GTD – Back to Basics 4 – Projects


In this fourth post of the GTD Back To Basics series we look at what projects are in terms of the “Getting Things Done” methodology and how you manage your tasks for each project.

GTD – Back to Basics 4: Projects
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We’ve discussed capturing items, processing “stuff” and organising and actioning them, now we’ll discuss projects which are often overlooked in the world of GTD where it seems Next Actions rule the roost.

What is a project?

Put simply, a project is anything that has more than one action associated with it. Examples of projects could be:

  • Booking your car in for a service
  1. Call Bob to get the name of the garage he recommended to you ages ago.
  2. Find the phone number
  3. Call up and book the car in

Of course, the above would simply be a “Next Action” on your “@Phone” list if you already knew the number!

  • Write a presentation for the board

    1. Call Sue and ask what the topic is
    2. Ask Alan for the required budget figures
    3. Write up the presentation and associated notes
    4. Get a list of attendees from Mary
    5. Email attendees the notes
    6. Book the meeting room
    7. Present to the board

Depending on the nature of the project, the number of subsequent steps will vary (which goes without saying really!), however as you can see from the examples above, each step is its own “Next Action” and will belong to its own context.

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How do you organise your projects?

During the capture phase, you will have made a list of all of the projects that surrounded you and cluttered your brain.

The best thing to do is to get a sheet of paper for each project and then brainstorm all of the associated Next Actions. These don’t necessarily have to be in the correct order as you can figure that out once you’ve captured all of the steps.

Once you have all of the Next Actions down on paper, you can then organise them and move the first one onto the correct context list.

Keeping track of Project Action

This is the tricky part and for me it’s not covered too well in Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book. In fact I personally find the whole concept of “projects” is glossed over rather quickly.

The main problem is that you’re going to have the same Next Actions in two places, once on your Project list and once on your Context list. It’s important to remember that once an project action is completed to cross it off both lists and then move the next Next Action from your project list to the appropriate context list.

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You might think that hobbies are just for relaxing and taking your mind off of things. And while doing something you enjoy can have a stress-busting benefit, your hobbies can also have surprising benefits and implications for your productivity too as Mark Thompson discovers in this fascinating article.

I’ve spoken before about how I organise my projects but it really depends on your methodology (paper-based/online) as to how you manage your Projects and Actions.

But, there is help at hand to stop you getting disorganised with you Project Actions. Following the basic concept of GTD, the Weekly Review should solve all these problems for you, and we’ll discuss it in our next GTD: Back to Basics post.



About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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