ZOMBIE Projects! What do you do with projects that come back from the dead?

Hi everybody!

I'm enjoying GTD and implementing it in my new job as a security IT worker. However, this situation just came up and seems to be occurring more and more.

Projects start up in the IS department. No one really thinks about me until they require additional access or some consulting work. At that point, I start up a folder for the project. I complete my consulting or tasks on the project. We have some kind of meeting where I explain what I did. At the end of the meeting (as I always do), I ask "So what actions am I taking away from this meeting?" and they say "None. We're done with you for now." Yay.

After this, I *used to* then close out my "project" - mark it done and file away the folder. Of course, the project is still going on in the background, but at least I have nothing to do with it.

Until one or two weeks later when they require some more work done. Often, I need the reference papers I had before on the project, which means I reincarnate the folder or start a new one and move the papers back over. The same project pops up, over and over again, like whack-a-mole. I feel like I shouldn't put projects away if they're still going on somewhere.

What do you do in these cases? I'm wondering if I should mark "waiting for" something and leave the project open, but I'm not really waiting for anything in particular. Or maybe I should mark the project done and open a new project each time they give me work? It just seems wrong to have to dig my project out of the graveyard every time they need me.

Any ideas? What do you do with these "idle times" when they come up?

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Sounds like it works as is

Perhaps a few changes in terminology and approach will help.
Rather than "closing" a project, just mark it "No actions pending" and file it.
When it "re-surfaces", add a new page in the rear and hit the ground running.

So that will mean you will end up with a bunch of open projects requiring no action.

And this is bad because ... ?? I do not see a down side to this.

"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)


As long as the one term you don't change is "Zombie Project". That's just too cool. ;)

Re the projects that won't die

I agree with the comments above.

However, you could...

Create one large file for all your contributions to the Large Project you don't own with subsections for the GTD categories for your own projects. That means having 'completed', 'waiting for', etc in the one file. (Not very GTD-friendly but it might be useful with morphing projects).

Accept that 'completed' is sometimes 'never completed' as you may well get questions on work you've done today in 5 years time. And just file your projects under "active" and "inactive".

Or channel your 'inner Buffy' and stake the Zombie projects. :)

Poor Process


This sounds to me like poor project planning on the part of the Project Manager (not you).

They should be figuring out what ALL the tasks are somewhere near the beginning of the project, and let you know what ALL of your deliverables will be in advance. There'd be no popping back from the dead because you'd know you're expected to do X later on--and you'd have a Waiting For, with the criteria to be matched--like a date, or a person.

Working on IT projects myself, I know you don't always know everything at the start of the project, but you make it sound like you're a dependent but not a participant. This is weird.

They way to educate someone else that they need to think farther ahead is this: At the end of the task they've asked you for, you say "OK, then I'm done with this part. Do you mind if we go over the project plan (or future tasks) so we can identify what I'll have to do later on?" You can ask what else until you're blue in the face, but if you examine their plan, you'll be able to see the places yourself where you might get called in.

It sounds like you're in a place where projects are like general contracting. What you need in order to plan your work is more integration, more participation.

As far as what to do with your folders, well, I personally would do as the others have said--set the folder 'aside' while the project is still active (in the reference file) and move it to the archive when the whole project is really done.