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What level of planning do you do? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
This isn't an OF specific question, though my recent testing of OF has brought it to light.

Previouly I kept all my tasks in iCal sorted only by context. This worked OK, but as you can imagine it made the weekly review somewhat difficult as I had no direct way to match up tasks with projects (for which the support material was largely in paper folders). Therefore my weekly review evolved to just making sure I had one next action on my task list per project. Obviously, finishing that task on Tuesday didn't automatically add the next task until I decided to review that project again (possibly not until my next review on Friday). In addition, there were some smaller projects which I never really "planned" but just had listed on my projects list. So when the time came for the review, I had to think about the next action and add it to the task list. I didn't already have the next actions listed for easy reference.

With OF, I now have a way of capturing all the planning for projects large and small. This obviously provides the benefit of having everything in one place to make review easier, and it also adds next actions to my task lists as I complete ones.

But, it has introduced new complexities in how I plan projects (since I didn't really do it much before). I find myself, at least presently, trying to balance how much detail to plan. Too little and I feel like the project just isn't fully hashed out during review time, and too much and I feel like I am wasting time planning.

How do you plan projects? Obviously the big ones require quite a bit, but what about small projects like "Mike's Party" where as a guest I have to buy a gift, pack car, make covered dish, etc. Or how about nebulous projects like "Find a Better Way to Shave" which may include trying out shaving creams, razors, reading online, etc. But in the case of the shaving project, the whole project evolves constantly and it feels forced to set a strict plan together, but without something I feel like it just isn't complete.

Anyway, I'm just curious what level seems to work best for you? While I'm not new to GTD, OF has forced me to go back and relearn some things which I probably have forgotten as a result of my bad habits.

Thanks!
 
For the projects where each step is pretty clear in advance, I just break the project down as much as possible into atomic little actions. I don't feel as though I've wasted time planning when doing this because it really does give me a good idea of what the project entails and what kind of time commitment it represents. It also allows me to make progress on that project bit by bit rather than waiting to do several things before checking that "complete" box on a task that wasn't broken down as far as it could be.

For those projects that evolve over time, I take my best guess at what the steps should look like and make changes as I go along if I need to. When I complete the current action, I see what action becomes available next and decide if it makes any sense in light of what I did in the last action. If not, I change it right then, and then I take a look at the whole project and do a quick review of it alone.

You could do that in the context of a larger review too, but I find it more helpful to make those changes while the knowledge gained from the last step is still fresh in my mind. This takes, at most, a couple minutes for me so I don't feel I'm wasting too much time refactoring in these situations.

Last edited by MEP; 2007-08-01 at 04:41 PM..
 
I sometimes do as MEP does with verifying next actions exist as I go. To do that I use Opt-Cmd-R to jump from the action in Context view to Project view. However, I think this is probably a non-productive habit. It means I'm switching out of "doing" mode and into system maintenance mode.

Daily I check that every project has a next action. I use a script to do that (available from my software downloads page).

In my weekly reviews I look at each project and make sure its first few actions make sense. For projects that are complex or feel "stuck" I will spend more time studying the whole project structure, envisioning the desired outcome, or reflecting on why I might be resisting progress.

I plan to study Review Dates in OF to see if I can streamline my weekly reviews. In particular, some projects move slowly and can be reviewed less frequently, say monthly or quarterly. Other projects change rapidly and require more regular and thorough reviews, e.g., weekly or even daily. So, using Review Dates I hope to integrate some project planning into my daily reviews. I hope that this will allow me to break the habit of checking for subsequent actions when in "doing" mode.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
This is part of the struggle with GTD. Don't Overplan...
Ex: Project "Get out of bed"
Next action - wakeup
Next action - take covers off
Next action - put right foot on floor.

Generally, I'm putting down next actions that take more than 2 minutes to do (Unless I'm afraid to forget something small.)

Along with that, I put any project that could suck time (including the "Shaving" one of yours.) As far as I'm concerned the first step is "R&D" and goes in a task based on such. It's a research task - but I usually give it a set paramater like "Find five articles on different shaving techniques: start @ wikipedia." This will invariably generate next actions.

