Thread: Stuck on GTD
View Single Post
Originally Posted by sgiovannini View Post
I have a ton of items that start with the word "Decide." I know that those aren't actually actions, but trying to decided everything I've been putting off for years is giving me a headache.
I disagree. I think an action can begin with any verb, including "Decide". Mentally coming to some kind of resolution on a topic, especially if it determines future actions, is an important action in itself. It might only involve sitting on the sofa and staring out the window, but you're brain is still working and there's a definitive completion state (reaching a decision).

So I wouldn't worry about having lots of single actions that begin with "Decide...". Those are potential projects and actions in the making, and they're never going to come to be if you don't complete the first step of deciding.

I do this all the time. In fact, I even have a "Thinking" context for items which need further thought. I drop into this context whenever I have some time to kill on the train, or wherever, and I can just be alone with my thoughts. Some of the items eventually turn into projects, others just get deleted or completed with some kind of a note for future reference (e.g. Decided not to do this because...).

Originally Posted by sgiovannini View Post
How do you decide what is a project?
As for determining if an item should be a project or a single action, David Allen claims that anything that requires 2 or more actions should be considered a project. The difficult part, at least for me, is determining what should be considered a separate action.

For example, "wash car". In its most basic form, washing the car consists of several actions:

1) Bring the car into the driveway
2) Get out the bucket, hose, soap, and sponge
3) Spray down the car
4) Soap up the car
5) Rinse the car
6) Dry the car
7) Clean up

...and so on. But going to that level of detail can get a bit ridiculous. When you're out washing the car, and you've hosed it down, do you really need to run back inside to your Mac to check OmniFocus to determine that "Soap it up" is the next action? Probably not.

So in this case, you can probably safely condense all seven of the above actions into a single action (wash car) because they're all so closely related. You're not likely to do one of the steps without doing all of them.

It seems the level of "action granularity" required is a personal thing that everyone has to figure out for themselves. Some people need a lot of granularity, others prefer very little. Personally, I started out with a lot but eventually realized it was more trouble than it was worth and toned it down considerably. As a result, I now use a lot more single action lists (although I still use projects too).

A trick I use to help me determine if an item should be a project or a single action is I ask myself if I'm likely to complete the entire task at one time or if I might do only part of it one day and come back to do the rest another day. For example, spraying down the car one day but coming back to soap it up, rinse it, and dry it another day doesn't make any sense. On the other hand, a "Get rid of old clothes" task could easily be broken up over several days or weeks:

1) Sort through closet to determine which clothes to get rid of
2) Package up old clothes
3) Take old clothes to Salvation Army

Breaking this into a project makes perfect sense. You can complete it in several stages, and you'll always know where you left off when you come back to it, whether it be later the same day or a month from now.


Last edited by Toadling; 2008-06-29 at 10:28 AM.. Reason: Fixed punctuation errors