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  • Managing next actions

    Dears!

    OK I'm going around 75% of the book and read A LOT in internet about GTD, and for the first time in my life I'm trying seriously to get organized!!.
    I didn't know if to post this here or in the software forum, but I think is better here because is not related with any specific software, if I'm wrong, I apologize.

    I have a problem achieving one of the goals of GTD: "There is no reason ever to have the same thought twice, unless you like having that thought."

    I have set up a toodledo account (and tried other software and the problem is mine not really related with the software hehe) and implemented something similar to GTD and I wrote everything I have to do in personal and professional life and ......... I do feel relieved and definitely I'm getting "more" things done.

    the problem like I mentioned, is with the "not think twice" idea, I permanently have like a 100 actions (this are more or lest the number of task per week), which are not really related with each-other and don't have any real due time or dead line and following the idea of the "sacred calendar" I'm not assigning it a due day , in other words are all next actions, the problem is that I find my self reading this list like 10 times a day, to decide what to do, then I'm actually thinking in each task 10 times a day.

    I cannot separate the tasks in Home and Office, because my office is in my home and all the time even on the go, I have phone, computer and internet, then the place or the connectivity filter is not really a thing that can help me deciding what to do next

    my question is: how do you decide your next actions for that day, and sorry if this is an easy question, but I don't know yet how to solve it.

    thanks in advance!!

  • #2
    my question is: how do you decide your next actions for that day, and sorry if this is an easy question, but I don't know yet how to solve it.
    Hello there,

    Easy in concept, yes. Not always so easy in application. And probably one of the most common ones we get! Hopefully some of this will help.

    First, decisions are made by trusting your gut, butt, intuition (or whatever makes sense to you) that KNOWS you're making the right decision given the information you have in the moment.

    Then, where are you looking for those choices?
    First, I look at my calendar each day for choices, since that's showing me time-specific actions, day-specific actions and day-specific information. David suggests only those 3 items on your Calendar. So the things that need to be done ON that day and can only be done on that day. That best practice alone will make your Calendar more effective. Never seen it fail.

    Then, I flip to my Next Action lists to see what I can do based on:

    Context (where am I?)
    Time Available (how much time do I have?)
    Resources (what's my energy like?)
    Priority (what will give me the biggest payoff, given how the choice maps to my Horizons of Focus?)

    Next Actions lists are a mix of items that have a due date and likely a whole bunch that just need to be done as soon as you can get to it. Best practice there? Don't over-due date yourself. Use them sparingly so you trust them.

    Then finally, get familiar with the Threefold Nature model, which guides you on how you spend your time, doing pre-defined work, defining work, or work as it appears.

    These models are all under the "Doing" phase of GTD if you scan the book again. Lots of gold to be mined in that section. And we've done webinars on GTD Connect diving into the Doing phase in great detail, including a webinar with David on Strategies for Doing.

    Hope that helps!

    Comment


    • #3
      Do the first one on the list or roll a dice.

      And if none of the criteria described by Kelly gives the answer - simply do the first one on the list or roll a dice since apparently it does not matter what you should do first.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think the reason this is difficult to formulate is because it's an artificial intelligence process that includes all the points made by TesTeq and Kelly above.

        It's similar to learning to drive. If we tried to make a flowchart of all the decisions needed for each person to drive in each scenario, it would be impossible to think fast enough. By the time we had driven 20 feet, we'd already have crashed.

        Instead, we start with some goals, such as wanting to get from A to B and not wanting to hit anything. Our driving instructors give us some additional values and processes. Then we go and drive. The things we do well, we ignore, and keep on doing them. When things happen that we don't like, we notice it and modify something and see if it helps.

        Ultimately, we each end up with a (different, but related) set of heuristic behaviours, but if anyone asked us we would just call it experience or gut feeling. The reason for the differences is that we each identify a different set of 95% of decisons that we don't need to make.

        So I would say that we would start by reminding ourselves of the factors mentioned by Kelly, such as resources and priorities. Then just pick off tasks like TesTeq suggests. If you like what happened, just forget about it. If you don't, then consider what task you would have preferred to have done. You may realise why you preferred that task, for example you may have spent too much time doing work as it turns up and neglected pre-defined work, or you may not consciously see the pattern. Just notice and try again.

