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  • Moving from projects to next actions

    Hello all,

    I really enjoy the premise of the program and have been trying to master what the best system for me is for the last few months. I run into a mental block when trying to figure out what to put on my next actions list. Should I have multiple lists? One mega list or hat?

    Here is how I've operate so far. Write down a project and then all the steps I can conceivably think of for that project. Then I try and hammer through as many as I an. Where I hit a bind is when I have more then one project on the go as often happens in work. How then do I put actions from more then one project on my next action list without having a different list for each project and then indeed a list of lists until it becomes untenable.

    I've also tried using evernote so that my home and work projects are easily connected, but have yet yo come up with a good system.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Have you read the book?

    If you have access to the book, Getting Things Done, you should give it a close read. There is a lot of great information in the forums too but it all makes more sense having read (and re-read) the book.

    Your Next Actions list(s) should contain only those things that you are committed to doing that you can do right now. With reference to a specific project, you should have at least one Next Action but if you have more than one they must be independant. Any other planned actions that are dependant on finishing something else should be stored in Project Support.

    I don't know anyone who has only one project. I currently have 43 work projects and 46 personal projects and about 150 in Someday/Maybe. My Next Action lists are split by "context", which defines which actions I can do at any given time: at home, at work, errands etc. David Allen suggests some default Contexts to get you started and I highly recommend using those for a while and then tweaking them to fit your work and life.

    You will want a Waiting-For list as well to keep track of everything you are waiting for from others.

    Good luck!

    Comment


    • #3
      Good Answer from responder in addition

      Also, something which helps me is to anchor my next actions on my next action lists with a project it comes from. So you can have the next action written as follows

      Call Store and inquiry about buyback - Project Buyback TV -Category Finance folder

      This little tip helps me to trace back my next actions to the appropriate folder at the appropriate Project. When you have 200 Next actions you are doing...this becomes priceless help when you are going through your next actions

      I hope this helps.

      Ascend

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      • #4
        Yes I've read the book. Glad to see another Manitoban on here too. Where I get confused logistically is do I keep several next action lists going at the same time and if so how do I move to the day to day in that when I've got several projects on the go or am I just overthinking this which is totally possible too.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by canadianian View Post
          Yes I've read the book. Glad to see another Manitoban on here too. Where I get confused logistically is do I keep several next action lists going at the same time and if so how do I move to the day to day in that when I've got several projects on the go or am I just overthinking this which is totally possible too.
          I'm not sure you're doing what most gtd'ers would do. The typical project cycle is something like this:
          1) Project surfaces and is placed on project list with desired outcome.
          2) At least one next action, doable now, is identified and placed on a context list, i.e., @computer.
          3) Any other plans, notes, et cetera goes into project reference.
          4) Next action is selected from context list at appropriate time and place.
          5) Work on project is performed. Project reference consulted as needed.
          6) If the project is not done, do 2), else done.
          7) Do something else.

          Most projects, in the gtd sense, don't require a lot of formal project planning. Refilling prescriptions is a few obvious sequential steps; quarterly off-site backups are a few obvious sequential steps. Getting the siding on my parent's house repaired is a few steps. Writing a long manuscript is mostly putting one sentence after another. The key here is the idea of a lists of next actions by context rather than by project, though.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
            I'm not sure you're doing what most gtd'ers would do. The typical project cycle is something like this:
            1) Project surfaces and is placed on project list with desired outcome.
            2) At least one next action, doable now, is identified and placed on a context list, i.e., @computer.
            3) Any other plans, notes, et cetera goes into project reference.
            4) Next action is selected from context list at appropriate time and place.
            5) Work on project is performed. Project reference consulted as needed.
            6) If the project is not done, do 2), else done.
            7) Do something else.
            That's a great summary. Thanks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by canadianian View Post
              Yes I've read the book. Glad to see another Manitoban on here too. Where I get confused logistically is do I keep several next action lists going at the same time and if so how do I move to the day to day in that when I've got several projects on the go or am I just overthinking this which is totally possible too.
              You should only have one next action list, comprising next actions for all your projects. I wonder if the problem is that you are trying to put "next" next actions on your list.

              For example for a project "fix the sink". Next action might be "call Fred for advice". The action after that might be "follow Fred's advice" but that is not a next action because it depends on the first true next action.

              You can put the "next" next actions under project support but often mapping out a project's expected future in such detail can be a waste of time because of unexpected results from previous activity. For example in the project above, Fred might not be able to give advice and the next action would then become "call a plumber".

