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  • What @actions do you use?

    Hi,

    On another thread I suggested someone use an @blog action list for blog topics.

    I'm on my computer all day, and I do lots of different types of tasks, so I've found myself creating a myriad of different actions:

    @dreamweaver
    @design
    @decide
    @edit
    etc.

    I was wondering what the more experienced GTD'ers here have on their action lists.

    Is it better to be more specific or general with your @actions? If I kept to an @computer action, I'd find that most of my tasks would be @computer...

    I'd really like your suggestions.

    Thanks,

    Trisha

  • #2
    @Sticky

    As I see you have @Sticky context to be always on top.
    I think it is not "other-threads-friendly".
    TesTeq

    Comment


    • #3
      This is one I have been thinking about recently. David says on GTD Fast that they have found that the best practice is for your @actions to be named after the physical contexts or locations where the NA will happen.

      So, even If you work at a computer all day, you should still categorise actions as @computer if that is where you are going to do the NA.

      If your computer and your phone are on your desk, it is better to use @phone and @ computer rather than a more global @desk.

      At the moment I think this makes sense at a deep level, but I am not sure why yet.

      I could for example use @Sage for our office in-house accounting, @Apex for accounting services for clients, @outlook for client communications, @hotmail for general newsletters received, @TaxPack for taxation services, @Ros for communications with the Inland revenue, @excel for additional accounting work and so on.

      But I feel that this would dilute the emphasis that GTD places on Physical Action. The physical context of all of these is at the computer: differentiating between programs does not add any more clarity to the physical actions.

      However, under the heading @computer I could happily list: “post January invoices”; “Recompute ABC ltd Tax charge”; "reply Ted re stock adjustments” and so on.

      Don’t forget, David points out that most people come up with 30 to 100 projects. A good percentage of these will be put to one side under “Someday/maybe”, which means they do not have a related NA.

      So you are down to, let’s say, thirty-five current work projects. Each one of these can have only one NA. They will probably spread between @phone, @computer, @anywhere, plus a few agendas for specific people.

      Personal items shouldn’t have more than four or five physical categories also: @home, @other half (agenda); and one I find really useful is @on the road for when I might unexpectedly pass near a hardware, electrical or stationery store.

      Even using this small number of categories, there shouldn’t be too much congestion under any one heading.

      I think to key is to have just one NA for each project or sub-project. For example, if you have to call Susan about a possible program amendment, then only the phone call should be listed as the NA. You can’t also list the first step of the program amendment as an NA if you are not sure if you are going to go ahead with it yet.

      Personally, I am going to try to keep my system as lean and simple as I can until I get the “martial art” just right!

      Dave

      Comment


      • #4
        I think a good reason to have @specific-software-program is that it makes it easier to group related tasks and do them while you have that particular program open, so I'm definitely going to think more about that.

        Trisha

        Comment


        • #5
          Grouping is a very effective time-saver, but just make sure you are not including later project actions under each program specific context – you should only have the next action listed.

          Even if you know for a fact that you are going to be working on Dreamweaver, it is not correct (in GTD terms) to list the next action of a project under Dreamweaver if you have to, say, agree some content first. Then the next action is listed under @Susan or @phone.

          You can of course list the Dreamweaver action on project support notes, but if it is not the very next physical action, it should not appear on any @lists.

          Dave

          Comment


          • #6
            What is the Next Action (tm)

            Originally posted by Busydave
            Grouping is a very effective time-saver, but just make sure you are not including later project actions under each program specific context – you should only have the next action listed.
            ...
            You can of course list the Dreamweaver action on project support notes, but if it is not the very next physical action, it should not appear on any @lists.

            Dave
            I disagree. Or rather, I think we may be using slightly different definitions of "next action."

            When I create a project, I usually do at least enough planning to let me see the next several steps, even if some of the steps depend on each other or are subprojects in their own right. If there's an action that I know I'll need to do in the future, it seems sort of silly to not write it down just because it isn't the very next action on a particular project. If I don't write it down, it will stay in my head, which is exactly what I don't want. It also seems sort of silly to not put it in the appropriate context. If I know that I'll need to call Joe next week, and don't put an appropriately dated item on my @phone list now, then I'll spend at least three days worrying that I won't remember to move the item over when I do my weekly review. Again, I've forced myself to keep more stuff in my head.

