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  • What do you do with actions that aren't quite NAs?

    What do you when you suddenly think of an action that you should do, but it's not the next action. Perhaps it's the action about 2 or 3 actions down the line and it doesn't make sense to do it as a next action (eg. it depends on the completion of an actual NA). For example, you're concentrating on an action you're doing and it's going great, and then you think "hey, I after I do this thing and the next thing, I could do X". What do you do with that idea? The NAs lists only contain the next action, and the projects list is supposed to be just a list of projects or outcomes.

    Perhaps each project should have a little list of actions next to it, and the NA list should just show the very next one? I find that I'm not sure where to file these ideas as they pop up, and they therefore tend to hang around in my 'ram', cluttering my mind and leaving me quite definitely without a mind like water!

    BTW, I'm a programmer, generally working on projects that have no 'right' answer - the answer has to be created by me and therefore it's quite a creative sort of thing to do. So there's lots of ideas about how things might be done coming into my mind all the time. The ideas don't require me to be in a particular context for me to think about them, so sometimes I'm "working" 24 hours a day, as I can progress projects anywhere. This is good because I can work anywhere, but bad because there's stuff in my ram 24/7 and when I want to file it and forget it, I don't know where it should go so it stays in my ram.

    Rangi

  • #2
    What Do You Do?

    A lot of people keep track of things like these in a Note attached to the Project.

    I have ADD and suffer from that "Out of sight, out of mind" thing, so
    I personally have an additional context list called "Dependent." I bring it up first thing every morning to see if I'm ready to move on these things yet. (Probably best if such a list is kept short or it could get confusing.)

    Good luck!

    Janice

    Comment


    • #3
      What do you do with next actions that aren't quite next acti

      For all of the projects that are multi step I link a memo or note to each project.(I use the project center in Entrourage) In that memo I keep a running list of what I have done, what needs to be done, what contingencies I should be thinking about etc etc. I update it as needed throughout the week and look at it when its time to do the next action, if I don't know it, and at my weekly review.

      Comment


      • #4
        I run into this situation frequently in which several next actions on a particular project will pop into my head and have tried several ways to manage it & capture all the ideas. Usually all the N/A's are important/critical so I need to get them written down.

        So far my best means of handling this, especially on large projects, is to use "Visual Mind" to just brainstorm the project and then save it under a unique name. When something else pops into my head while I'm at the computer I just open the project and add the N/A in its appropriate branch. If I'm away from the computer or otherwise unable to open the project, I just note it on a piece of paper & toss into my inbox to be added at the next opportunity.

        What I'm learning is that I'm getting better at lining up all the steps up front because I'm basically lazy and don't want to be constantly going back to Visual Mind to add steps for a project that's already sketched out. But it is there for those situations in which I forgot something or a new N/A pops up later on due to changes in the project, steps I initially forgot, or unanticipated inputs.

        I paid $150 for Visual Mind, but for me it's been a valuable tool in helping to get organized and has already paid for itself many times over.

        Comment


        • #5
          I keep future next actions in the note section for the project in my Palm. If I were working a paper system, I would probably keep them as project support materials separate from my next action lists and project list. The system you use doesn't really matter as long as you have a place to record them and review them regularly. The important thing is to capture them and get them out of your head.

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          • #6
            I think keeping the rest of the next actions in a note attached to the project is the way everybody who is using a PDA seems to do. What about those who use paper planners? How do you handle this? (In To Do, Doing, Done, the author talks about devoting a page in the back of the planner to each project that has more around 10 steps.)
            Frank

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            • #7
              I use a paper planner and when it's a project that has mutiple steps, I'll use a page where I list each step that will lead me to completion. Any steps I have to do that week, I'll list as an NA and cross it off my list of project steps so the step is listed in one place. If I discover another step that the project needs, I can write it on the project page and it's there for me to move to NA when it's needed.

              Comment


              • #8
                I depart somewhat from the standard GTD method (I think), in that I actually keep a list of all of my projects (in OmniOutliner on my Mac) in which every single action associated with that project is listed. (In other words, rather than just keeping a list of projects, I actually break all the projects down ahead of time and keep them in an outliner, which I find easier to use than just the flat text format of a Palm note).

