How big is a project?

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Paul Robinson

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Jun 29, 2005, 2:07:22 PM6/29/05
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As I work on implementing my own GTD system I wonder, How big is a project?

Merlin  writes that he has had good luck making his Next Actions items that take  or less.  But I see people struggling with massive projects which consist of many sub-projects all of which have next actions that could be done in parallel.

Like Plan Summer Vacation as a project and NAs are Book Flight, Buy New Clothes, etc where the NAs are independent and dont have to be done in sequence.   Should each of these NAs really be projects themselves?

And if so what is the original master item if not a Project?

http://www.ratsoringo.com

Erin M_H

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Jun 29, 2005, 3:41:32 PM6/29/05
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Doesn't David Allen define a Project as anything with two or more Next
Actions to complete?

I don't see a problem with breaking a project down into sub-projects.

On 6/29/05, Paul Robinson <prob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> And if so what is the original master item if not a Project?

It is a project. Or a master project, if you prefer.

-- Erin

Michael Langford

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Jun 29, 2005, 4:15:31 PM6/29/05
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It sounds like you think you can only have 1 next action per project.
You should have at least 1 and as many as possible next actions down
for every project you have. Just make sure they're actual next actions
(ie, don't put down "Buy Clothes" if first you have to "Check Weather
at Locale" and "Inventory Closet")

Projects are like folders on a computer. A folder can contain both
other folders and files as well. How much you'd like to
compartmentalize things is largely a matter of personal taste.

--Michael

PS: For planning out my more complex projects, I sometimes use
dependency graphs that look like:
http://www.graphviz.org/Gallery/directed/unix.png

The arrows from an action point at everything that must be done before
the task can be done. Cross off actions once they have been completed.
Your next actions are each action that points at all crossed off
actions or has no arrows coming out of it. I then transcribe these to
my hipster, and review the dependency diagram whenever I need to or at
my review.

Dot available at:
http://www.graphviz.org/

However I eshew the software do this on paper with a pen....which is
why I had to show you that picture rather than one of my graphs.



On 6/29/05, Paul Robinson <prob...@gmail.com> wrote:
--
Michael Langford --- 404-386-0495
It is very much better sometimes to have a panic feeling
beforehand, and then to be quite calm when things happen,
than to be extremely calm beforehand and to get into a panic
when things happen --Winston Churchill

Paul Robinson

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Jun 29, 2005, 6:48:03 PM6/29/05
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On 6/29/05, Michael Langford <michael....@gmail.com> wrote:
It sounds like you think you can only have 1 next action per project.

Actually strictly according to GTD this is true, the idea being that you are wasting your time if you're worrying about multiple next actions as you can only do one at a time anyways.


Sam

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Jun 30, 2005, 2:45:51 AM6/30/05
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"Actually strictly according to GTD this is true, the idea being that
you are wasting your time if you're worrying about multiple next
actions as you can only do one at a time anyways."

That's not right, Paul. There is no upper limit on NAs / Project, and
if there are multiple things which -could- be done immediately, they
can all go onto the NA list. Example:

For the project "tidy the house", your Next Actions list can contain
actions relating to all the different rooms, since they are all
immediately doable and independent of one another.

This is key to progressing with projects - you need to make sure that
every 'moving part' of the project is represented on an NA or Waiting
For list, or indeed as a subproject in its own right.

ProfDD

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Jun 30, 2005, 9:18:59 AM6/30/05
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This is a GTD heresy. If you repeat this, you will have to be burned
at the stake.

The David gives a basis for the heresy because he occasionally talks
about the importance of THE next action. But when he talks most
explicitly about the number of next actions for a project, he clearly
talks about the importance of having AT LEAST ONE action per project.

One advantage of having multiple next actions for a project is that you
don't need to have a project review after every action completion if
the project needs to move closer to completion before the next weekly
review. The "Pigpog" method of putting a complete linear sequence of
actions into a single NA is another way of moving a project along
without necessarily requiring a project review to identify next
actions.

Of course some projects need a review before the regular weekly review.
The more uncertainty and discovery in the steps and the faster the
project needs to be done, the more benefit from intraweekly poject
reviews.

drumdance

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Jun 30, 2005, 10:49:57 AM6/30/05
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> ...AT LEAST ONE action per project.

Exactly. Somewhere in the book he invites the reader to stop reading
for a minute and make a list of next actions (plural) for some project
that is on your mind, then asks whether doing so brought clarity and
focus to your thinking. The answer for me was yes, and ever since I've
tried to keep this concept top of mind. Whenever a project seems vague
or overwhelming, I step back and make a list of concrete next actions.

-Derek

Paul Robinson

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Jun 30, 2005, 8:11:09 PM6/30/05
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Interesting :)   How can a project have more than one "next" action (by definition the next one is the next one, no?)  I thought the idea was to not overwhelm yourself by listing everything that needed to be done per project.  If this is the case then why not just list all the things that need to be done to accomplish a project and have one list per project?

