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How does Getting Things Done (GTD) recommend handling task dependencies (one task that can't be started until another task is completed)? I understand how it works when they are part of the same project, but what about unrelated tasks in different projects (or on their own) where one can't be completed before the other?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

It doesn't recommend handling task dependencies, because if done properly it shouldn't be a problem.

Why is that? Because a task that is dependent on an unfinished task shouldn't be in your Next Actions.

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Then when processing the inbox, where should it go? – jrdioko Jul 1 '11 at 17:59
@rdioko: Into a "Later" list or "Waiting For" list depending on your system, I think... – Tom Wijsman Jul 1 '11 at 18:00

If these tasks stand presently on their own, i.e. not part of a project, then joining them into a project would be the obvious answer. A project need not be anything big, but is merely an outcome that is dependent on several actions.
Even though GTD does not offer anything within projects that handles dependencies, you can probably either denote them here by listing them next to each other, and making some note/addition to the title regarding the dependency, or they are clear when you review the project. In any case, only the first undone one of the two or more steps goes into you next actions list.
That's the easy case. If you have dependencies that extend across several projects, or multiple dependencies, then this is outside of the scope of the pure GTD system. It falls into the area of project management, and needs to be handled with its own system if it occurs more frequently. For single occurrences, you might hack something together, depending on what implementation you use. A simple version would be a new project that temporarily houses all dependent actions, and from where these are then added to your next actions lists once the action that blocked the others has been completed.

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I would want to see X task at the particular context list where the task will be performed. I would also want a marker that X task has a prerequisite task.

When I see X task in the context list I would want to know that the prerequisite task has not yet been completed. That prerequisite task would be the next action on my project list to get X done.

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Welcome to Personal Productivity! I'm not sure I understand your answer. Could you elaborate? – THelper Feb 13 '13 at 8:40
lets say I have a check to deposit. I also have to go shopping for project materials. the check has nothing to do with the project that I am shopping for. But in my errands list depositing the check will come before I start shopping. Both items will appear on my errands list and depositing the check will be a next action on my project list. – Manuel Hernandez Feb 13 '13 at 15:21
Manuelhe, this isn't how GTD works. – Rory Alsop Feb 15 '13 at 9:09
Let me clarify that depositing check is not next action on my project list. It would be my first intuitive choice of action on my @errands list. Which point of GTD does this violate? – Manuel Hernandez Feb 15 '13 at 15:20
The point I am trying to make is that dependencies are not always explicitly linked. Often times, especially out in the field they are linked by intuition. The benefit of GTD is that you think through all your possible goals and actions and create lists that let you see them at the most opportune times – Manuel Hernandez Feb 15 '13 at 15:42

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