Over the past few months, I have been experimenting with David Allen‘s Getting Things Done system to help me manage my work and personal projects. I have to admit, I have streamlined the system quite a bit. If followed exactly, GTD is too labor-intensive and (gasp!) too detail-oriented to suit me. But on the whole, the system has helped me keep on top of my to-do (Next Actions) list and helped me focus, especially at work. (It hasn’t been quite so successful at home, but that’s the subject of another post.)
One aspect of the system that I do like a lot is keeping a master list of projects. The projects list helps me keep focused on what I have committed to work on and keeps me from inadvertantly spreading myself too thin. It’s also proved helpful when I need to report on what I’m doing to my boss or colleagues, write up a workplan for future work or re-evaluate my workload and priorities.
I use SharePoint‘s lists feature for my projects list, but a spreadsheet would also work. It helps to have an electronic version for sorting and filtering and to make updating easier. I wouldn’t call my list format ground-breaking, but one purpose of this blog is to record my systems so I won’t forget them and can build on them. So if you’re bored by this minutiae, move on now.
Here’s what I put on my Projects List for each project:
- Name: I try to use the same name consistently whenever I refer to the project to simplify searching for related project items.
- Link: The majority of my projects have an electronic knowledge base, usually on SharePoint but possibly using Web-based project management tools. I prefer electronic storage of files over paper for many, many reasons. It’s handy to have a link right to the knowledge base in the Project List so I don’t have to remember it.
- Area of Focus: I try to link every project to one of my areas of focus. This helps me recognize work projects that truly fall under my umbrella and keeps me from agreeing to everything I’m asked to do, especially if it falls outside of my primary interests and job responsibilities.
- Notes about the project that I need to reference immediately.
- Status: I don’t like to delete projects off my list, so I use a “status” field to sort and filter them instead. I’ve also often found that when a project is technically completed, I still have to do tasks from time to time to maintain that project, so I created an “in maintenance” status (which Allen doesn’t really address). For status, I can select
- Active — a project for which I am actively working on tasks and have a project plan or tasks list to complete
- Someday/Maybe, so my Someday/Maybes can easily be converted to Active projects if and when appropriate
- Abandoned/Reassigned, to distinguish these from completed (and I never know when a reassigned project might come back to me)
- In Maintenance, for projects where I am not actively working on tasks but may occasionally have a triggered action or a requested action from a co-worker