The art of the projects list

How to use your Projects List

Use your ‘Projects List’ to keep track of all the projects that you’re currently working on. I would define a project as a collection of actions that is designed to achieve a particular aim. So, a project is any piece of work that requires more than a couple of action steps to complete. Even with only a couple of action steps, if the desired final outcome will take more than one week to achieve, I would still classify this as a project.


We tend to think of projects as only being larger items, or only collaborative in nature. I would argue that even relatively small and individual outcomes should actually be labelled as projects, rather than thought of as just ‘things to do’. For example, getting a replacement phone when your phone contract is up is often treated as a thing to do when it’s not.

What are your actions?

The desired outcome is to have a new phone, maybe a new network, up and running. But to get there, we might have a range of actions from researching phones on the internet, calling our current provider, comparing price plans and thinking about our current usage, speaking to friends about their experiences, visiting the local phone shop, buying the phone, activating it and getting the direct debit payment form sent off. That’s a collection of actions making up one project. Therefore, what’s added to your Projects List is something like ‘Buy new phone’ – or if possible, something slightly more measurable like ‘Buy new phone before trip to Italy in May’. One of the problems we often face with the standard to-do list is the fact that with only one list there is no sense of scale. We therefore mix the tiniest of actions with the largest of projects, all on one list, and then wonder why we feel overwhelmed!

List by Davidd, Flikr


Your Projects List is really just a checklist of all the current projects you’re working on, which you won’t need to use on a daily basis, Your Projects List doesn’t need to be hugely detailed. It’s function is primarily to ensure that you have some focus on at a more strategic level at least once a week. The Projects List generates actions. From each project will come one or more current actions and obviously as projects move forward, new actions are generated and added to the Master Actions List, ready for completion.


Naming a project

When thinking about defining and naming your projects, it’s important to help your mind visualise a successful final outcome. So think about the following questions:

– What is the successful outcome I’m seeking?

– How will I measure success?

These two simple questions can not only help us define a project, but also name it. It’s a great tip to make the name of the project reflect the measure of success. So for example, rather than talk about ‘Conference’, talk about ‘Conference with 100 delegates’ or instead of ‘Job’, talk about ‘New job role by September 2013’.

Good luck with your Projects List; let me know if you have any tips for creating great projects.

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