            Instead, I rely on technology to both capture the future action item and keep it from becoming a distraction. I tag action items so that I can sort by date, context, or project. The date and context-sorted lists tell me what I need to do Right Now--the true GTD Next Actions--but are complete enough to remind me of near future tasks as well. For example, if I still have time left after making today's four phone calls, I can start on the calls I know I'll need to make tomorrow. The project-sorted list lets me treat a project as its own context when appropriate. For example, it might make sense to do a whole bunch of information gathering actions at the same time, even if some of them are phone calls, some are emails, and some are internet searches.

            I use MindManager mind mapping software and Gyronix' ResultsManager add-in to handle all of this tagging and sorting, but I'll bet you could do the same thing with any program that supports categorized lists. With a paper system, I might use a deck of index cards for the individual actions, coded to allow whatever sorting I needed.

            Katherine

            Comment


            • #7
              The way I see it, the problem with putting "dependent" next actions for a particular project directly on context lists is that you will then have to think whether the action is actually doable or not when you're reviewing your lists. The idea is to be able to run down the list of context-based next actions and just crank through them without having to think (hence facilitating the "dumb & happy" mindset!)...

              The up-front project thinking is definitely helpful and shouldn't be "squashed" -- I would just suggest putting the larger milestones, steps and dependent tasks in "project support" -- be that a paper file or a note attached to the project (whatever works best in your particular system).

              I've found that sticking with actual physical contexts works best for me, but if I had more @computer actions I might very well break them down by the software.

              I think the main thing is to remember to visualize the "desired oucome" of your lists. You want them to support you in being able to quickly review the possible next actions across all your work in order to make a well-informed decision as to what to do in the moment (without a lot of double-thinking). At least that's what I want!

              Comment


              • #8
                What @actions do you use?

                My current GTD contexts:
                • @agenda
                  @anywhere
                  @computer -- implies @anywhere with my laptop
                  @email -- implies @computer and that certain email state-of-mind
                  @out-and-about
                  @home
                  @internet -- online, but not necessarily @computer
                  @read -- implies @brain and @quiet time
                  @telephone
                  @waiting
                  @work
                As I understand it, the GTD action context primarily connotes access to the people and resources, and one's state of mind and energy level, uniquely required to accomplish an action. Thus, for me, @computer implies access to my computer, including its full complement of software applications, whereas @internet implies internet access from any computer.

                On the other hand, because I often write emails best when I'm in 'email mode', I've included an @email context even though, strictly speaking, access to email is implied by @computer.

                I include action verbs, sans context, in the subject text itself. For example, next actions might include the following [with the context in square brackets]:
                • call Bob regarding proposal status [@telephone]
                  email Jane confirming attendance at 23 Mar meeting [@email]
                  edit proposal [@computer]
                  research proposed merger of MCI and Qwest [@internet]
                  review Bob's latest draft of the proposal [@read]

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've gone back and forth on this topic - creating more contexts, and then deleting them. Here are my current contexts:

                  @Agenda
                  @Anywhere
                  @Calls
                  @Computer-Home
                  @Errands
                  @Home
                  @Internet
                  @Office
                  @Waiting For

                  I can see the value in breaking up a very long list in one context (assuming there are natural breaks, such as by software). However, the problem for me then becomes that when I sit down at my desk at work, there are several contexts I can from which I can choose next actions. How do I decide? Even with my current system, I can use @Calls, @Internet, and @Office; with a greater software breakdown, this list would be longer. I think, for me, that's just adding too much complexity.

                  One thing I do - for every next action associated with a project, I use a project code in front of it. Examples:

                  PHL REQUEST: Add additional checklists to system
                  PHL REQUEST: Hide Completed requests from view
                  LASP: Create new images for main menu based on template
                  WEB: Create list of ftp sites
                  WEB: Clean up DSN list
                  etc.

                  This helps me, especially in the @Office context, work through next actions on a project-by-project basis. I should mention that I only have nine active work projects, and many tasks for them are concurrent, so this is why I list more than one action per project.

                  One thing I've noticed - if you're doing a faithful weekly review, it becomes fairly simple to notice contexts that aren't working.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CJSullivan
                    The way I see it, the problem with putting "dependent" next actions for a particular project directly on context lists is that you will then have to think whether the action is actually doable or not when you're reviewing your lists. The idea is to be able to run down the list of context-based next actions and just crank through them without having to think (hence facilitating the "dumb & happy" mindset!)...

