Published on September 26th, 2009 | by Kyith8
GTD Series Part 4:How to plan for big projects and its sub-projects
This is part of a series where i talk about my GTD experience and my setup.
In today’s article i will share with you how I normally go about planning for tasks, projects and sub-projects.
Where are we now?
Ok, so in Part 1 I have presented this workflow chart which is how i would illustrate my collection, planning, processing and execution model.
Today, I will talk a fair bit on project planning. I skipped the collection portion cause I think this is a more complex portion of GTD thus i would explain more on this first.
What Constitutes as Projects?
When you collected an idea, piece of information or a probem, you decide if it is actionable. If it is, the key to decide if it is a project or a simple actionable task is how much steps you need to execute to reach your successful outcome.
Remember, thinking about your successful outcome is important, just like defining clear and manageable goals, it keeps you on the right direction on what you are suppose to do.
Personally, that was what is described about projects, but to me there is no hard and fast rule. Why this is important is because you need to break a task down to actionable steps.
If it is too complicated, you do not know how to start the blardy task and you end up procrastinating on it.
So for task that is named:
“Get Son a new bicycle”
It can be a very simple actionable step, like go downstairs go to the nearest bike shop and buy the bike. That is, if you already know what you are looking for. But most of the times it is not so simple.
That simple task normally consist of:
- Ask Son what kind of bicycle he likes
- Find out how much your family have to pay for the bike (budgeting)
- Research on where to buy the cheapest bike on the internet
- Give son a look at the bike see if he likes it
- Find out what to look out for if it is the first time you are buying a bike
- Go down and buy the bike
- Wait for the bike to be delivered to you
So, you see, our task may not be that simple at all.
Another small problem that maybe isn’t that small
In life, most of the time don’t end up the way you wanted it to turn out. Take the example that in your work as an IT engineer, you are suppose to solve a problem on your IT system you are supporting.
So again, the simple task will go something like this in your normal to do list:
“Solve why the entries do not show up on the procurement page.”
It is a simple task, if you investigated and found that a bug in your source code will delete off these entries when the user view it. So Simple
Or it could be you investigated and turn out that the entries don’t come just from your system but goes to another system and then back to your system.
Then it becomes a bigger problem that could go something like
- Find out from database whether the entries are there
- If database entries are there, investigate at source codes to find out if there is a problem with the codes
- If your codes do not have a problem, find out if the other system did give us the right entries to combine to ours
- If they didn’t inform the engineers from the other system to investigate and get back to you
- Engineer gets back to you say that the problem is related to them but they do not have the expertise to fix it nor the budget
- Inform your boss about this and discuss with him
- Set up a meeting between the manager of both projects
- more shit stuff
- more shit stuff
Yes, sometimes our lives can get quite bad in IT line. but it is a good illustration and our friends in other industry can attest that one small problem can remain small but most times they just get bigger and bigger and take longer and longer.
The above 2 serves as examples of why certain task, you have to break them down into projects with actionable steps. Had they remain as the original task entry, you will not see what needs to be done. I can list down the steps to this xamples well because i have experience with them, but sadly not everything is like that. Making them actionable and asking “What is the next action?” would enable you to kick start the engine to perform the work.
How do I plan my Big Projects with Appigo ToDo?
Appigo ToDo breaks projects and sub projects into Lists and Projects, so you get 2 levels of it.
What i do normally to set up my list is they will be my main Area’s of Responsibility for that year.
Normal advice would be to make your Big Projects name close to the outcome you are trying to achieve. But on a mobile device, I don’t wanna clutter the screen so:
- [To brush up and be good at Trading] would be translated to [Money & Trading]
- [To be good at what i do at work] would be translated to [My Day Job]
- [To fulfill my commitment and obligation to family] would be translated to [Personal]
When these area of responsibilities are broken this way, it makes it easier for you to conduct a weekly or daily review on each of your area’s of responsibility.
Small project can become Big project
A note to folks is that alot of times things from your day job would be translated to big areas that you need to focus in. Such as new responsibility, new big tasks. Some of these you may want to create a big project list instead of leaving it as a project.
In my line of work i need to deal with things from Project A, Project B and Project C so normally, those would go into [My Day Job]. One in particular, project A, is something that was task to me to organize and manage compare to Project B and C where i just need to manage for ad-hoc task.
When i need to focus on this since its a big deliverable and can spawn many subprojects, i moved project A into a Big Project List
Planning the sub projects or small projects
Once you defined the big projects, it becomes easy. What you need to determine is whether it is actionable and then whether it belongs to a existing sub-project.
If it does, add it to the existing sub project.
If it is identified by you as a multi-step task, then open a new project for it. Once you do that, you either have the option to come up with some initial actionable tasks to get you started, or you can leave until your Project Reviewing phase to do so.
Here are some shots on the example 2,“Solve why the entries do not show up on the procurement page.” as a sub project in Appigo ToDo
What is left next is to perform the tasks in the projects as and when you can. Which will leave us in the next Part where i will explain working with Contexts, Tags and Executing Tasks in Detail.