        Eventually, you will have a combination of conscious rule-driven decisions and some unconscious rules that collectively you call your gut.
        Last edited by pxt; 07-21-2011, 03:14 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          thanks to all of you for your advices, you are right, I guess if my fault for trying to get a perfect system in just couple of weeks. I think this is because in the paper when studding it, doesn't seems so complicated but you realize that you need experience when put it in practice!

          thanks and I will keep trying!

          cheers!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by sirrick View Post
            my question is: how do you decide your next actions for that day, and sorry if this is an easy question, but I don't know yet how to solve it.
            Okay, here's the thing: unlike so many other systems in this space, GTD is not inherently built around working on the timescale of a day or a week.

            It's possible to make GTD work like that, and some people like using it for daily or weekly planning, so it's not "wrong" per se. But I suspect a lot of new users just kinda default to using it this way, because they think that's how time management has to work.

            GTD tends to work well for answering the question: how do I decide my next action *right this moment*. It's less-oriented towards questions like "my next action six hours from now" or "my next action next Tuesday."

            So you might try giving that a shot.


            Cheers,
            Roger

            Comment


            • #7
              (Apologies if I post this more than once - I'm getting "strip special characters" messages and can't find the problem.)

              I don't generally decide on my next actions for the day; I try to just decide on my next action for right now - while, of course, not forgetting any hard deadlines coming up. So if I choose an action that will take me several hours, I'll check my calendar and my tasks coming due to make sure it's "safe" to disappear into that action. But I don't choose a day's worth of actions - I choose one.

              One strategy could be to add more contexts that have to do with your personal mental or mood resources. For example, I have a "mindless" context for time-consuming zero-thought tasks that would be a waste of time when I'm at my best, but perfect for times when I'd otherwise just slack off and take a vacation hour. Similarly, I have "reading", "writing", "coding", and so on - those aren't so obviously to do with mental or mood resources, but that's effectively how they're used.

              An added strategy could be to group tasks that aren't logically part of a project in the sense of having the same final goal, into a project based on their similarity. For example, I have a "reading" project as well as a "reading" context, because there's some reading to do that isn't aimed at a specific single project, but instead is just "keep up with knowledge" reading.

              Another strategy could be to just do the tasks in order. I realize that this sounds artificial and goofy, but it would be a good way of testing whether your tasks really are at the "just do it" level or if they're mis-sized, under defined, and so on. So it could be entertaining to spend an occasional morning or afternoon just walking through and doing tasks in order.

              A similar strategy could be to maximize the number of tasks that you knock off in a specific period of time. I sometimes do this on Fridays as the day is winding down and I don't want to build a big train of thought that will just be lost over the weekend - I kill off a bunch of five- and ten- minute tasks.

              You could consider separating Home and Office, but instead making them Leisure and Work. I think that it's appropriate to declare times when Work tasks will be ignored - and, similarly, it's a waste of work time to be looking through personal recreational tasks.

              If your tasks don't have a firm deadline, and you're drowning in the sheer number, you could declare some of them to be Someday-Maybe and get them off your current lists.

              Gardener

              Comment


              • #8
                thanks again to all of you!! I have a better idea now.
                PS: love the "mindless" context haha

                Comment


                • #9
                  How to pick what to do

                  To pick what to do:

                  - review your lists (Calendar and NA lists) so your memory is refreshed
                  - after scanning through your options, follow your gut with what feels like it needs your attention
                  - notice those times when your gut says to work on one project or task but you resist and pick something else; when you notice this happening, make a note to give that area some more processing attention.

                  Your mind can balance your priorities exponentially better than any system can--that is one of its primary functions.

                  Your system's function is to relieve your mind from having to remember and track so many bits of data. Your mind is not very mature at this, so it resorts to immature tactics like nagging at the worst moments--like when you're about to fall asleep.

                  Note that if you are behind on a lot of things, as you skim your lists you will be tempted to stop halfway and say "oh man, I meant to mail that letter!" and hop up to do it. Realize that, in doing so, you expose yourself to the risk of not seeing the next thing on the list that may be even more urgent.

                  You want to review the lists enough to be familiar with them. If your typical response feels more like "oh, yes, I was going to grab AA batteries while I was at the store also", you're on the right track. If your typical response feels like "oh ****, I was supposed to...!", then you are not yet at a level of familiarity that your mind can trust your system. Its response is "that's my cue" and you will start remembering things in ways that are counterproductive... like remembering a deadline of tomorrow while drifting off to sleep.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    my brother and I struggle with this ...

