where to put large taskst

Hi all,

First thing to say: great site, great templates. I have been reading the articles here for a long time, and just this weekend decided to start using the forms for a gtd-like system. I am not yet in possession of the book (wait for the end of the month) but I want to start now as good as I can. That's why I am asking this here.
I get the point of next-action lists, the tasks here should be small to make them easy to do in little parts of off-time. But where do you put all the large things you need to do? For example, I need to write a chapter of my thesis. I put my thesis as a project, and small things relating to it on the action list, answers to e-mails relating to it on the waiting for list, but if I need to write a piece that will take a large part of a day I don't know where to put it. I think I need to put it somewhere, or is this just one thing you won't forget about anyway?
Thanks for the advice.

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The Principle of the D*I*Y Action Template in GTD...

As you say Paulien, your thesis is a project. Under the old systems one would write To-Dos, in this case 'Research', 'Write thesis', etc. Using Allen's GTD, one breaks the project into 'actionable' chunks. For example: "work on chapter three of thesis" is an 'action' if it can be completed in a single part. If not then one needs to break it down in to smaller sections until it is a single action. I think it was Einstein who said "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." If one get down to find pen or switch on computer, one may have taken Mr Allen's advice a tad too far. ;)


Thanks for your advice. Now the wait is over, the book has arrived. Now I am going to read it and use the system more consistently. I just couldn't wait to start.

Good Luck

I have read GTD twice, but still struggle to incorporate it fully into my life. Finding the best time for the all important "weekly review" is where I fall down every week. Without the review, it's all smoke and mirrors for me. I need a book entitled "Getting Discipline".

Hi Bob, I have had the same

Hi Bob, I have had the same feeling but have recently discovered that the lack of discipline is really a lack of clarity. Dont know if it is the same for you but it is worth looking in to...


Speaking of clarity, can you clarify? :)

Would you expand on that thought?

Be blessed!
~Rachel <><

I totally see Paulein's

I totally see Paulein's point and it is something that has been bugging me since I started with GTD.

I think the bigger question here is - how do you resolve the fact that some actions are quick and some take more time?

For example, I have to write an essay for my grad school application. Dividing it up into outlines or chapters or whatever doesn't fly. I just need to sit down for a couple of hours and write it. It is ONE ACTION. But a big one.

Paulein, one way I break this down is to divide the action into chunks of time. For example, I have a database I have to go through and verify information. It will take me a while. One of my next actions right now is "update database for 30 minutes." That way completing one action will not devour my entire day but I will make some headway.

If you estimate it will take you 5 hours to write your paper, and it is due in 2 weeks, make each of your next actions "Write paper for 30 minutes" for 2 weeks and you'll get it done. But if this is the case you will probably want to SCHEDULE these instead of making them an action because they need to be done in a timely manner. I know it's not exactly adhering to the GTD framework (since you CAN do 30 minutes of your thesis tomorrow), but this is the best way I've found to break down large actions.

I try not to put any actions on my list that take more than 1/2 hour. If they're bigger I break them down.

Does this help?

Actions that represent time

I agree

One of the limitations I found with GTD, when I was using it, was it's view that everything could be broken down into small, easily identifiable actions. That's quite achievable in IT-land where building or maintaining something has logical steps. But it can be a right pain in 'creative-land', where there's not a consistently definable end product at the start of the project (or if their is the goal posts move in the middle of the work).

I think the bigger question here is - how do you resolve the fact that some actions are quick and some take more time?
One easy way to do this is to estimate the amount of time required or available to do the work and come up with a simple marker for time.
For example - Grad School Application "project".
Action 1 research (2 hours),
action 2 draft essay (10 hours),
action 3 review essay (2 hours).
This is a bit clunky to manage, so how about

Act1 Reseach hour 1 of 2
Act1 Research hour 2 / 2
Act2 Draft essay hour 1 / 10
Act2 Draft essay hour 2 / 10
Act2 Draft essay hour 3 / 10
etc, etc.

Now you have identifiable actions that can be assigned, even if they are not individual actions