                If a new idea for an action pops into my head, I just write it down on an index card and toss it into my inbox. Then at the next review--reviews happen several times a week--I sort through what's on the cards and put the actions down on the appropriate projects. The important thing is not to get bogged down sorting/thinking about/organizing your projects and tasks while you're working. Write it down on an index card, get it out of your mind and into your inbox, and trust that you'll get to it at some point. This works a lot better for me than either a) not keeping a running list or b) stopping to actually edit the list of actions while I'm in work mode.

                Comment


                • #9
                  not quite NA?

                  I think your question shows what makes GTD unique to other systems. Whenever a project comes up, you are responible for deciding 2 AND ONLY 2 things:

                  1. decide what the desired outcome is
                  2. decide the next action

                  You need to stop thinking/worrying about other actions that are not immediately NAs!

                  Such thoughts are wasted, inefficient thoughts and not part of GTD!

                  ...that being said, what do you do if you just *happen* to have thought of some later steps that you might need to address later? The same thing you do with anything else that you don't immediately need that isn't centrally part of GTD: Get them out of sight and into your reference folders- But never *actively* try to come up with future actions. (Unless, of course, they come up during a brainstorming step, which has no rules/limitations- but then they still should end up in you reference with the rest of your brainstorming results...)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Project handling

                    Hi,

                    Here's my approach to planning a large project or goal, which goes beyond the simple GTD NA concept, which doesn't work for me personally.

                    Break your project down into "mile-stones" or "mini-goals". So instead of listing all the little tasks involved in the project - some of which cannot be predicted until the time comes - you simply note down the major 'landmarks' in the project which will indicate your progress. Here is an example of what I mean...

                    Let's say you are planning a 6 month round-the-world trip. This is a big project, and requires some planning in order to have everything organized by your planned departure date.

                    So, your Project name could be "Around-the-World Trip".

                    Your 'milestones' (in order) could be something like:

                    1. Decision made on destinations

                    2. Booked holiday with the best travel agent

                    3. Prepared for holiday

                    So now you know the first milestone you need to reach before you can do reach of the other milestones.

                    You can then break down the first milestone into NA kinds of tasks. You can either figure out each NA as the time comes (and hope you meet your deadline in the end), or you can list all the tasks associated with the milestone, in order that they need to be completed (some will be prerequisites to others).

                    So the tasks for the first milestone could be something like:

                    1. Find library card
                    2. Go to library Tuesday afternoon
                    3. Borrow travel guides on interesting countries
                    4. Read travel guides and note destinations that are very appealing
                    5. Review possible destinations and make a short list
                    6. Research airfares to short-listed destinations and compare with budget
                    7. Make final decision regarding destinations.

                    When you've reached a milestone, you can then plan the tasks required to reach the next milestone. You may even find that you have to change the milestone altogether by then, as the direction you thought you would take has changed for something better.

                    This is a very simplistic example. And none of the milestones or tasks are set in stone - you can be very flexible with them. And although deadlines will help the project progress, they too are flexible - even optional if you don't have a fixed deadline for the project.

                    Please let me know what you think of this system.

                    Trisha Cupra

                    Genesis Life Coaching

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      drcode,
                      I disagree. The beauty of David's system is that you don't HAVE to know all of the steps, just the next one. There are so many cases, however, when you DO know MANY of the steps. I really don't see a downside to listing all the steps that come to mind, especially when you are sitting down with a block of time to devote to planning that one project.

                      As for storing the rest of the next actions in a reference folder, we are at that point "blending actionable and non-actionable things" to quote David. I don't want to search through reference material looking for actions.

                      The point of where to house next next actions is one that seems to come up every now and then, and is one I think is pretty valid.

                      Frank

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What do you do with actions that aren't quite NAs?

                        Hi Frank:

                        >The beauty of David's system is that you don't HAVE to know all of the steps, just the next one.

                        agreed.

                        > I really don't see a downside to listing all the steps that come to mind

                        Could you be a bit more specific here? Are you talking about NAs or non-NAs? If you're talking about NAs, then GTD states that they go into the action list as NAs. For instance, if the project is "start a band" then you might have several NAs:
                        - "Ask bob if he wants to play bass"
                        - "Look in newspaper for drummer"
                        - "buy PA system"

                        The reason this one project has multiple NAs is because these are all independent things that can be done without taking the other NAs into account. There is no question the David says to put this into the action list.

