What is too small for a project?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by RL2, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. RL2

    RL2 Registered

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    Hi All,
    I'm implementing GTD for the first time and find myself running into an issue with next actions: how granular should I get? For instance, I have a few books I want to donate. Before I take them somewhere, I need to lookup where I can take them. That looking up process constitutes a second action, so is "donate books" now technically a project with the actions: "find donation place" and "take books to donation place"? Or, if I need to buy a printer, is "search amazon for five minutes to see my options" a separate action from "buy printer" and therefore the whole thing is a project?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Additionally, I'm using Things 3 as my system of record. For anyone using a digital tool to track actions/projects, how do you treat actions stored under a project when they become a "next action"? Do you move the list item out from under that project and into a context list, or do you just create a new item in that context list and now have the same thing tracked both under the project and in your next actions list?
     
  2. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    What action is easier to take for you: "donate books" or "find donation place"? We need Next Actions to move things forward so we should choose a granularity that provokes us to do something.
    Leave actions in Projects. Add @contexts to Next Actions using tags. Display @context lists by searching for tags. Or ask @mcogilvie how he's doing it. ;)
     
  3. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    For very small, completely sequential projects, I use the following for next actions:

    Gather books > Donate books

    which would be changed to

    Decide where to donate > Donate books

    once the books are gathered. If you want to duplicate, change and then check off the original, you can do that too. Somewhere in the David Allen canon, he gives this sort of approach his imprimatur. If you want to enter future actions in the item’s checklist, you can. Things 3 allows you to turn an action with a checklist into a project with actions, so if you decide something is no longer a “mini-project” but a project, you’re good.

    I’m currently using Things 3 more or less as its designers intended, with areas, projects and actions. My areas are “bigger” than my GTD areas of focus, because that’s easier and more efficient. I use tags for contexts. I have also used the approach where “projects” are actually context lists. Both methods work, but there are trade offs. I have also explored a hybrid system something like you describe, with both project lists AND context lists. Every time I have looked at such an approach, I have quickly rejected it as having too much cognitive overhead. I find Things 3 to be very pleasant to use, but subtle choices have made a difference in usability for me.
     
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  4. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    For me both of those items would become projects. For me the first one would be donate books, with actions of decide on place to donate books, sort out donateable books, take books to donation place. And there might be multiple places and multiple take to donation place of different books are better suited to one place or another.

    I don't know how Things operates but in my system of Omnifocus when I enter in an action I usually assign it to the project and OF shows the projects with all their possible actions under them in perspectives I created for myself. The actions are Next action and have a context assigned. I have perspectives for active projects, on-hold (which will move into my Someday/Maybe system at the next review) pending (basically tickler projects that are waiting for a start date) and stalled (projects with no actions in them). Ic an look at those slices of my su=ystem individual depending on what I am doing and what I need to focus on.
     
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  5. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I agree with @Oogiem - those would be projects for me.
     
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  6. Jared Caron

    Jared Caron Registered

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    So you are correct that these seemingly "small" tasks would be classified as projects according to GTD, since there is more than one step to complete them. However, there is nuance to how you choose to track this in your GTD system.

    For small things, sometimes i don't capture the "project" right away, just the next action. So for book donations, I might capture "gather books" or "find books to donate" and maybe attach a list of the book titles under my @home list (this is all just example). That might be all i capture initially. Once i gather the books, I might realize there is a future action and capture it then, rather than right away. I often find smaller projects can be handled this way, especially if they are completed in <1 week or before my next review.

    Alternately, if its all on my mind when I initially capture the thought to donate the books, I might map out the handful of steps and capture "donate books" on my project list, with the initial next action in the appropriate context. then when i reach my weekly review, the "donate books" placeholder reminds me of the outcome I've committed to.

    The important point is, capture what's on your mind. you don't need to feel obligated to map out every step of the project when you first capture it. That's actually the beauty of the system. Capture whatever is on your mind, then learn how to organize it into the right lists. The rest takes care of itself.
     
  7. bproffitt1010

    bproffitt1010 Registered

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    Jared -- is there a contingency or dependency option in Things 3 ? I use Asana and have used My Life Organized. Both of these applications have a dependent option to a task. When you have a list of tasks that must be done in order, you can make certain tasks dependent on another to be done first. Then the tasks next in line jumps into my current tasks when the previous one is finished.
     
