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When in the GTD workflow is project planning 'supposed' to happen? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi all,

On-again off-again OF and GTD user here. I'm trying to get back into GTD again and I went back to David Allen's book and checked out the workflow charts on the web. I have a question. I understand what Projects are in the GTD sense, and I understand that we want to plan a project with the next actions clearly defined. But I have a question of when. When is project planning supposed to occur in the GTD workflow? Or is there not a specified time?

I thought about when I do project planning. I do daily reviews in OF and empty my inbox. As I do that, I create projects if a new one is needed. And then, I might get side-tracked from inbox clearing and do more planning. So effectively, I do project planning during daily reviews. And sometimes during weekly reviews, as I bring in new projects into the runway.

But I'm wondering, should we specify certain times for project planning or just do it off-the-cuff, on an as needed basis? What do you all do?
I think everyone will have their own secret recipe.

I don't necessarily do planning every day. I think clearing my inbox is a different step from project planning. During my daily review, I try to clear my inbox first and place it into the appropriate folders or projects. The the second step is to go to the new projects that I created and start planning my next actions.

Afterwards, I set my review interval and look at these new projects again on the next review date and try to tinker some more if I haven't already started on it.

The beauty of OmniFocus is that I can set different review intervals for different projects. Some projects requires more constant follow-ups and I'll set it to a shorter interval (every day, every 2 days, every week, etc.). Other projects (especially on hold projects) can be set to a longer review interval (every 2 weeks, every month, every quarter).

I also do a more intensive monthly review and quarterly review. The weekly review and quarterly gives me a longer period of time to actively edit out those new projects that were great ideas when I first thought of them. I may find some projects that either weren't plotted out properly (next actions out of order or unnecessary next actions) and I'll edit viciously.

Other times, I'll realize that this "once brilliant" project is actually bone-headed and the return-on-investment isn't worth my time. Then I'll just drop it. I'll set the project status to drop and enter a note indicating the date/time and the reason I dropped it.

Sometimes I do find inspiration and need to flesh out something when I have sudden flashes of inspiration throughout the day. I'll quickly enter some tasks into a separate OmniOutliner document and I'll process them later.

I constantly have to remind myself that doing project planning does not always mean I'm being productive. Don't fall into the trap that I sometimes find myself in. Sometimes I'll get lazy (brain dead) and I'll make an excuse to do project planning as If I'm being productive. I'll start peeking and poking inside OmniFocus and look for projects to tinker with. This is just a procrastination technique that I've been trying to get over. If I keep tinkering with project planning, I'll suddenly find my day wasted and it's time to leave the office to go home. I'll just go ahead and try do some of the more brain dead tasks instead of doing more project planning.

I try to keep my project planning to my daily review hour or my weekly review process. One method I've done is to print out my due soon/flagged perspective list and quit OmniFocus. Having to click on OmniFocus to open it up again is an intentional action that reminds me to stay away from tinkering in OmniFocus unless absolutely necessary. It's just too easy to just click on the OmniFocus icon and start procrastinating when I should be focused on completing my Due soon/Flagged next actions.

It's almost the same as keeping your Facebook and Twitter page open. I don't leave those pages open. It's just too tempting to look at them and it interrupts my workflow.
I was just remembering something. In David Allen's book "Making It All Work", the chapters on "getting perspectives" sheds some light. A good time to review the different Horizons of Focus are:

Next actions (runway level): daily basis - orient yourself for the day by selecting a small handful of tasks to focus on today.

Projects (10K): on a weekly basis. Bring your project status up-to-date based on the prior week's events. Also review and plan when you sense that a project has some friction and may need some replanning.

Areas of Focus & Responsibilities [folders in OmniFocus] (20K): Infrequently. I personally do my review on a quarterly basis or when some major life change occurs (change of job or responsibilities, personal and professional life changes).

The higher Horizons of Focus such as Goals, Objectives, and Vision are something that is out of range of what OmniFocus covers. I review those in other programs such as mind maps and outlines.

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