Jul 5, 2016

2 min read

Getting Things Done: Defining Projects Effectively

GTD in essence helps you to capture all open loops in your life, put them into a trusted, structured system, and to process the next actions for getting things done.

After using GTD for more than 3 months, I still find myself sometimes stuck with projects and next actions. Most of the time, its one or two reasons: a) The project is unclear, I do not know the goal or perceive it as worthwhile, b) the next actions are not clear enough, too vague, not easy enough to slip into it.

It is important to define clear next actions. I’m amazed how much thinking and writing help your mind to focus on the outcome, to move forward with little steps.

But from top down, getting your project definitions clear and motivating is even more important. This post explains my approach to project definition.

1. Project title

A title can visualize your project outcome, define a status you want to achieve, name a thing you want to create. Use a title that motivates you to want the results achieved now. An example: Instead of “Plan Holiday” use “Explore Traditional Japan”.

2. Project description

Clarify the outcome of the project, set yourself into defined outcome visions and write them down. Think about a story you want to tell your friends and your family, and extend this motivation into the project description.

3. Define Milestones

Milestones help you to break down a complex project into chunks. This in turn helps you to move forward with intermediate checkpoints, giving you the option to make corrections and clarifications.

Get into the habit of defining about three milestones per project. Then add some next actions to them. Visualize how you fulfill each step.

Independent of whether you like to push yourself into doing or like to pull next actions, milestones help you. Add completion dates to them if you are the push type. Read your milestones regularly if you are the pull type.

4. Add next actions regularly

The final step is about the evolutional aspect of a project. The goal becomes clearer, the next actions simpler to identify. Its a two way process. Practice both sides continuously.


Defining projects effectively is all about making the project desirable, clear, and do-able. Give your projects a motivating title, describe the goals, define milestones and regularly add next actions.

IT Project Manager & Developer

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