If you have been following along with the series so far, you will have a much tidier work area (and mind) and have a few different lists. Each of these lists will have actions you need to take, and hopefully you’re already finding it easier to know what to be doing at any particular time.

A major part of the success of the GTD system is how you Process your inbox. In looking at this we’ve already looked at which Buckets you put things in, and how you can use Contexts to ease the selection of what to do. The last piece of the processing jig-saw is the use of Projects.

You may be familiar with projects and even have some project management experience, however, it is helpful to understand what a project is in GTD: and why it is so useful to have them.

Remember GTD is all about getting control and de-stressing. Its whole philosophy is based on having a system that means you can trust things will not get missed, and one which means you do not need to constantly (consciously or subconsciously) run through what you have to do. The problem is that sometimes you’ll have what you think is an action, but it will actually be an end result: one which you’ll only achieve after performing a few or a lot of individual actions.

Let’s say you have decided to start a blog. You may find an action (a line in an old Todo List) that says “Start a Blog”. The problem is that if you have this in your system, not only do you need to do a lot of different things to achieve it, but every time you look at the action, you will subconsciously be running through your current view of what all those things are.

  • learn how to set up a blog
  • investigate blogging systems
  • brainstorm blog subjects
  • design blog layout and landing page
  • research other blogs in my field

are only a few of what the specific actions may be.

The process for using Projects is relatively simple, although you can make it more complicated if your way of working requires it. Once you have an action which is either more complex than one action, or you realise is one step in a larger series of actions, you define a project. You then can do the following.

  1. Define the project in terms of the end result – what is going to be different? It is best to define a project in terms of what you will have at the end. So ‘write a blog’ might become, ‘set up a blog which gives my clients information and grows my circle of prospects’.
  2. Have a think about your vision for the project. This can be a 2 second thought process, or a half a day’s work – depending on the complexity and importance of the project. Have a think about what you really want it to be like when you’ve completed the project. This should be compelling.
  3. Brainstorm ideas – what are all the things you can think of that will need to be done.
  4. Next Action – pick what needs to be done first. Unless you’re particularly of the mind-set, do not bother putting them in a timeline, just look a the list and pick the first thing. That thing goes into your ‘Next Action’ list (clearly marked as part of a project).

What you now have is a specific action in your list, which is not only clearer, but has built-in to it the fact that it is part of a journey, which you know (and care about) the destination. This is not only what makes it more likely that you’ll complete the action, but it allows your project to move forward while you’re head is clear of it.

When the Next Action is completed, you can either look at the project and pick the next thing that needs done, or rely on your Weekly Review to pick this up. It all depends on the timescale of the project.

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