this nature because I pick up odd little bits of info that I find useful or eye-opening. :cool:
 
P

plapointe

Guest
1drummergirl;44583 said:
I actually enjoy discussions of this nature because I pick up odd little bits of info that I find useful or eye-opening. :cool:
I completely agree! I have enjoyed following this thread and the details that others have shared. Thank you for all the tidbits I have learned!

Pamela
 

tominperu

Registered
My final conclusion on this question

I've been trying out Life Balance the last couple of weeks because I was interested in the claim that it makes linking projects and actions very easy.

I think I can confirm it makes linking easier and quicker than the Outlook add-in and Outlook Contacts as Projects. Using the a hierchichal system of Focus Area>Project>Action it is easy to find a project, which I think is the key. It is also really easy to see which projects have no next action. I can also see that Life Balance would really come into its own if you have lots of repeating projects, as the associated repeating actions also repeat themselves (in order).

However, although the linking is very quick, I will still go back to Outlook and a simple list system with no link. I just like to be able to input next actions as quickly as possible and even though the extra time is minimal, it's still more. And as I've said before, I have little problem checking all projects have next actions in the weekly review (or whenever). Also another problem I have with a hierchachal system is that you can't have two projects having the same next action, which does happen in the real world.

In conclusion my own answer to my original question of this thread is something like "the link is not really necessary for most people but if you feel you need or want the link, it's no big deal". Really, using an outliner like Life Balance we are talking about a very small amount of time and effort either way. I suppose I most agree with mcolvie that:

mcogilvie;44582 said:
these tool-related issues are mostly matters of style, personal psychology, and aesthetics.
In a sense I'm saying that the issue is not so important which is ironic as I was the one who started the thread. Although I initially felt this might be my final conclusion, that´s still slightly embarrassing!

But to try and redeem myself I'll say this: I posed the question because I think I should have read a thread like this when I started GTD about a year and a half ago. I myself was one of those people who immediately assumed I must have a link. I spent lots of time trying out different tools, learning how to use them and then perfecting their use. Also most of my initial postings concerned this issue. Now I've started using a simple system with no link and find it much easier, quicker and "automatic". And I hope I'm now addressing some of the more important issues of GTD, such as how to best define a next action and project, how to avoid procastination, how to use my calender better. Stuff that I should have spent more time on earlier on. And so, I suspect that their are more people like me who are perhaps using a link when it's not really necessary, because that's how they initially assumed it would have to be.

I would say to people starting GTD, make sure you don't get diverted from other more important issues by your need for a link.

I could recommend that people starting GTD should just use a very simple system and then try a project/action link and fancy tools after say six months. But, I think that's patronising and anyway, people's needs are different and tools like Life Balance have other things going for them.

I would say though - also try out a really neat tool that other people have used to powerful effect- it's using no link at all.
 

tominperu

Registered
my final answer to this question

I've been trying out Life Balance the last couple of weeks because I was interested in the claim that it makes linking projects and actions very easy.

I think I can confirm it makes linking easier and quicker than the Outlook add-in and Outlook Contacts as Projects. Using a hierarchical system of Focus Area>Project>Action, it is easy to find a project, which I think is the key. It is also really easy to see which projects have no next action. I can also see that Life Balance would really come into its own if you have lots of repeating projects, as the associated repeating actions also repeat themselves (in order).

However, although the linking is very quick, I will still go back to Outlook and a simple list system with no link. I just like to be able to input next actions as quickly as possible and even though the extra time is minimal, it's still more. And as I've said before, I have little problem checking all projects have next actions in the weekly review (or whenever). Also another problem I have with a hierarchical system is that you can't have two projects having the same next action, which does happen in my world.

In conclusion my own answer to my original question of this thread is something like "the link is not really necessary for most people but if you feel you need or want the link, it's no big deal". Really, using an outliner like Life Balance we are talking about a very small amount of time and effort either way. I suppose I most agree with mcogilvie that:

mcogilvie;44582 said:
these tool-related issues are mostly matters of style, personal psychology, and aesthetics.
In a sense I'm saying that the issue is not so important, which is ironic as I was the one who started the thread. Although I initially felt this might be my final conclusion, that’s still slightly embarrassing!

But to try and redeem myself I'll say this: I posed the question because I think I should have read a thread like this when I started GTD about a year and a half ago. I myself was one of those people who immediately assumed I must have a link. I spent lots of time trying out different tools, learning how to use them and then perfecting their use. Also most of my initial postings concerned this issue. Now I've started using a simple system with no link and find it much easier, quicker and "automatic". And I hope I'm now addressing some of the more important issues of GTD, such as how to best define a next action and project, how to avoid procrastination, how to use my calendar better. Stuff that I should have spent more time on earlier on. And so, I suspect that there are more people like me who are perhaps using a link when it's not really necessary, because that's how they initially assumed it would have to be.

And I would say to people starting GTD, make sure you don't get diverted from other more important issues by your need for a link.

I could recommend that people starting GTD should just use a very simple system and then try a project/action link and fancy tools after say six months. But, I think that's patronising and anyway, people's needs are different and tools like Life Balance have other things going for them.

I would say though - also try out a really neat tool that other people have used to powerful effect- it's using no link at all.
 
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