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Authorised Projects List

In Secrets of Productive People I recommend that you have a list of authorized projects (rather like a firm has a list of authorized tradesmen).

There are basically two reasons for the list, one a positive one, and one a negative one

The positive is to keep you aware of all the calls on your time so that you can ensure that each project receives adequate attention.

The negative is that a project is as much about what you are not going to do as about what you are going to do. The list therefore keeps you focused on the projects on the list and stops you from deviating onto other “bright ideas”. You should not allow yourself to put any task on your to-do list which doesn’t relate to one of these projects.

The Authorised Projects list also helps you to avoid over-committing yourself. If you want to introduce a new project you need to be able to demonstrate what projects have ceased or have been weeded out in order to make room for the new project.

Reader Comments (10)

I presume you try to include as many tasks related to the projects, but not only project related tasks. Something like "read email" will be a task and will be included on your to do list, but it does not necessarily relate to a project.

Same will be for something like a minor recurring report that is due on Tuesday. It is not related to a project, but will be included on the task list on the specific day.
February 20, 2016 at 11:01 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I would regard Communications, which would include email, as a project. It might possibly include your minor recurring report too, though there might be another heading which is more appropriate.
February 20, 2016 at 11:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Got it.
February 20, 2016 at 11:33 | Unregistered CommenterNico
Mark, out of interest, how many active projects do you have at this stage?

Do you try to keep this list at a fixed number?
February 20, 2016 at 20:38 | Unregistered CommenterNico

My active projects at the moment are:

Blog daily
Develop new time management system
Write new book
Develop Web Presence
Run Marketing for Local Organization
Run Legacy Campaign for Local Charity
Income Tax Rebate for Local Charity
Read one Book at a Time
Watch all the Movies in Halliwell's Top 1,000
Training for new charity walk
plus the usual family and personal commitments

It's not the number of projects as such that matters but the total time investment that they represent. This must work out at 24 hours per day, including sleep.
February 20, 2016 at 22:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks. Do you aim to touch all your projects daily? Is this your benchmark if you can git it all in?
February 21, 2016 at 0:21 | Unregistered CommenterNico

My aim is to do all due work on them every day. That is to say to do everything that can be done on them for the time being. Not all projects require action every day. Others, such as the movie watching, have a set rate per week (5 a week in my case)

As I say in "Secrets of Productive People" I run an inbox zero policy for everything.

That's easy to keep to once one has it established. It's only over-commitment that gets in the way.
February 21, 2016 at 9:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I tried having an "Open Projects" list in the past a la David Allen, but never stuck with it. For some reason, this post inspired me to create such a list.

I created mine in a Google Doc, numbering each line. I simply dumped my brain of all actual projects ("Planning trip to Pacific Northwest"), ongoing projects ("Process one box from the attic"), projects I didn't realize I'd adopted ("Read those New Yorkers that are piling up"), relaxation projects ("Netflix queue") and even ephemeral feeling-projects ("Keep up with everything").

The latter two groups were troublesome to discover. I was not clearly defining my projects, either in terms of process ("Exercise 3x/week") or outcome ("Read x book"). Now, instead of picking any old thing from my Netflix queue, I've specified the TV series whose episodes I want to watch; I hope this keeps me from dithering when I have the time and urge to watch something. I have specific books I'm reading for book clubs, so each book has a line in the list.

And as for "keep up with everything" -- that needed some definition :) As a feeling-project, it could never be accomplished. I figured out it actually boiled down to adopting inbox zero for my browser tabs, Kindle documents, magazines I subscribe to, etc. and simply being specific about what I can realistically accomplish during my week and agreeing with myself to let some things go or skim like crazy before deleting. Like many on this board, I overcommit and try to do it all.

I also found I didn't really have a creative project anywhere in my list -- it was all consumption or processing clutter. That was a wake-up call.

I am using Inbox for Google for my email. I have set a weekly reminder (includes URL to the Google Doc) on Sunday mornings to review this Projects list to refresh my brain and also prune/edit it.
February 22, 2016 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
"You should not allow yourself to put any task on your to-do list which doesn’t relate to one of these projects."

What about everyday's mundane tasks like cleaning? Do you also have a "maintain zero inbox" project?
July 6, 2019 at 21:28 | Unregistered CommenterCajun
Cajun - Mark mentions in the second comment above that he includes email under his "Communications" project. And he also mentions something he calls his "usual family and personal commitments" which presumably includes things like household maintenance.

When I used a projects list I put cleaning under "household maintenance" and email under "inboxes".

It depends on how you naturally organize your work. It's probably best not to overthink it too much. Just try to list out the major areas of concern and adjust as needed. The purpose isn't to get it perfectly organized but to prevent the open-ended acceptance of new work and new ideas that leads to overcommitment.
July 10, 2019 at 1:31 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

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