Can goals be projects?

Hi folks!
I use Thinking Rock software for my next actions, a small notebook to record my thoughts, and a paper calendar for my appointments (because I'm not usually near my computer when someone invites me to something).

I find that my projects generally fall into 2 categories:
1. Daily-life projects (for example, paint the living room, or make enhancements to a database at work).
2. Goals that may take years (save money so I can buy my next car with cash, or get my black belt in karate).

Particularly with the financial goals, I find my next actions on the nebulous goals sometimes need to be held off. It's not "delegated" to someone, it's just something that I can't do yet.

For example, I want to put $500 into my new-car savings account - but I can't really list that as a next action, because I don't have $500 right now. When I save my $500, I will put it into the account. It's not something that can be delegated. It's not something that can be "tickled" later. It's just something I want to keep in the back of my head.

As for karate, I am pretty close to finishing that project - but I can't go for my black belt test until 1) I save up the money and 2) my instructor decides I am ready. What next actions would you use for this kind of situation?

How do you deal with this stuff? Should I be breaking my next-actions into something smaller? Can you even use GTD to organize your finances?

If you were going to GTD-ize saving for a car or a home, how would you do it?

I love GTD but when I start getting into my dreams (or 10,000 miles above ground level as he would call it), it starts breaking down for me.

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Next actions


On financial goals, you need to break it down further. The $500 for the new car savings account is itself a project. Try researching ways you can save $1 at a time--let's say $1 per day. Does your bank offer a free 'christmas club' type account that you can do automatic deductions to? Do you have a glass jar you can set in a prominent place to empty your pocket change into each day? There are lots of ways to save the money you need, you just need to 1) research the ways, 2) choose your preferred way, and THEN your next action would be to actually execute your plans.

For Karate, you need to break it down more as well. It's both a financial project (save the money for the test) and a behavioral project. The behavioral part is something like this:
* Ask instructor for a list of weaknesses that prevent me from being ready to take black belt test tomorrow.
* Determine action plan for each weakness. (this to include studying, practicing, etc. that is measurable and actionable)

After those are done, THEN you can have a next action of 'do' something.

Anyway, the point is to break the actions down into small enough chunks that you *can* do them now, without waiting.


Hm. Well, do you need to put

Hm. Well, do you need to put the 500 dollars in all at once? Is there a smaller, consistent amount you can put in? You could schedule those small additions.
Similar concept would work for the black belt test. Do you have a consistent practice schedule? Do you need to increase your workout intensity? Since you don't know when you'll actually test, work on a better practice schedule, perhaps.

Yeah this might

Yeah this might work...let's do something like this...

I figure my car (which is a '99) will last to at least 2010 with care. I have about $2000 right if I have $200 direct-deposited into my savings account I should be able to get a very nice car by 2010. (And if my car dies before then, I'll either have to get a lesser car or borrow money.) If my car lasts longer than 2010, I'll just let the money grow.

$200 per paycheck may seem a lot but I recently got a raise so I can take that money right out of the check without even missing it.

So now my next-action will be something like "update car spreadsheet" every 2 weeks....for the next 2 years. That's pretty easy. :)

I think that will work.

Sweep a raise away


Using a recent raise as the source of automatically deducted savings is a strategy I've seen suggested in many places since I was a teenager. I have tried to use that strategy myself from time to time. Whether it's from a raise or not, automatic deductions are key to getting money out of your hands without missing it.

You miss it even less if you don't look at it every two weeks. :) For a while, we had money sweeping itself off to a money market account--a certain amount every month. It grew to be a tidy sum, and it was there when we needed it this spring when it took too long for our house to sell. After the house sold, I topped the fund back up. But I didn't even look at the monthly statements when they came in. The purpose of that fund was to be 'emergency money', not spending money. So, out of sight, out of mind. :)

The other strategy I often see is the debt payment thing where you start by paying extra money on your highest debt. When it's gone, take that whole payment and continue it--but point it at your next highest rate debt. And so on, rolling each payment into a big chunk that goes toward the next debt and the next until they're all gone. They get paid off faster and faster as long as you keep the payment total dollars at the same level you started, and you haven't made any significant changes to your cash flow.

Sustainable small efforts make a big difference. Don't forget to shunt some of your cash into the 'repair fund' bucket, though. If you're stretching a used car out, you're going to have repairs. I suppose you could use the 'new car' fund as a repair fund too, but then you have to agonize over the repair bills to decide whether to repair or replace, just so you can get the most bang for your buck.



The way that I keep this on my mind is to print out a picture of that item. For me, I found a picture of a house I could only DREAM about, but I do want to upgrade eventually. So, I printed a picture of that house and glued it onto my checkbook register front cover, so everytime I spend money, I am reminded about that ultimate goal.

So, for you, you could print a picture of a car (any car) and put it somewhere where you will be reminded of that ultimate goal. Karate too - so you save the money you need when you are ready to test!