Projects with few/mundane actions?

RobertAndrews

Registered
Hi, I've just finished reading GTD after a long time of poking around.
Here's something that just occurred to me...

So, a Project is a container for multiple Actions, right?

The core message of the book is loud and clear - shape "stuff"/to-dos into actionable wins.

So, let's say I want to post a letter to my parents. I suppose, until GTD, the task would be "send letter to parents", but that's not quite it anymore - I can see how I could procrastinate over that because it's actually not quite the action. So, let's go...
  • The contents are already in the envelope, which is sealed.
  • The address is written on the front.
But there are two remaining steps I identify to more specifically shape actions out of "send letter to parents"...
  • Buy stamp for letter.
  • Post letter.
These are the real things I have remaining to do. They reach relate to "Send letter to parents".

But - and here's the question - do they really merit a Project?

I'm on board with the idea of some tasks in life clearly requiring multiple actions - containers, Projects.

But is it worth ascribing "Project" status to something so a) mundane and b) few in number? If not, how do you handle related next-actions?
 

ivanjay205

Registered
I like to think of it this way....

I agree that multiple actions is a project, that makes sense to me. However, some items are so basic and take so little time on the incremental steps it is not necessary to separate them all into a project. In other words the value of the time spent separating into a project does not out way the organization I get. And I almost always will complete them in direct order not jump to another action in another project.

For example, in your letter to parents example I know I need to get an envelope and put the letter in the envelope. It takes me longer to write out the steps than complete them and I am going to do them in direct connection with each other.

So in my GTD implementation (I use FacileThings) I can attach a checklist to the next action. I list them out in a checklist so I know them and have visibility to them, but I do not have to go through the work of setting up a project, and each next action, etc.

You need to find that balance that works for you. Some will disagree with me, but I do not think it is fully realistic to really put EVERYTHING into a project or I would spend all day managing projects vs getting them done.
 

RobertAndrews

Registered
So in my GTD implementation (I use FacileThings) I can attach a checklist to the next action. I list them out in a checklist so I know them and have visibility to them, but I do not have to go through the work of setting up a project, and each next action, etc.

Oh, I was forgetting I could do that in Notion, which I'm trying to use.

For my Actions and Projects systems, I am using Notion's "Database" block, which can be viewed as Table, Calendar, Board, etc.

That's as opposed to them being Checklists, because you can relate Database items to other Database items in a way you can't with a freeform Checklist.

But I can nevertheless insert a freeform Checklist *into* a Database Action item, like "Letter to parents". That could be a good idea.

Still, it does seem to go against something that's fresh in my mind from completing the book last night - "Letter to parents isn't the next action".

Thanks.
 

Gardener

Registered
I think that this partly depends on whether you're likely to be interrupted between stages, combined with whether you're going to automatically remember the next step (you don't write down "rinse toothpaste out of toothbrush", for example).

For example, if you usually sit down at a well-stocked desk and do all the steps at one time, and you can put outgoing mail in a mailbox right outside your front door, then "send letter to parents" is a single action, IMO.

However, if it takes you a while to write the letter because you write it in snatched moments between other things, and you tend to pick up the letter and realize you last wrote a sentence six weeks ago and you have to start over, then it's more likely to be a project. But if the well-stocked desk is still there, and you can still put outgoing mail in a mailbox right outside your front door, then I think it's "write letter" and "send letter".

If you have to get stamps and envelopes from your partner's well-stocked desk, because all your work and most of your correspondence happens at the computer and you otherwise never need one, and your partner tends to be in there eleven hours a day with the door closed because they're working on a major project, then "get stamp and envelope" could be an action.

If the mailbox is down the road at the post office, then that's a separate action, unless you're likely to leap up from your desk and take a walk as soon as the letter is in the envelope. Edited to add: Or unless you have a well-oiled mail-sending routine, and you know that when you put the letter on the key shelf, it will get sent soon.

And so on.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
A “project” in GTD is not a container. It’s a reminder.
This is the correct answer. Good GTD’ers don’t write project plans for sending letters to parents by paper mail. (This is not something most people do as much as they used to, yes.?) Some projects need a lot of planning, some not much. The minimum is a project entry and and a next action. Actually, David Allen says it’s fine to not have a project for something as small as the example. You write the letter, you wait for your spouse to get home so you can get a stamp, you put it in the mailbox. This is optional, though. Feel free to make it a project instead.
 

Gardener

Registered
Good GTD’ers don’t write project plans for sending letters to parents by mail.

Eh...if they really really want to send those letters, and it's not happening, and GTD would help it to happen...I certainly wouldn't say they're not a good GTDer if they create a project for it.
 

