Getting things done project overload

One of the things I’ve been struggling a lot with when I started using GTD, was the concept of projects and, more specifically the lack of structure around these.

Until a few months back I always had problem really feeling comfortable with the concept of a laundry list of projects that you review each week. It’s just not the way my brain works. It’s just not how human brain works.

The "ah-ah" moment was went I linked this issue with the "Pyramid Principle" I learned a while back when I was in grad school .

The pyramid principle (applied to presentations or other forms of communication) starts from 2 assumptions (based of scientific research):

  1. Most people only have 3-5, 7 is considered exceptional, short-term memory "blocks".
  2. The brain then structures the data in a logical fashion to move this is longer term memory.

Therefore, to improve the chances of people retaining the data you present, you should:

  1. Group concepts in logical groups and subgroup
  2. At each level of this hierarchy, you want -ideally- to have 3 subgroups, 2 to 4/5 being the lower and higher boundaries

So, how does this apply to GTD projects?

Simple: the reason I felt uncomfortable was that my brain could not really get around, during my weekly review, going through a list of 50-100 projects. That I needed more structure to feel more confident I was not missing anything.

So, here is how I solved this.

  1. I never have an action not associated with a project. Lost in some kind of GTD Limbo. I just created a project "_misc" for all projects that are purely serial (not needing several actions in parallel) and not directly linked to an existing project. In the same idea I have a "IT – Admin" task for various actions I need not to forget but that do not really belong to a project, example of these tasks are such as filling up an expense report, change Voicemail message while traveling…)
  2. I structure my projects into blocks I can more easily digest. The structure is something like:
    1. Work projects linked with the business will have a "regular" name.
      • I will then list them with a small word in front of each project name to bucket them one more time such as:
        • Marketing: Shows
        • Marketing: Partners
        • Marketing: PR
        • Special Projects: A
        • Special Projects: B
        • etc…
      • Sorting the projects per name will allow me to visualize the buckets easily
      • I create this list when my year begin, starting from a list on OneNote (being much more easy to work with when you want to organize your thoughts) that I can then easily send to Outlook through the "create an task in outlook" feature.
    2. Team Management related project, same concept, this time adding a "x_" in front (same reason: that they all appear together when sorted by name
    3. Personal projects, this time starting with "y_". In this case I can even sort them out using Outlook filters for views and have "work per project" and "perso per project" views.

This structure allows me to:

  • Avoid having something too complicated,
  • Stay within Outlook capabilities (with Netcentrics add-in to have the additional "project" field though)
  • Have the full list of projects in one view
  • Still be able to digest the information when going through it each week and spot more easily if I miss something

One thought on “Getting things done project overload

  1. Dan

    I would recommend checking out for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.


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