                    The up-front project thinking is definitely helpful and shouldn't be "squashed" -- I would just suggest putting the larger milestones, steps and dependent tasks in "project support" -- be that a paper file or a note attached to the project (whatever works best in your particular system).
                    The way my system is set up, the project planning/milestones and Next Actions are filed in the same place. That gives me a project-oriented view anytime I need it, for example if the information I was Waiting For comes in and I suddenly need to figure out a new Next Action.

                    Before the GTD police declare me a heretic, I actually work from a true Next Action list: immediately doable items, sorted by context. It's just that since I create that list by electronically sifting through the full project database, other views are readily available if I need them.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: What is the Next Action (tm)

                      Originally posted by kewms
                      I use MindManager mind mapping software and Gyronix' ResultsManager add-in to handle all of this tagging and sorting, but I'll bet you could do the same thing with any program that supports categorized lists. With a paper system, I might use a deck of index cards for the individual actions, coded to allow whatever sorting I needed.
                      Over the last week I've started using the ResultsManager trial version for a subset of my projects. Previously (& currently for other projects) I've been using Life Balance. The one thing I like most about RM vs LB is that RM allows me to use MindManager (which I started using a few weeks ago) for project planning (which I like even better than outlining), and then have the project, from the plan, automatically become part of my GTD system without having to copy over actions, etc. I'm probably going to stick with RM ... but first I want to be sure the lack of data availability on my Palm is not too big a hindrance.

                      I was wondering if you've come up with any interesting ways of using RM, eg Areas &/or Categories (neither of which I use), custom dashboards, etc.?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If you use the Pro version of MindManager, you can sync RM's information to Outlook, and thence to your Palm. (Be sure to RTFM, as there are some subtleties that will drive you insane with duplicate tasks if you aren't careful.) This is the method I use.

                        You can also export maps to Word, and from there into whatever tool you prefer. (I haven't actually done this, so I don't know how badly it will mangle the special RM information.)

                        I use Areas and Categories, but haven't actually done much with them. I've played a little bit with using categories for recurring tasks, as you could have a category for Weekly, Monthly, etc. items. I ultimately decided that was more trouble than it was worth, and moved recurring tasks out of RM entirely. Areas are moderately useful for managing high level life goals: I might have several projects clustered under a "fitness" area, for instance, each of which in turn has several actions or milestones. The MindManager tree structure is very good at showing how individual projects support larger goals, or don't.

                        I've done a little bit with custom dashboards. I've modified my Immediate Action dashboard so that it breaks even the items due today down by context, and I've modified the Outlook Sync dashboard to only give Outlook the next seven days of tasks. The filters and other dashboard template tools are reasonably well documented, so you should be able to experiment without too much pain.

                        Since you are new to both MM and RM, you should be aware that both are very powerful tools. It's very easy to get carried away and create an impossible spiderweb of interlocking maps. I've found that using a few large maps works better than lots of small ones. Trust the dashboards to sort through and find the pieces you actually need to look at at any given time.

                        Good luck!

                        Katherine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for all your messages.

                          Just a short note: I asked the moderators to remove my stickies and to remove the option too, so nobody unexpectedly else ends up in the 'sticky' mess I did.

                          Sorry to those who were upset by my sticking.

                          It's all fixed up, so I hope you'll put away any hard feelings toward me, because any offense I caused was purely unintentional.

                          Trisha

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            In addition to @office, @home, @computer as many have mentioned I use a few @s for people I may meet on a regular meeting ie.:

                            @boss
                            @client A
                            @client B
                            @staff meeting

                            This allows me to group things for those moments. After doing this my boss actually noted that he prefered to go through my list once every now and then, than the previous situation in which I interrupted him every time I had a next action for him.

                            Xoff

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ko
                              @Computer-Home
                              Hm! I also have an @Computer-Home list!

                              Anywhere, here are my next-action lists:
                              @Agendas
                              @Anywhere
                              @Anywhere-Sitting
                              @Computer-Home
                              @Home
                              @Internet
                              @Church
                              @Store
                              @Office

                              Comment

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