Can anyone find the reference to this multiple NAs per project in GTD?

Thanks so much - this is very helpful.
--
http://www.ratsoringo.com

eric Farris

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Jun 30, 2005, 8:22:19 PM6/30/05
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On 6/30/05, Paul Robinson <prob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Interesting :) How can a project have more than one "next" action (by
> definition the next one is the next one, no?) I thought the idea was to not
> overwhelm yourself by listing everything that needed to be done per project.
> If this is the case then why not just list all the things that need to be
> done to accomplish a project and have one list per project?

The idea isn't to list everything that *needs* to be done, but
everything that *can* be done. Most projects can have different
actions that are necessary for the objective that can happen in
parallel. There's not just one "Next" action, since the actions aren't
necessarily dependent on each other; they could both happen "next."

The case could be argued, I suppose, that, if you have a project like
that, perhaps it should really be split into separate projects.

> Can anyone find the reference to this multiple NAs per project in GTD?

Not in a cursury look through, no. I think what's in there, though, is
the phrase "at least one" Next Action. Hopefully someone can quote the
chapter and verse to us.

--
e

Sam

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Jul 1, 2005, 3:28:15 AM7/1/05
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I just happen to have that page bookmarked; it's in the Weekly Review
summary. Chapter 8, page 186 in my edition:

"Evaluate the status of projects, goals and outcomes one by one,
ensuring that least one current kick-start action for each is in your
system."

Ready for Anything contains a virtually identical sentence on page 164.

Listing multiple [potential] next actions per project can be
distracting, but I'm sure it's the right way forward - it translates to
better flexibility during those short windows of 'weird time' during
the week, because you don't have to go looking at your project plans in
order to nail some small but essential element of a big task.

drumdance

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Jul 1, 2005, 10:29:57 AM7/1/05
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> Interesting :) How can a project have more than one "next" action (by
> definition the next one is the next one, no?)

An example from my own life. I'm trying to launch a seminar in China.
As part of that I have several things I can do in parallel:

-outline the the agenda
-email several different people who might be able to help me
-make a list of potential locations
-etc.

In my org structure, these are all part of the same project, but these
next actions don't have to happen serially. Whenever I get an idea for
something I can or should do for this project (and distill it down to
something concrete), I put it on the list for this project.

I agree that "next action" can be a misnomer, and for this reason I
usually use the term "action" or "to-do," always taking care to keep
my actions/to-dos concrete and unambiguous.

-Derek

Michael Langford

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Jul 1, 2005, 10:48:33 AM7/1/05
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The idea is to have all of them, because while *Buy Paint* and *Sand
Walls* are both next actions at one point in the project *Paint
Kitchen*, there is definitly a different Time and Energy requirement
for these tasks.

--Michael

On 6/30/05, Paul Robinson <prob...@gmail.com> wrote:

Bryan Ewbank

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Jul 1, 2005, 11:33:27 AM7/1/05
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At the risk of sounding like a nerd (ahem), I think we are struggling
with, and perhaps in denial over, the fractal nature of projects. At
one level, "Paint the Kitchen" is a project. But, if you drill into
it, there are many subproject that can be done in parallel (pick
color, sand walls, raise funds, con kids into it, send spouse to
jamaica) and each of those projects itself has projects or actions.
When you get the the bottom of that pile, there's no question what THE
action is for each project. There's also no question that the
higher-level projects are blocked by the lower-level ones of which
they are composed.

Some folk are comfortable with a huge beastie; others need minutea.

There's also a point of diminished returns. No point in sanding the
walls, for example, if you just don't have the money in the budget.
Therefore, "sanding the walls" is not a /NEXT/ action, though it is
somewhere out there.

Projects are ugly, projects are complex, and projects are what we do.
We just do them one action at a time.

michell...@gmail.com

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Jul 3, 2005, 10:30:45 PM7/3/05
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I'm a newbie to GTD but am trying very hard to work on it. I find that
many of my projects have multiple (well, at least 2) next actions -
they're simply next actions that can be done concurrently (i.e., don't
depend on each other, but both need to be done). For example, a
project would be "cancel credit card". My actions would look like:

- move current automatic payments to other card @next
- check paperwork for cancellation proceedures @next
- wait for statement to make sure balance = 0 @wating
- call customer service

I find the concurrency works for me. I do try to keep it limited to 2
or 3 per project.

Javier Cabrera

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Jul 7, 2005, 2:10:17 AM7/7/05
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Why don't do all the tidy house in a single list? is at your house
anyway... like:

@Tidy the house
.......- Room1
..............Do this and that.
..............Oh yeah, that too.
..............Don't touch that or it will breake.
.......- Room2
..............Move that and that
..............Call him to ask where put that
..............Trow that away (who need that anyway?!)

and so on. I'm trying to manage all my projeccts on my HPDA, but when i
read this group i see too many different opinions that i'm getting lost
on the way.
I'm getting things right here or i'm complitly lost!?

Thanks
Javier Cabrera

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