Last, the idea of Next Actions here is to make it easy to overcome resistance and just 'crank out widgets.' Beware of items that you're not accomplishing, because you haven't broken them down.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kioneo View Post
But, it has introduced new complexities in how I plan projects (since I didn't really do it much before). I find myself, at least presently, trying to balance how much detail to plan. Too little and I feel like the project just isn't fully hashed out during review time, and too much and I feel like I am wasting time planning.
IIRC it says in GTD that you should do as much planning as you need to do to get the project off your mind. David Allen seems to think that for 90% of things that will be a short period of thinking about the project and maybe a bit of "back of the envelope" planning. For the remaining 10% of projects he advises using whatever project-planning tool you're comfortable with, whether that's an outliner or a full-blown project management app.

Since I started with GTD I've found this is broadly how it works out for me, with a Word or Omnioutliner document being my weapon of choice for planning big projects. One thing I've found very helpful is to backstep through a project from the end result to the first next action, e.g.

Project: Replace front tyre on car
Take car to garage for new tyre
Call garage for prices and to make appointment for tyre replacement
Find number of garage on web
Check tyre model numbers on car

Obviously for most things I'll do that mentally and then enter the actions in the correct order in OF.
 
This is going to sound stupid, but I plan the things that need planning, and I let everything else develop naturally.

There are some projects that need a meticulously detailed plan before I am willing to start working on them. Like lab experiments, vacations, large home or spare time projects, I need to plan them for them to fully crystalize in my mind. This helps me decide if they're worth doing now, later, or even ever. Planning helps me realize what kind of effort and time I would have to commit to a project, and I like doing this in OF, where I have all my other tasks to make a cohesive background.

So really, every bit of my planning gets done in OF... unless I can't make OF's crippled project dependencies work for what I'm trying to plan - then I go to paper.

When I do write out a meticulous plan for a project, I specifically avoid overplanning things by omitting any task that must be done immediately after its predecessor.

Other than this, I let things develop as they pop into my head. This process can result in fleshing out a project even further, or causing it to need rerouting, but most of it ends up being single tasks or small projects.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kioneo View Post
But, it has introduced new complexities in how I plan projects (since I didn't really do it much before). I find myself, at least presently, trying to balance how much detail to plan. Too little and I feel like the project just isn't fully hashed out during review time, and too much and I feel like I am wasting time planning.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler."
--Obligatory Albert-Einstein-by-way-of-David-Allen quote

Quote:
Originally Posted by kioneo View Post
How do you plan projects? Obviously the big ones require quite a bit, but what about small projects like "Mike's Party" where as a guest I have to buy a gift, pack car, make covered dish, etc.
I brainstorm to figure out all of the requirements of the project -- for "Mike's party" it would be everything I need to buy or bring, people I need to call, etc. -- then figure out what next actions there are. (Buying a gift may require a task on my @Roaming list, calling Mike's wife for the name of the restaurant would be an entry on my @Phone list, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by kioneo View Post
Or how about nebulous projects like "Find a Better Way to Shave" which may include trying out shaving creams, razors, reading online, etc. But in the case of the shaving project, the whole project evolves constantly and it feels forced to set a strict plan together, but without something I feel like it just isn't complete.
Projects where you don't have a clearly-defined goal -- one of my pending projects is "replace conventional water heater with on-demand heater" -- can be difficult to plan. So my trick, courtesy of Merlin Mann, is to come up with a clearly-defined target to start with. In my example, my Next Action is "Google for specifications and prices for two different models of heater." It may not be the best Next Action, but it is something I can start with; maybe I can't find any prices or specs online, but that should spur me to then look up the phone numbers and address of local businesses where I can get that information.

I think the biggest hurdle for most people is that GTD requires you to trust your intuition, when most people are taught to make decisions "objectively". David makes a joke to the effect of, "you didn't wake up and say 'X plus Y squared times 53 means I have to do this today'".

The idea behind planning projects the GTD way is to come up with Next Actions, not to plot out every last detail of the plan. At the same time, you may not be able to generate Next Actions until you have at least a framework of what needs to be accomplished. I think it amounts to drilling down to the level of detail you need to get it completely out of your head.
 
Thanks for sharing all the advice. I am obviously overplanning in some areas and underplanning in others. It helps tremendously to see how others are accomplishing things and use some of those pointers.

Thanks!
 
 


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