Rethinking Projects

How many projects are you working on right now?

When I ask this question in my seminars, most people answer in the range of 1-10.  The reason for this answer is that they believe projects are big and involved endeavors which take weeks or months to complete.   But I ask in this case are they thinking too big?

person holding turned on laptop

According to GTD, a project is anything that requires more than one action to complete.  By this definition, the number of projects we are working on balloons to fifty or more!  Of course, many of these projects are quickly dispatched in less than a day or even an hour.  The catch is that when we fail to recognize these small items as projects, they tend to pile up around us.  Each little incomplete project takes up mental space, leading to an ongoing background sense of anxiety.

The solution according to GTD is the complete project list.  It asks you to assess your total life work at the moment by listing every project in one place.  Remember, a project is something that can be completed, as opposed to an area of responsibility which is ongoing.  For example, an area of responsibility is personal health, and a project to support it could be to sign up for exercise classes.

This project list helps in at least three significant ways:

1/ The project list serves as a reminder of incomplete items.  This can alleviate worry about losing track of projects that may come back to haunt you later.

2/ A project list forces people to get specific about the next physical actions needed to move the item from an open loop to a completed project. It accelerates completion of work.

3/ By having a full inventory of current workload, it becomes easier to recognize limitations and enables people to safely reject new projects in order to keep their professional dignity and sanity intact.

As David Allen, creator of GTD says, “You can only feel good about what you are not doing when you know what you are not doing.”   Helpful project tips are listed on the Getting Things Done web site.

So draft a project list and keep it updated.  You may be surprised at how much you are really doing!

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