Organising Your Life [PART 6] Setting Up Projects

This is part 6 of a series of posts I am doing on getting yourself organised and being able to take control of your life. You can read the first four parts here:

Part 1 - Organising Your Life
Part 2 - Choosing the best tool
Part 3 - Collecting everything

Part 4 - Processing your inbox

Part 5 - contexts, tagging and labels 

In the previous five posts on getting yourself organised, I have written about setting up your system as well as collecting all the routine tasks you have to do each day / week / month and putting them into your system. I have also covered creating your contexts to help you better decide what to do, when and where.

In part 6 I want to go through setting up a project. 

A great system is useless if you are not able to follow the progress of your projects. Before we get going though, let me just define what I see as a project. I follow the definition David Allen gave in his seminal book "Getting Things Done"

"any commitment that takes more than one step to complete"

By following this definition it helps me to make a decision about a task or commitment very quickly. If I used a more complex definition, I would end up spending far too much time deciding whether a task or commitment was a project or not. This means that there are occasions where a project will last only one day. But that does not bother me. The important factor for me is that I can make a decision on what a task, commitment or idea is very quickly. I would rather spend my time doing things than trying to decide what something is. 

When I process my inbox and I come across a task that required more than one step I immediately create it as a project. Often, the task in my inbox would be something like "Re-organise my iPhoto library". A task like this could very easily be a simple one task event, but in reality there are actually quite a few steps required here. For example:

  • What do I want to do with old photos?
  • Do I want to reorganise my tags / star ratings? 
  • If so, what tagging / rating system do I want to use?
  • Is there a better way of organising my photos?
  • How can I make my import workflow better?

Clearly there are quite a few decisions I need to make before I can open iPhoto and get reorganising. So here's how I do it in Todoist:

To create a project in Todoist, all you have to do is click on the "+ Add Project" box at the bottom of your project list.


Firstly, I list out the things I need to do immediately. As there is a little research to be done I don't need to list too many tasks as these will be added once I have completed my research. As ideas come to me over the next few days I will add them to my inbox as they arise and then add them to the project when I do my processing in the evening. Once I have added my tasks, I reorder them in the basic order I expect to complete these tasks. Below, you can see what this now looks like in Todoist. 

Occasionally, I will add a date to the first task, and in this case I will probably add it as a recurring task as I expect I will need to spend a few days researching this. Adding a date to the first task also works as a reminder for the project. I don't normally add dates to the other tasks yet, I only add dates when I know I am going to actually do the task. In this case, I may decide to do the task "Delete all not required photos and screen shots" on a Saturday evening, and in that case I would add a date. 

NB: I always add a [R&D] denotation before any research tasks - this helps me to find easy tasks to do when I am tired at the end of a day.

So there you go, how to set up a project in Todoist, or any other task manager you care to choose. 

Remember to keep things simple and to always begin sentences with action verbs. Not using verbs will end up with you feeling a little confused when you look at the task in a few days time. Verbs give a clear meaning to what is required. 

Good luck and stay productive.