How Big is A Project

central park gtdNotes from a Messy Desk has an excellent stream-of-consciousness post outlining his Problems with Getting Things Done:

“A project is not a project in the traditional sense. It’s simply a list of actions (in order) required to complete a multi-step goal. So the project in the example above is not ‘Wedding’. That particular, defined, project is ‘create and send out invitations’. OK, so I could be doing any of the first three steps in any order, but I need to do all three of them, and I can only do one at a time. So it makes sense for just one of them to be listed as a ‘next action’. And I should only look at my next actions for what needs to be done next.”

This is a classic problem for anyone starting out on GTD and frankly it isn’t addressed with particular clarity in Dave Allen’s book. Generally people seem to agree that althought it is called the Next Action projects can certainly have multiple Next Actions any of which could be physically done next.

On the other hand the GTD book says that it should be THE very next thing needed to move the project along…. Confusing eh?

I think Notes has it right in the realization that a lot of it comes down to getting your Projects list right. The tendency is to make Projects fit one pre-conceived notion of the word, as in, a “project” is some big massive thing. In fact, a Project can be anything that requires multiple steps (Merlin Mann calls for very tiny steps in fact - 20 minutes or less).

With this definition firmly in mind yo gonna have a lot of projects sistah! And then the Next Action concept starts to work like magic. Clean the Garage - that’s a project. Do your taxes? That’s a big project. Start your own business - THAT is a huge master project made up of hundreds of smaller ones.

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