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by treelike View Post
                You should only have one next action list, comprising next actions for all your projects.
                At the risk of splitting hairs, you would have multiple next action lists, sorted by context (e.g. @computer example given by mcogilvie above)... they would be comprised of project-associated and discrete next actions (in other words, some next actions you have are just next actions - like "pick up dry cleaning")...

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                • #9
                  Day to day use of lists

                  Where I get confused logistically is do I keep several next action lists going at the same time and if so how do I move to the day to day in that when I've got several projects on the go or am I just overthinking this which is totally possible too.
                  As others have responded above, yes you keep several next action lists going plus your calendar. You also have a Projects List and a Someday/Maybe List.

                  The way you interact day to day will depend very much on the nature of your work and life. For some, their work is very prescriptive and they will not have much discretionary time. For many, all we have is discretionary time with the odd meeting parked on the calendar. Basically, you want to review your lists as often as you need to to be comfortable that you are doing the most appropriate action at all times.

                  An example. Every morning I get into my office, clear out my tickler file and check my calendar. I now have a picture of my day (e.g., today, I have an hour and then I'm off to a meeting all morning but the afternoon is free in the office). Then I review my two @work next action lists which have items from most of my 43 work projects plus a lot of non-project actions. This is to remind me of what is already on my plate and sometimes something jumps off that needs immediate action.

                  Only then do I switch to my email. I can then process my email inbox to zero if I have time. But more importantly, I now have some perspective with which to judge these new emails. Is this request that came in last night more important than those other items on my list? Maybe - maybe not.

                  Hope that helps. Keep at it and check out all the valuable information on this website and in the forums. Ask as many specific questions as you need to - folks here are great at answering!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SiobhanBR View Post
                    An example. Every morning I get into my office, clear out my tickler file and check my calendar. I now have a picture of my day (e.g., today, I have an hour and then I'm off to a meeting all morning but the afternoon is free in the office). Then I review my two @work next action lists which have items from most of my 43 work projects plus a lot of non-project actions. This is to remind me of what is already on my plate and sometimes something jumps off that needs immediate action.

                    Only then do I switch to my email.
                    Thanks for the reminder of that simple "order of things..." I'm still seduced by my email in box siren, so I will, from now on, check my lists FIRST, email SECOND! That will be my new mantra (along with "All my power resides in this now moment")! It makes perfect sense, as what you're doing is giving yourself data which aids in the processing of the incoming emails...!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Interesting, I thought most people just had one single next action list like me. My list is sorted by context so I can zoom in on the appropriate actions for where I am. Only possible with an electronic system of course.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by treelike View Post
                        For example in the project above, Fred might not be able to give advice and the next action would then become "call a plumber".
                        Well said, LOL! (And I like trees, too.)

                        To Canadianian: By the way, I'm Canadian, too. Here's an example to illustrate the usefulness of sorting actions by context, not by project. Suppose I have a bunch of projects, including "organize a party at my house on a certain date" and "fix my bicycle", and also a bunch of single actions -- things that need to be done but don't count as whole projects because they contain only one action. Let's say "buy safety pins" is a single action in my system.

                        Then, when I go to the hardware store, all I have to do is look at my "list of things to buy at the hardware store" (yes, I do maintain such a list, on part of a page in a paper notebook that's in my pocket all the time). This list might contain an item of kitchen equipment I want to buy to help prepare food for the party; something I need to fix my bicycle; and safety pins. I don't need to worry right then about which project each of those is for -- I just look at the list and buy the things (or, I can change my mind on the spot, knowing what each of them is for.)

                        Later, I'll be able to use each of them for the next step in whatever project. Actually, I guess the next step with the safety pins is to put them in the place where I usually keep safety pins, but (hopefully!!) I would just do that automatically when I unload the stuff after coming home from shopping. I don't have to write "put away groceries" on any list. Actually, I used to bring (non-grocery) stuff home, forget where I put it, and a week or so later get frustrated when I wanted to use it; I think generally using GTD has helped me think more logically about putting things where I'll run across them at the right times or remember to use them and be able to find them; I think to myself "what's the next step with this thing?" or "where will I be when I want to use this?" as I'm putting it away.
                        Last edited by cwoodgold; 01-11-2013, 03:37 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Separate project planning from next action lists

                          It's important that project plans are separate from your next action list. I have large projects, and have to do a lot of formal planning, and find that once I've done the brainstorming I might end up with many parallel open loops for the one project and therefore many next actions per project, as well as many projects all going on at the one time. So when you are generating the next action or actions for the projects, you look at your project plan and decide whether to put a NA for all of the open loops, or maybe just some of them (in order to keep the NA list to a reasonable amount of actions).

                          I have one NA list in an iPhone app (Pocket Informant) that allows sorting by context, and also viewing by project.

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