Dealing with too many projects

Back in June, I blogged about the impact of long-lived projects.

If you’re following a PARA structure, projects should be short-lived. Think along the lines of 1-2 weeks in duration. This ensures that you’re always focused on only the most immediate and actionable things, you develop a feeling of consistent project as you regularly complete projects, and you build a sense of trust in your system for helping you to live the life you desire to live.

It’s also a problem if you have too many projects going-on at the same time. Too many simultaneous projects is likely an indicator that you’re multi-tasking and thus context-switching.

In the popular productivity space, many articles (indeed, there is no shortage) describe how context-switching harms productivity. Switching contexts is akin to asking your computer to reboot in a new operating system–it takes time to do the rebooting, which takes away from the time you could be working on your tasks.

A side effect of context-switching and juggling too many projects is that projects that could be completed in 1-2 weeks now take longer.

So how should you address the issue of having too many projects?

Set some of them aside for now. There are many ways to do this. I will quickly discuss 4 of those ways here.

Create a Someday/Maybe list or folder. This is borrowing a structure from the Getting Things Done methodology. A Someday/Maybe list is intended to keep track of things that we may want to do in the future. By writing them down instead of storing them in our heads, we free up our minds to do other things. Projects that we’re putting off for now could be good candidates for this list until we’re ready to start them.

Create a project buffer/queue. This is a list/folder of projects that we want to start in the future. It could be a general pool, or prioritized in some way. You could use this space to hold projects until they’re ready to be started.

Move them to the archives. The Archive is already part of the PARA structure. You could also use this space to hold projects until they’re ready to be started.

Delete them. You may also choose to delete projects from your PARA system for now. This adds the risk of your forgetting about a project. But it removes the risk of zombie projects. These are projects that gather somewhere but never die (ie. get completed).

Reminder that if you have resources in a project folder, make sure you distribute them appropriately to your PARA structure before moving/deleting that project folder 🙂

2 thoughts on “Dealing with too many projects

  1. Hey Tyler,

    these are some superb ways to deal with too many projects. I use several of them. Now that I think about it, I guess that I read this post before and was influenced by it when I wrote my post on WIP limits ( Basically, what I do in addition to the methods you mentioned is add a number behind my P.A.R.A. spaces. It looks something like this:
    1. Projects (7)
    2. Areas (21)
    3. Ressources (21)
    4. Archive

    The numbers are visual cues to make me remember about the laws of throughput

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