Planning Complex Projects | Giftie Etcetera: Planning Complex Projects

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Planning Complex Projects

As much as I love my planner, I don't plan things very often.

I don't really do goals or schedules.

Working backwards from the goal date?  Not for me!

I write down actual tasks that must be done. (Okay, I write obsessively. Need a bath? If I'm not taking one right now, I probably will write it down.)
I write down appointments, including daily stuff, like carpool. If I don't write it down, I tend to plan things DURING carpool. Fail. I've finally gotten to where I don't write down "take meds" every single day, but it took a long time to form that habit. (Confession: I still write it down when I travel so I don't forget.) 

But sometimes an activity or event comes along that merits more than one little entry in a calendar. Certain things require multiple steps. Basically, these things don't fit in the normal calendar and task list set-up of a planner. The Getting Things Done guy calls them "projects" with "next actions," though I don't like that last term because they are not always just actions and not always actions that come next or sequentially. Also, there is usually, but not always, a deadline. Sometimes, there are multiple deadlines.

Right now, my projects (with that name stolen unabashedly from GTD) include the first day of school for the kids, the book I wrote but still need to edit, an event that I volunteered to coordinate next summer, my current volunteer role overseeing cafeteria visitors at my kids' school, a collection of continuing education credits that must be earned by the end of the year, and an on-going diet. (That last page, sadly, is more aspirational.)

I don't want to hide the project just anywhere because I risk ignoring them.  I don't want every detail recopied from week to week, but letting them disappear in the file portion of my planner does not work either.

To solve this, I use a combination of a special section of my planner (labeled Personal...I should really change that label) and notes on the week-on-two-pages section or calendar monthly section of the planner.

I start with an index, as I do with my home files and most sections of my planner. Note that some of the projects are already completed.

I use sticky notes to label each project, attempting to not cover up any of the labels with another.  This makes each project easy to find.

The format of each page just varies, depending on the project.  Basically, the First Day of School project is a to do list that all needs to be done before August 8th.  If I listed all of this on my weekly task pages, I would have no room for anything else. Some projects do merit mini-deadlines as well.  And some are more a place for active brainstorming, like my Book project.  The Diet project is more of an ongoing journal.

Of course, I need a trigger to make me look at my project pages.  I put due dates on my weekly pages (or event dates on my monthly calendar pages)...

...and a reminder each week to look at my projects and work on them.

Techie Tip: If you use something like Outlook for tasks, put the project title in the tasks list on the next due date of any of the actions, and attach a note with the project details, tasks, and deadlines to the project task itself.

Let me know in the comments what projects you are dealing with in your life and how you manage them.


1 comment: said...

I do have projects - like my daughter's quilt. But I don't usually write down the whole plan anywhere. I just write down the first step or the steps I want to try to get done this week or today. Probably if I had as many projects as you do I would do something similar. But I don't have too many.

Like you, I have to write EVERYTHING down! I have ADHD and if I don't write it all down, I'll forget.