Long-term projects can be tricky

By Francisco Sáez • May 21, 2012

“The distance is nothing, it’s only the first step that is difficult.” ~ Madame du Deffand

One of my favorites David Allen’s statements is that you cannot do projects, you can only do action steps. In the end, a project shows up as done after doing a lot of small, physical and visible actions that make the world fits with what you had in mind.

The usual problem with long-term projects is that the label long term invites you to procrastinate, to take no action right now. If you have a project that has to be done within the next three years, it is easy to postpone the task of figuring out what the first next action step should be.

A common mistake in GTD, is to add these long-term projects to the Someday/Maybe list. However, there is an important difference between something that is long term and something that falls into the category of Someday/Maybe. If you have commited to do a project, it falls into the category of as soon as possible (although as soon as possible may be three years) and there should be an action step defined for it to progress. If you do not define an action step, physical and visible, as soon as possible will become never. No matter how far it is the commitment date; if you think about it, surely there is something you can do right now.

The Someday/Maybe list should have only things you have not committed yet (and maybe you will never do). Some of them will be projects in the future, but others may be just wishes and good intentions.

If you make an agreement to do a long-term project, a critical success factor—and also very motivating—is to do small action steps in the short term that take you nearer the desired result.

Take a look at your Projects List. Have you defined a next action step for each one?

About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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