GTDengineer

Registered
It’s acceptable to add the outcome “letter to parents - sent” to your project list. You’ll read the list during your weekly review, and it will remind you to put one or more actions on your next actions list related to this outcome.
 

schmeggahead

Registered
I tried a shortcut for very small projects (2 tasks) by phrasing a next action, then: next action.
I found that I saw it in the review but it clogged the execute part because I was cutting the "next action, then" part and fixing the context for the second action.
It was actually easier to add those very small projects to their own list of outcomes - cleaner, easier to manage and runway level runs smooth.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Eh...if they really really want to send those letters, and it's not happening, and GTD would help it to happen...I certainly wouldn't say they're not a good GTDer if they create a project for it.
I think you misunderstood me. I said " Good GTD'ers don't write project plans for sending letters to parents by paper mail." Write plans, not create projects. I said "Feel free to make it a project [instead of a single action]." The issue is over-planning, particularly when the 2-minute rule is relevant.

I tried a shortcut for very small projects (2 tasks) by phrasing a next action, then: next action.
I found that I saw it in the review but it clogged the execute part because I was cutting the "next action, then" part and fixing the context for the second action.
It was actually easier to add those very small projects to their own list of outcomes - cleaner, easier to manage and runway level runs smooth.
Yeah, that happens. If I feel the slightest desire for a project, I make one. On the other hand, my weekly trigger to make a grocery list reliably induces scheduling a trip to the grocery store, so it's not a project.
 

Gardener

Registered
I think you misunderstood me.

I did--sorry about that.

I'm still inclined to quibble, "If it's helpful, do it!" but since I really cannot wrap my mind around needing a project plan for this...

Actually, suddenly I totally can, if the parents are thoroughly dysfunctional, and it's a letter communicating the terms of a time out or a cutoff, say. It could involve three therapy sessions and several reviews by spouse and therapist.

But then it's not "writing a letter". It's a different thing.

I will move on now. :)
 

TesTeq

Registered
@DavidAllen used to say that GTD is an advanced common sense. It implies that it is based on the foundation of our own common sense.
For simple sequence of actions you can avoid creating a Project if you're 100% sure that you will write down the Next Action when the execution of this sequence is interrupted. Having a Project creates a safety net since you can spot a missing Next Action during your Weekly Review.
 

Jared Caron

Healthcare Quality & Safety pro; GTD enthusiast
Quite the robust discussion here...

I think the point of it all is, as David says, "is it off you're mind?"

If you think of more than one action to reach the outcome of "send a letter to parents", and you can't do both at the same time, the project list provides you a place to park the outcome so it doesn't get lost. As mentioned above, the project list entry is the "reminder," not the container.

If you wanted to park the "put letter in the mail" as a future action in some form of project support, that becomes the "container" to hold that action until you're ready to move on it. Otten for stuff this simple, I dont find parking the future action useful, other than to get it off my mind (sometimes i still do it for that very reason, even though i never look at it again). How you accomplish organizing/storing your project support is up to you and the capabilities of your toolset.

Usually, completing/checking off one action will trigger me to capture the next. If not, then seeing it on my project list during the weekly review will (and this has happened often enough for me to keep putting seemingly small things on my project list). So as long as you've got one next action and the outcome on your project list, that can be totally sufficient.
 

Oogiem

Registered
But - and here's the question - do they really merit a Project?

I'm on board with the idea of some tasks in life clearly requiring multiple actions - containers, Projects.

But is it worth ascribing "Project" status to something so a) mundane and b) few in number? If not, how do you handle related next-actions?
In my case with my tool Omnifocus I have 2 what are called single action lists. They collect the smal misc actiosn that may or may not be part of projects but still need doing. In your specific example the actionw old be Go to post office to mail letter. That's the place tobuy stamps and also the only place to put the metter into the post in my area so a single action will do. Similarly I have single actions of

Watch the lamb butchery video from the Lamb Board (1.5 hours located in my downloads folder)
Check the water at the little house. (this might become a project if there isn't much but of so the next acition is easy, call for a water delivery)
Rip my new John Prine CD into music folder
 

cfoley

Registered
For me, projects are desired outcomes.
Handwritten letter sent to parents about the exciting news.

Next actions are bookmarks.
Brainstorm specifics to include in letter to parents.

After brainstorming, I might write the letter straight away. Most actions never make it onto a list.

However, If I get interrupted then I can add a new next action to bookmark my progress.

Projects are frequently interrupted by a context change. "Post letter to parents" can be batched with other errands.
 
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