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  • Storing not-next actions

    I'd like to gather some ideas about how people track project action items that aren't "next actions" because else has to happen first. I'm speaking here of projects that are more complex than buying tires but less complex than buying a company.
    1) Do you tend to plan out your projects as completely as possible at the front end?
    2) Do you keep your not-nexts on your next actions list so that they're there when all the pieces are in place? Or do you keep them in a different place (like with project notes) and move them over in your weekly reviews?
    3) For those of you using Outlook, do you put not-nexts on your action lists but somehow mark them as not ready to go?

    I seem to be a bit stuck on this, and would like some ideas.

    Bob Pedersen

  • #2
    I'm new to GTD, but...

    1) I try to plan out as much as possible on the front end, but as long as the NA and any subsequent actions are not tentative based on further planning, the project can move forward.

    2) I keep only NAs on my NA lists. For projects, I note on the NA which project it goes with, and when the NA is completed, I refer to that project's support file (where I keep the plan to date, notes and all other material related to that project) for the next NA, which I move to the appropriate NA list.

    3) I use Outlook, but no (as per above), I don't put anything but NAs on my NA lists. There would be way to many items on a given list otherwise, and IMHO creating lists by project would defeat the purpose of using context-based lists, which (I think) is a pretty core principle and should not be compromised.

    Comment


    • #3
      I've been thinking that an awesome way to set up NAs would be if Outlook let you chain certain tasks - so you enter two or more tasks and connect them. When one task is marked as complete, the next task in the "chain" pops up, with a due date x number of days in the future.

      I delegate a lot of tasks for web site maintenance. For example, I might get an email from a client on Monday saying "please update our price list, to go live on Friday". I delegate it to someone else, for action by Tuesday. When I get notification that the task is complete, I need to do some QA on it myself, then notify the client so they can check it - but that could be anytime on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday. If they haven't got back to me by Thursday I need to chase them up. Finally, I need a reminder to delegate someone (might be different from the first delegee) to put the change live on Friday morning.

      Because this stuff is very minor, there could be ten or fifteen of these little jobs going on simultaneously, and it's not my main job anyway, I don't want to waste too much time entering the tasks, so really I should have templates for the each of the type of task set up that speed up the process.

      But as far as I know, chaining tasks like I descibed is not possible in Outlook - correct?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by kay
        I've been thinking that an awesome way to set up NAs would be if Outlook let you chain certain tasks - so you enter two or more tasks and connect them. When one task is marked as complete, the next task in the "chain" pops up, with a due date x number of days in the future.

        I delegate a lot of tasks for web site maintenance. For example, I might get an email from a client on Monday saying "please update our price list, to go live on Friday". I delegate it to someone else, for action by Tuesday. When I get notification that the task is complete, I need to do some QA on it myself, then notify the client so they can check it - but that could be anytime on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday. If they haven't got back to me by Thursday I need to chase them up. Finally, I need a reminder to delegate someone (might be different from the first delegee) to put the change live on Friday morning.

        Because this stuff is very minor, there could be ten or fifteen of these little jobs going on simultaneously, and it's not my main job anyway, I don't want to waste too much time entering the tasks, so really I should have templates for the each of the type of task set up that speed up the process.

        But as far as I know, chaining tasks like I descibed is not possible in Outlook - correct?
        I think that in case of the routine "one-thread" projects with several subsequent Next Actions you can write all these NAs in the task's title and then - after completing each Next Action - delete it from the beginning of the title line (probably you'll also have to change the context of the task).

        For example:

        Before completing 1st NA task's title is:
        Do Next Action 1 then Do Next Action 2 then Do Next Action 3
        After completing 1st NA task's title should be changed to:
        Do Next Action 2 then Do Next Action 3
        After completing 2nd NA task's title should be changed to:
        Do Next Action 3

        In this way you can have the template for the short routine project and can process it easily. The required contexts for the subsequent NAs can be also included if it is necessary:
        @Computer Write Memo About Something then @Internet Send To Bob then @WaitingFor Wait For Bob's Answer till Wednesday then ...

        TesTeq

        Comment


        • #5
          More on NAs, with linking to projects.

          Thanks for the suggestion TesTeq, its a good one.

          One thing I'm having trouble with is deciding what to put on my project list. I think keeping a pure NA list by context, as was mentioned above, is really one of the key principles of GTD (IMO).

