Productivity and GTD

Operations vs Projects

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez

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It seems kind of paradoxical, but it often happens that, in our pursuit of an enhanced quality of life, we are assuming new responsibilities that can be a source of stress if finally we take on more than we can handle. The same happens at work. To grow, promote and improve, we have to—in almost all cases—acquire more responsibilities.

Unfortunately, during this process we don’t usually remove old responsibilities—at least not to the same extent—in order to get a balance. This means that, over time, you are always making more commitments and having more things to do in your inbox. And you must learn to manage this growing volume of activity not to get your lifestyle utterly ruined.

The first step is to identify whether a commitment is an operation or a project. Managing operational tasks in an efficient way can increase your productivity dramatically.

Operations are those activities that don’t aim to produce anything new, but to maintain and sustain a system. In a business, for example, administrative tasks are operations. In an individual, eating, sleeping and paying monthly electricity bills are also operations. Projects, on the contrary, are temporary endeavors that seek a unique result. Operations are repetitive and static, and aim to keep everything running. Projects produce a specific deliverable and then dissolve.

It’s interesting to separate operational tasks from projects because thank to their ongoing, repetitive and standard nature they can be managed in a very convenient way. You can batch them into periodic routines, thereby minimizing the time they take. In addition, operations are totally predictable and can accurately be planned, which means that most of them can even be automated. Of course, you need to always put the needed resources in place for them.

The bottom line is that you should always identify the operational tasks as they appear in your inbox. They are a large percentage of your activity that, if properly managed, will require only a small percentage of your effort. Ask yourself if you can automate them. If not, minimize their impact by including them in any of your regular routines. In these routines, always try to group similiar tasks that require the same work context.

3 comments

Ff0580309822251aad906e6cd25424ea
Commented about 8 years ago johnwin

This is a great blog post that reminds me of the diference between Projects and Operations.

Do you separate these or, like I and sometimes guilty of, do you not recognise Operations when they occur?

It can often take a few iterations of an Operation before the penny finally drops that what I am tackling is not a Project (short term, defined outcome etc) and is actually an Operation. Once I do realise what I'm up against it is easy to set up a Project to define a workflow for the Operation. A few hours spent getting the workflow right can save the effort many times over when the Operation repeats.

Ff0580309822251aad906e6cd25424ea johnwin

This is a great blog post that reminds me of the diference between Projects and Operations.

Do you separate these or, like I and sometimes guilty of, do you not recognise Operations when they occur?

It can often take a few iterations of an Operation before the penny finally drops that what I am tackling is not a Project (short term, defined outcome etc) and is actually an Operation. Once I do realise what I'm up against it is easy to set up a Project to define a workflow for the Operation. A few hours spent getting the workflow right can save the effort many times over when the Operation repeats.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented about 8 years ago Francisco Sáez

I agree. It's not always obvious that an action is an Operation. Most of the time we need at least a couple of reps to notice. The good news is that, once recognized, it's quite easy to diminish its impact on our daily activity.

Thanks for sharing!

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

I agree. It's not always obvious that an action is an Operation. Most of the time we need at least a couple of reps to notice. The good news is that, once recognized, it's quite easy to diminish its impact on our daily activity.

Thanks for sharing!

2d33afad5f08d214593b4f23fa0118a2
Commented about 8 years ago Charleigh

It's much eaesir to understand when you put it that way!

2d33afad5f08d214593b4f23fa0118a2 Charleigh

It's much eaesir to understand when you put it that way!

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