  8. John Forrister

    John Forrister Moderator Staff Member

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    Based on many years of working with people to reach a complete projects list, I can tell you that the majority tend to resist calling a project a project. If the one single, granular next action that you define won't accomplish the outcome, you've got a project. It's fine to have lots of two-action projects. That's much better than having a vague next action that you avoid because you sense that it's a half-day instead of a half-hour. Training yourself on very small projects will also train you on what qualifies, in your contexts, as a next action. And that "in your contexts" is critical, because you probably have contexts where something is only a few minutes to do, but I would have to learn for hours (or decades) to do anything. Practice and the Weekly Review are your teachers and friends.

    Lest you think I have this nailed after working this methodology for a bit, I don't. I'm still constantly refining how long a next action takes. I figure that's because I'm always exploring new areas of focus with new projects, as most of us are in this "just-in-time learning" era. Keep at it and please tell us about your progress.
     
  9. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    While Omnifocus has this functionality, Things does not. Having used Omnifocus extensively, I understand why people think they want it. However, it is a drag on the system and slows down the speed at which I can work. Unless you are very, very good at GTD, you will sometimes have a “future next action” that you will resist, because it is now irrelevant, out of sequence, too big, et cetera. On the other hand, with small, routine projects, at some point you are likely to just finish it if you just keep doing what’s next.
     
  10. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I can't live without the sequential and plan in advance nature of Omnifocus.

    I catch those few things at weekly review. The most recent one was maybe 2 months ago? Not sure. It was just after lambing was done and the real issue was I didn't properly process when I added the project. If I do a good job processing I don't run into that problem.
     
  11. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Actually, the sentence was "Unless you are very, very good at GTD, you will sometimes have a “future next action” that you will resist, because it is now irrelevant, out of sequence, too big, et cetera." You were the person I was thinking of when I wrote that sentence. I know you plan in amazing depth, but I think the vast majority of us are just not that good.
     
  12. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I'm flattered, but I think I'm a beginner at GTD. I do so many things that are odd/out of spec/different.
     
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  13. ERJ1

    ERJ1 Jedi Master

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    I really think as to whether clarifying an item into a project will reduce stress and be worth the time it takes to clarify. Sometimes I take things that don't seem like a big deal (or wouldn't to others) but are really stressing me out and I need to get really granular to get it done. Other times I have stuff that is many stepped and vague but I don't feel much stress or resistance about it, so I just dump it into my system.

    ...then two weeks later when I realize I have never done it I actually clarify it, LOL.
     
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  14. Jared Caron

    Jared Caron Registered

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    I know OF does as was said. I dabbled with Things long before I came across GTD so I am not so familiar with it's features. I personally find this type of feature minimally useful. It tends to be a lot of clicks or taps to set this up. Takes too much time to set up IMO.

    Also a lot of my projects are so dynamic that even if I took the time to plot out all the steps, sometimes by the time I get there, the context has changed and the necessary step may be completely different. I prefer to let the weekly review take care of this more organically.
     
  15. Jared Caron

    Jared Caron Registered

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    [QUOTE="Practice and the Weekly Review are your teachers and friends.[/QUOTE]

    Love, love, love this! It's very true. I've heard David say (in recordings) mutliple times how it takes usually at least 2 years to learn GTD, and it's a pathway of mastery afterwards. Which this statement captures nicely.
     
  16. Gardener

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    Well, in Omnifocus it doesn't take many clicks to set up--at least, not for the individual tasks. When you create a project, you set it as sequential or parallel--and there's a preference for setting a default. When you're viewing your lists, you can choose to view only Available actions. If a project is sequential, then only the topmost action will be regarded as Available--the others are all treated as dependent on the action before them in the list.

    However, I agree that setting up a long sequence of actions can be a waste of time. When I was still using OmniFocus, I tried to keep my projects to just one or two actions anyway.
     
  17. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Wouldn't it be useful if OmniFocus had the default last action in a chain of sequential actions: "Define the Next Action! The queue is empty!". @Oogiem
     
  18. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    It does have an easy way to get that. You can look for all stalled projects, those with no next action. I use that perspective a lot when I'm reviewing or defining work. For me I only get stalled projects when I didn't take the time to properly plan them in the beginning.

    I would not like a default of the chain adding a next action. I usually can define my projects well enough that the actions don't change much once planned if at all, sometimes for years and through many in and out of someday/maybe lists. Having to edit out the default of "define a next action" over hundreds of projects would drive me nuts. But my work lends itself to pretty much staying the same once a project is planned. It's very rare that I have actions that change as I work the project no matter how long it takes me to actually finish it.

    I frequently have projects set to automatically complete after the last action though. The planning is done and my sequence of actions doesn't change so once my last action is done the project is complete.
     
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