                    He likes to plan his next day or two by putting next actions onto his calendar at strategic times.

                    For example, if he's taking the train later at 4pm , and it's a 1 hour ride, he likes to put on his
                    calendar, some actions he can do on the train like respond to an email. Then he wants to work on his resume
                    before bed, so he puts that on the calendar for like 9pm.

                    I don't like something about this.

                    While I see it as a good idea to plan the day (week as well) with some general plans, I don't like using the calendar for next action items. For one, I know that it goes against the calendar but also the Context/Time/Energy criteria for choosing what to do is unknown later in the day.

                    He likes having something like a "plan" which has key meetings (in stone events) and then places to do other work.

                    So the issue here is something between planning the day/week and sticking to the gtd guidelines.

                    Perhaps the answer is, whatever works is what works and just bear the GTD ideas in mind. You can break the rules (i should say guidelines) wherever it makes sense.

                    What is it I don't like here? heh.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Help with tracking priority NAs!

                      Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
                      To pick what to do:


                      Your mind can balance your priorities exponentially better than any system can--that is one of its primary functions.

                      Your system's function is to relieve your mind from having to remember and track so many bits of data. Your mind is not very mature at this, so it resorts to immature tactics like nagging at the worst moments--like when you're about to fall asleep.

                      You want to review the lists enough to be familiar with them. If your typical response feels more like "oh, yes, I was going to grab AA batteries while I was at the store also", you're on the right track. If your typical response feels like "oh ****, I was supposed to...!", then you are not yet at a level of familiarity that your mind can trust your system. Its response is "that's my cue" and you will start remembering things in ways that are counterproductive... like remembering a deadline of tomorrow while drifting off to sleep.
                      Here's where I'm getting stuck. When I'm defining work, I often think about a particular NA: "That's a high priority that I need/want to get done today if possible!" or "That's a pretty high priority that I want to be sure to deal with this week." As David Allen would say, I don't want to have that same thought twice! Nor do I want to keep it in my mind, as this poster suggests! I want to use my mind for the NA at hand.

                      So I have been struggling with trying to flag or capture somehow those things that I have given those higher priorities while I am reviewing my lists and defining work. I don't want to have to look at my whole humongous list of NAs in order to try to pluck them out again. It's too easy to lose them in the pile! And it feels like a waste of time if I can predefine them and then look for those items, and catch new high priorities at the next review or when I actually create a NA and assign it a high priority.

                      Trouble is, I haven't figured out a way to do this well. I know GTD does not assign priorities to things. But I rebel at having to look at a list of a couple hundred items each time I want to choose one!

                      I am using Omnifocus, which allows items to be flagged. But that's just a toggle on/off, which I try to limit to the most urgent better-do-it-asap items. (Being true to GTD, I don't set false deadlines!) I can sift for flags, and that gives me a way to get to the stuff I've already decided is important. But it's really those medium-high items that have given me trouble.

                      One approach I tried was to layer a personal kanban (see personalkanban.com) approach over my work contexts, with essentially four bins: Work in Progress (only one item at a time), Work Today (stuff I think is important to get done today and/or asap — can be many items, but I try to keep it manageable), This Week (self explanatory), and Backlog (everything else). But that's not working too well, either, possibly because I've been falling down on the weekly review.

                      So my main question is this: how do people group or keep track of those items that may NOT have your attention, but that are lurking on the list as hot priorities or medium hot priorities?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I would assign it a due date so it shows up on my calendar. By setting a due date on the task this means it is the date I want to have it done by to be sure I'll meet my agreed timelines with others.

                        I differentiate between due dates and deadlines, deadlines are committments I have agreed to with others, and there will be people chasing me up if I don't meet them or renegotiate them. I set deadlines separately, I have created a deadline context, so all get added there. Deadlines are not actions, I don't do a deadline, it is in my system so I can review it, but I have separate next actions to actually meet them. I also know I can't change a deadline unless I discuss and get agreement with others.

                        I can change my due dates myself without having to ask someone. However I know I set the due date for a reason, ie to meet the project plan or deadline, so I like to check the project plan before giving myself an extension, and make sure it'll still be ok. Although be warned, your calendar is sacred space and don't give due dates to too many tasks, only those that really are top priority, otherwise you'll just end up making a daily to-do list and never get to work off your lists.

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