The main premise in GTD’s understanding of a project is that you can’t do a project. Project is just an outcome you want to achieve. What you can do are the actions that form your project. Once they are done the outcome is achieved the project is done.
Three weeks ago I’ve covered the natural planning model which describes how a project comes to life from defining the purpose to listing out all next actions. The end result of this is a project plan which outlines necessary details and action sequences etc.
The remaining element is the execution of the plan. Often times all planning and brainstorming makes us very excited about the project but when it comes to doing our energy goes down and we things falter.
How do you tie project plan with actions and make progress? There are two ways you can approach that.
Big chunks (all you can eat approach)
Since you’ve already spend some time planning your project plan contains majority if not all of necessary tasks. Make an appointment with yourself for 3-4 hours and get to work.
Use project plans as your task list to complete different elements of the project. In order for this approach to work is a very little number of dependencies and people involved to there is no unnecessary holdup and waiting for other to complete their part.
I find this approach useful when you have a relatively small project which needs to be finished quickly. The main reason it works well is that I have planned my steps and rather that think of what I need to do is just execute one after another.
Chipping away (small bites)
Majority of us have a number of open projects at one time. In most cases these can’t be completed on one sitting as we have to wait for other people to do something for us. Once that is done we can mover another part of the project. As different demands press on us it’s difficult to move things forward and often thing stale for weeks. One of the ways to overcome that is to work in small increments and finding couple minutes to 1 hour to complete a single action should be within your reach.
Rather than use project plan as your immediate task list start by reviewing your project list and establish what are the projects you want to focus on this week. I suggest that your pick between 3-5 items. This small number will be easier to fit into your schedule especially if you have a large number of meetings.
Once you decided on your key projects review the plans for these and extract 1-3 next actions per project and put them on your relevant action list.
Make sure that they are on top of your list and tackle them early in your day.
By sticking to this routine you can make a solid progress on 3 to 5 projects in a given week. It may not look like a lot but it’s definitely better that agonising over the number of open project and not making any progress at all.