This series, 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers, is all about putting into place effective routines and processes so that the routine administrative details of life do not cause undo stress and we, as mothers in the heart of our homes, can peacefully and intentionally make good choices about what to do without feeling like we have a million details pulling us in a million directions at once.
Previous Post: Working the Plan & Keeping It Current
Project Control: Making Natural Planning Normal Planning
There are two keys to effective project planning, according to David Allen in Getting Things Done.: clearly defined outcomes and regularly reviewed reminders in a trusted system.
Very rarely is more formal, structured planning required on projects; usually it is more back-of-the-envelope type planning that increases productivity and effectiveness.
Such brainstorming offers sufficient rigor for determining outcomes and action steps. In fact, Allen states, “If we did [more informal planning more often], it would relieve a lot of pressure on our psyches and produce an enormous amount of creative output with minimal effort.”
The Five Phases of Project Planning
So if you’ve set up ubiquitous capture, an effective task list, and a current calendar, then you have all you need to run projects smoothly and effectively.
1. Define your purpose & principles. Ask, “Why?” and determine your standards.
Asking this basic question will help define success, motivate, and clarify your focus.
Let’s take planning your history curriculum for the year as an example. If you begin with your purpose (“familiarity with American history,” say) and determine your standards (living books, timeline work, etc.), then you have just filtered out at least half of what materials you might find online. Decide your goal and then don’t let material marketing drive you off course.
Decide if crafty hands-on history projects are your thing. If they are, find a curriculum that includes it and forgo the books-only approaches. If they aren’t, you can skip most teacher-guide materials and just go through a book catalog. Either way, you make the decision and don’t feel guilty about what you are ignoring.
2. Envision the desired outcome.
Picture in your mind what success looks like.
First, project yourself into the future when this project is underway or complete; second, envision what “wild success” at that point would look and feel like; third, capture the details, the features, that you see.
You want to make your hoped-for outcome as solid as possible. No more amorphous, “Well, it’d be nice if……but I’d be happy if…..but what will probably happen is…..so….we’ll just see how it all goes.”
Let’s take a project as simple as cleaning the kitchen. When you say, “Clean the kitchen,” what do you mean? Do you know what you mean? Without a clear goal, you could — depending on your personality type — either quit partway through thinking, “Well, that’s good enough for now.” or you could continue puttering around finding cleaning jobs to work on from now ’til Kingdom come.
Before you start, decide what “Done!” looks like.
3. Brainstorming. Capture all your ideas on paper, going for quantity over quality.
When you get an idea, you want to grab it so that you will not have to ‘have the idea’ again. The more ideas you capture, the more free your mind becomes to associate and generate more ideas.
4. Organize. Filter and sort the ideas brainstorming generated, and set out a plan.
This is the normal “planning” function, but it is rendered more useful and effective by being defined by the first two steps and expanded by the brainstorming.
5. Determine next actions. What needs to happen now to make the outcome happen?
This is where much informal planning goes awry. A plan without specific action items lined up is scarcely a plan at all. There are several different types of next actions that might be called for, including setting up a meeting (or discussion time with your husband), gathering information, or ordinary to-do tasks.
Lastly, for all this procedure to be useful, you need to have a place to keep it. You need a standard place to capture ad-hoc ideas and brainstorming, even on projects that are not currently active (because great ideas often come on the projects that are not actually important right now, don’t they?). Also, for each of your active projects, you need to decide the best way to track your purpose and desired outcome so you stay on track throughout the whole of the process.
If you have current projects that are languishing on your lists right now, try picking one or two and giving yourself 10 minutes to work through these 5 steps and see if you don’t generate a better sense of control and vision over them.
GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.