          But, the problem with DA's definition of projects are that some are glorified next actions. Basically if you take TesTeqs suggestion of linking three NA's in one and erase as you complete - in my opinion you dont really need to list the project. - this really applies where the NA's in question are minor tasks (ie. short phone call, pick up at the store, print something off).

          I'm wondering what people think of a hybrid method, a la PigPog:

          Basically, you keep the NA lists pure. BUT there are two types of NAs:

          1. the traditional (NA stands alone, linked to project list weekly) - this would be for true projects, and
          2. NAs with the project in {squiggly brackets} at the end - this NA would NOT have a project on the project list, because the process of linking is quite cumbersome for really minor "projects"

          Any thoughts?

          Comment


          • #6
            I also use the PigPog method. The project name and current next action is the task and additional next actions are listed in the accompanying note. When I complete a next action, I simply transfer a new next action from the note to the task header. Occasionally I list more than one independent next action and mark the extra next action with a (2) so I know it is not my main project note. I don't need a separate project list because my context lists contain all of my project names. I can sort my context lists in alphabetical order, so that will show me all my next actions for any given project together. I have considered purchasing more powerful software or trying some freeware like EccoPro or Progect, mainly because it would be nice (not necessarily more productive) to see my next actions in hierarchical order. However, I have found the PigPog method to be very effective.

            Comment


            • #7
              More on NAs, projects, PigPog

              Thanks thornrise,

              What you have described is probably what I need to do, at least on a test basis.

              Since, technically, I've not really yet implemented GTD (looking, of course for the 100% perfect method that doesn't exist!) this is where I should start. I would think, if I was able to get this right, it would be a good application of 80/20 - getting most of the benefit, with the relatively smallest amount of work.

              It occurs to me that if you follow the NA THEN NA ... NA {Project} method, you can always get a project list in a couple of minutes by exporting to excel (at least from Palm, which I use) and then using the text to columns feature to get a quick and dirty list of projects - certainly not too onerous on a weekly basis.

              If you happen to have for instance 10 NAs for the project, listing them in the notes is also a useful thing to do.

              So I think this is what I will do.

              Its been helpful to type this out on a message board - maybe it will actually shame me into doing it!

              Comment


              • #8
                I like the idea, except that I currently use "task requests" in Outlook to delegate tasks to other people. If I started putting all the actions into the subject line I'd still have to create separate tasks for the delegated actions.

                This sounds like the kind of thing that I'm pretty sure could be automated with macros - but I'd have to really dig because my VB skills are not that great. Still, I think this is definitely one for my @someday list

                Comment


                • #9
                  My Outlook solution for this problem is to use the Tasks area as follows:
                  - have "@" categories (@Home, @Online, @Telephone, etc.)
                  - only associate true Next Actions with these location categories
                  - have a category for each project (PJ-upgrade computer, PJ-EOY report)
                  - within each of these projects, have an OVERIEW task to be used for notes, general flow outlines, etc.
                  - also within the specific project category, enter as many known actions as possible (timing, order, etc. not important)

                  As a Next Action is identified, it's easy to just enable the appropriate category. If more than one parallel NA exists, that's fine, too. Reading through and updating the OVERVIEW during the weekly review helps keep things on track, and I also use it as an opportunity to further flesh out the process and enter more known future actions.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Storing not-next actions

                    Originally posted by rpederse
                    1) Do you tend to plan out your projects as completely as possible at the front end?
                    Yes, whenever I know how to do an entire project I set up all the actions right away. This is much more efficient than asking "What's the Next Action?" every time I finish something.

                    For a few projects, though, it's hard to know what to do next until the outcome of this step is known. So for those, of course, I have to plan step-by-step.

                    2) Do you keep your not-nexts on your next actions list so that they're there when all the pieces are in place? Or do you keep them in a different place (like with project notes) and move them over in your weekly reviews?
                    I use Life Balance to take care of this elegantly and automatically, as I have described in other posts. This software allows you to outline all your projects and actions and assign "Complete tasks in order" at any level of the hierarchy. Therefore, I can plan complex projects that have some tasks with serial dependencies as well as other independent tasks.

                    Whatever method you use, you don't want to wait until weekly reviews to put the next Next Action on your context list, unless it's OK to accomplish only one action per project per week.

                    -andersons

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                    • #11
                      Alternatively, perhaps you could list all the Next Actions you can think of in a text file (or Excel file) and just keep pasting in the next ones when one is done.

                      If you are really into a complex project, with multiple threads, you might need legitimate project management software, like MS Project.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks!

                        Several of the ideas in this thread are really useful, and will become part of how I do things.

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