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Low priority next actions

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  • Low priority next actions

    I had around sixty next actions (not counting waiting fors) before holidays. After holidays I felt like it was too many and moved all of them to someday-maybe. Then moved back the ones I wanted/needed to move on the first. Now I have 25 next actions and 42 waiting fors.

    Now I'm sitting in my office planning next day. It's not difficult to choose what next action to start with. And I intend to continue with a next action that has number two importance, then three etc.

    My concern is I will not have time in my day to go through all of the next actions. It means I will end up with a few (or maybe even more the few) next actions that I had no time to move.

    What is your strategy for working with low priority next actions?

  • #2
    I'd be pretty surprised if anyone finished all their Next Actions every day! That'd be very unusual.

    I think the thing GTD helps with is keeping me aware of those lingering Next Actions that just never seem to get done. Eventually I get tired of looking at them. I do them or decide that I'm never going to do them.

    There's nothing inherently problematic about never getting around to things that don't seem as worth doing as everything else you might be doing. Life is full of those sorts of things.



    • #3
      I use a two tier someday maybe list. Two lists, actually. One is for true someday maybes that I have not committd to in any way other than to keep them in mind for some day, and the other is an hold list, for projects I'm pretty sure I will do but cannot start until later.


      • #4
        Someday Maybe is usually a project designation, I am pretty sure.

        Basically, we have Active Projects and Someday Maybe Projects. The first we are committed to chipping away at, one action at a time (unless they take off on their own) in the time frame we are comfortable planning in, which is typically in GTD is a week to 6 months or within any time frame we can grasp taking time-programmed steps on (following an explicit schedule), or finishing by a deadline. The Someday Maybe Projects can include anything that is outside this time frame or noted to review for possible undertaking at the next review time. or they can be just ideas about things we might want to do, at some point, maybe.

        Where do Next Actions fit in? I think the only Next Action that would be associated with the SDMB list is the generic one that applies to each of these. That is, the Decision Action--decide if I am starting this now or at a known future date,or decide that I need to do something so that I can decide or throw it back for possibly undertaking in the future (goes back to SDMB) or revise it a bit or discard it.

        So that means that the next action for every project that you are doing work on before the next review is on your list. They are grouped contexts so that you do not have to read threw a zillion next actions. For many of us this is related to an essential tool, a person, or a place but for others it is related to a condition such as weather, mental state, etc. If you have have too many contexts you will be searching contexts too much; if you have too many actions in a context you will either be overwhelmed at choosing or you will need to make an arrangement to work for a long period in that context or you could, non-GTD style, find a way to prioritize among them. If you decide not to do some of the NAs on your list, it might be a trigger to put the Projects they belong to back on the SDMB list, or to put on the calendar with a review date for activation.

        The hardest part for me is not knowing what my real resources are in time, energy, and at times money and helpers. Another hard part is a feeling of setting something aside physically when it is mentally alive for me but I just can't do it now and I don't want to admit it. And the really, really hard part is committing to projects I do not want to do but have to or are afraid to do.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
          I had around sixty next actions (not counting waiting fors) before holidays. After holidays I felt like it was too many and moved all of them to someday-maybe. Then moved back the ones I wanted/needed to move on the first. Now I have 25 next actions and 42 waiting fors. ...

          My concern is I will not have time in my day to go through all of the next actions
          I'm probably not understanding what you are doing. Someday/Maybe is for projects not for actions.

          My system right now has over 500 on-hold someday/maybe projects, about 160 current active projects and about 200 current next actions. There is no way I'll complete all of those next actions in a single day but they are the actual next action to do for projects I am committed to doing within a reasonably short timeframe.

          Some I have no time to do, skirt fleeces is one next action I have and it's going to take about 6 hours. I didn't have time today to do 6 hours on one task and I probably won't tomorrow either. So what, I'll get to it as soon as I can and it is the next thing for that particular project. A bunch of other tasks and projects are waiting for that one to be done. If I get to weekly review and I discover I haven't finished that task I need to decide, do I still need to do it? Can the project wait? Is it more important than getting sheep vaccinated, toes trimmed and other tasks that I did instead of it this week? Do I need to put the entire project on hold for a while? Until then, I leave it active and next, as I just might wake up tomorrow to another 3 inches of snow when the only reasonable task to do is go over to the shop and skirt fleeces.

          You need to get used to a large list of next actions and that many of them won't be completed in any given day.

          The critical factor is are they really actions not projects, are they really next and not future and are you still committed to finishing that project in a reasonable timeframe. If all the answers are yes then leave them on your lists.


          • #6
            Projects are either active or inactive. Your active projects are the ones you are moving on now and the inactive ones can go into your Someday-Maybe list so you know you have not forgotten them.

            Each active project will have a next action which is like a bookmark. The goal here is to achieve an asynchronous communication with your own mind about what your commitments are. This allows you to step back and think clearly, either deciding what to do next, or engage fully in the task you are doing now.

            GTD has the idea of a 'hard landscape', which are the actions that must be done on that day, or else bad things will happen. Since it is discouraging to add intended actions to the hard landscape, and then move them every day, the GTD books say don't do that.

            So, in theory, you would do the things on the hard landscape and then pick off actions from your next actions lists to fill in the discretionary time you have left.

            However, in a work environment, you will be working to agreed priorities, so how to add these into the system? When someone comes to me and says "this is very important", I add it to a separate short-list and, at the next opportunity, I get my manager to confirm them. Project X is 1, Project Y is 2, Project Z is 3. As I work these top priorities, I keep a very simple log of the hours over the last week, spent on each. Monday (X=3 hours, Z=2 hours). Then at the end of every day, I decide what order to work them tomorrow, so they all get the attention they need over the week, with top priorities getting more time. From a pure GTD point of view, these two lists are reference data for me; there is no commitment to be broken.

            Each time I finish a task, I do:
            (1) Check the calendar, should I be doing something now?
            (2) Clear my external inbox, has anything new come up to alter my plan?
            (3) Work the next actions of the top project until it has had enough time and log the time spent

            The intention here is to make sure that each project is getting its correct share of effort according to the agreed priorities with the person in charge of my work, while not experiencing the disappointment of failing to complete next actions by the end of the day.
            Last edited by pxt; 04-13-2011, 03:40 AM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
              What is your strategy for working with low priority next actions?
              This is a generalized answer to this question; I'm not trying to address the specifics of other answers here. Here's a few concepts that I've embraced about low priority things:
              • Track them.
              • Feel good about not doing them when you're focused on higher priorities
              • Do them when my energies are too low to deal with higher priority, higher energy things
              • Renegotiate agreements weekly. Low priority high-energy actions are usually related to projects. Move them to/from S/M as appropriate.