                        However, the subject of this thread refers to items that "aren't quite NAs". For instance, if you are making bread, the NA might be "buy flour in store". But the "not quite NAs" are:
                        - "Make dough"
                        - "Bake dough"

                        These items are dependent on first buying flour and do not, in my opinion, belong anywhere near the action list.

                        > ...especially when you are sitting down with a block of time to devote to planning that one project.

                        Now you are talking about the 5 stages of planning, including brainstorming. Anything that results from this should be placed in reference (and any *true* NAs belong in the action list). I stated this in my post.

                        > As for storing the rest of the next actions in a reference folder, we are at that point "blending actionable and non-actionable things" to quote David.

                        Again, I think the original questioner was referring to "actions that aren't quite NAs" and I think these items can only possibly be stored in the reference. Storing them in the action list causes the blending problem you refer to in the opposite direction.

                        I think your main disagreement with my post was that I was so fervent about staying away from non-NAs whenever possible. I maintain this position: According to GTD, stress is often caused by worrying about things you can do nothing about and avoiding effort on such non-NAs is what distinguishes GTD from other systems.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          milestones

                          Hi trishacupra:

                          I'm glad your system works for you, but I would argue it is counter to the GTD system in several ways and is more like a traditional planning system, which has some negative repercussions Dave discusses in his book.

                          First of all, I think your post blurs the line between reviewing, organizing, doing, etc. Take, for instance, the list you wrote out:

                          1. Find library card
                          2. Go to library Tuesday afternoon
                          3. Borrow travel guides on interesting countries
                          4. Read travel guides and note destinations that are very appealing
                          5. Review possible destinations and make a short list
                          6. Research airfares to short-listed destinations and compare with budget
                          7. Make final decision regarding destinations.

                          Where does list go? in the action list? in the reference? This is a classic case of the blurring of actions and non-actions that Frank Buck talked about in the last post.

                          "go to library" *may* be an NA at a future date, but you first need to know if you can find the library card. Don't spend time worrying/thinking about the library until you know you have a library card you can use- Don't stress about things that you can't do yet, or you're being inefficient.

                          The only time a list like that might come up is during brainstorming in the 5 stages of planning, but it is way way to structured for effective brainstorming. It is hard work (as I'm sure you're aware) to come up with such a nicely structured list of items numbured from 1-7. GTD argues it is better to pick out a few items that are immediately actionable and not bother planning the rest (again, it is ok to think about them in the brainstorming stage of the 5 stages of planning) until you can actually *do* them.

                          What you describe is an example of traditional planning techniques that GTD tries to get you away from.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            drcode,

                            I can see that you don't want all those extra holiday planning tasks cluttering up your Next Action list, because they really aren't things that can be done right now. Most of them can't be done until some other task is completed. That's cool.

                            But you know that those are tasks that need to be done for this project, and you know the ordering/dependencies between them. So the list has value.

                            In this example, what do you (and I mean you personally - I'm interested in how you'd handle this) do after you've "found your library card"? At that point, do you note that this task was from your "plan a holiday" project, go and look up the reference material for that project, review the list, and copy the new Next Action over to your NA list?

                            Say a friend hears about your holiday plans, and asks you to email him your shortlisted destinations once you've done the research. Do you add a note to the list in the project reference file to remind yourself? Or do you record that in another way?

                            I struggle with this idea of almost-next-actions, and projects with very definite chains of actions that need to be done in order. If I only list one NA, then each time I tick an NA off I have to go back to the project reference file for the list of things that need to be done, so I can copy the next thing over to the NA list. It seems to waste time and add burden to maintaining my lists, and sometimes I forget that there were other tasks dependent on that one, and don't get the project moving again until next time I do a review. But if I put several tasks in my NA list, it gets cluttered and it's no longer an NA list (as you pointed out).

                            Is there a better solution? What do other people do here?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              No waste of time in planning ahead

                              If you are using PDA and have action list in the Project's Memo field there is no waste of time - it is 5-second action to copy the new Next Action to the appropriate context list.
                              This the real advantage of the electronic GTD implementation over the paper based GTD implementation.
                              TesTeq

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