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Book Excerpt: Getting Projects Under Control

Horizontal Focus (Collection, Processing, Organizing, Reviewing, Doing):
 
The key ingredients of relaxed control are (1) clearly defined outcomes (projects) and the next actions required to move them toward closure, and (2) reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly.
 
Vertical Focus (Project Planning):
 
Focus to get a project under control, to identify a solution, or to ensure that all the right steps have been determined. Knowing how to think productively and how to integrate the results into your personal system is the second powerful behavior set needed for knowledge work.
 
The Natural Planning Model:
  1. Defining purpose and principles
  2. Outcome visioning
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Organizing
  5. Identifying next actions
 
Which Project Should You Be Planning?
  • Projects that need next actions about planning
  • Random project thinking
How Do I Apply All This in My World?
 
Just as your “Next Actions” lists need to be up-to-date, so does your “Projects” list. That done, give yourself a block of time to handle as much of the “vertical” thinking about each project as you can.
 
As you do, ask yourself, “What about this do I want to know, capture, or remember?” You may just want to mind-map some thoughts on a piece of paper, make a file, and toss the paper into it. You may come up with some simple bullet-point headings to attach as a “note” in your software organizer. Or you could create a Word file and start an outline on it.
 
The key is to get comfortable with having and using your ideas. And to acquire the habit of focusing your energy constructively, on intended outcomes and open loops, before you have to.

(Source: Getting Things Done by David Allen)

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