How long is a GTD projects list?
The project list is the heart of the Getting Things Done method. The project list contains all tasks, projects and other work-to-do’s that you want to finish in the next twelve to eighteen months.
But — how many projects is that? What is normal? How do you know you’ve got too many (or not enough)? How long should the list be?
Sixty plus or minus 150?
In his seminars David Allen mentions an average range of sixty to 120 projects. But, he also states that this can change from person to person. In my own GTD software, Omnifocus, I currently count 78 active projects, about half of them waiting on someone else. One of my coachees had more than 300 active projects.
How much can you handle?
But the question should not be: how long should the list be. Rather: what can you handle? How many projects can you help along at least one physical step, one next action, in the next week or two?
And that rather depends on the kinds of projects on your list. If the majority of the projects have small next actions that consume little time and energy you can take on quite a few. But if you have a large number of projects where each next action takes an hour or more, your eight hour work day is soon over.
During the weekly review (you are doing the weekly review, aren’t you?) you may notice that a number of projects haven’t moved in the past week or weeks. That”s a signal that you have too many projects on the list.
To avoid spending energy on things that aren’t as important and/or urgent you could then move a number of projects to the Someday/maybe list. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever finish them. It just means you’re making a conscious decision to spend your time and attention on projects that have a higher priority.
During the next weekly review you can reconsider. Do you have the time and bandwidth to take on that project’s next actions in the coming week? If yes, move it back from Someday/maybe to your active Projects list.
In other words: Projects and Someday/maybe are communicating vessels. Someday/maybe catches the Projects that overflow, and, in turn, can be used to add to the Project list once there’s room for more.
How many projects are on your list, and how you do make sure there are not too many?