Have you ever wondered whether something was a goal or a project? The difference between projects and goals is the time frame. Projects are the intermediate step between goals and daily actions. The process of planning them is the same. For the majority of projects and goals, knowing the next step (or the next action in GTD) is sufficient. Others may require more planning.
Recently, I have begun using a free online mindmaping website called mindmup to map out my projects. Then I make an image of the mindmap and make it the screensaver on my laptop. I also add it to Google Drive to access it anywhere.
I like yellow legal pads for thinking and planning. You can simply list the name of the project on the left side, and the next step on the right side. These do tend to get a little messy.
You may want to use a printable Project Master List. I list top projects with the next step on sticky notes placed on this simple Polaroid Post It (pdf) and keep it in the plastic cover of the Annual Review Planner Binder which contains my system. This keeps my projects front and center, and it’s easy to update.
Some projects have what I think of as dependencies. These may go on the “waiting for” list in GTD. For example, my garage project depends on good weather, and has therefore shifted to the back burner. Sometimes we may not be able to proceed until someone else has accomplished something, or we get a reply to an email. The key question becomes: “When should I look at this project again?” and then making a reminder entry in your calendar.
Some projects require more planning
According to the Pareto Principle, it is likely that 20% of projects require further planning. Project plans can be simple, and a sheet of paper, a page in a planner or a 4×5 index card may be sufficient. Whatever format you use should allow enough room to think in as much detail as you need. A folder may be needed for larger projects to keep related materials together. I keep current project files in a wire step desktop holder.
Important skills for planning projects
- Recognizing a project that is one of the 20% that require planning beyond the next action.
- Recognizing a task that is too vague, and knowing how to make it specific.
- Recognizing an incoming task, and knowing where to put it in your system.
- Deciding what tools to use to capture ideas and manage projects.
It takes thought
- To make decisions regarding email, paper, information.
- To set priorities
- To plan projects and determine action steps
Some tools from others
- Flip To Do | Project & Next Action Organization from Flipping Heck
- Vertex42 offers a free Project Schedule Template for more complex projects.
- How to meet deadlines at ehow.com
- Productivity501 – Behance’s Action Method Process
- Stop Shuffling and Start Creating from Productive Flourishing
Delicious Links about Projects