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  • All next actions are not created equal--how do you deal with this?

    OK Im getting back on the GTD wagon and wrestling with the same issue that I've always struggled with--I guess it is really the priority issue:

    Leaving out must do today and...someday maybe there is a spectrum of next actions from ones that needs to be done...sometime soon to ones that I need to do but could be tomorrow or next week/month.

    So how does everyone solve this?

    Is your n/a list only things you plan on doing this week? or??

  • #2
    My Next Action list contains everything that's immediately doable.

    However, when I do my Weekly Review I identify the Actions and Projects that are most important for the coming week. Those get done first, but the others are still there. Having the complete list is useful if my priorities change, or if serendipity puts me in a situation where I can do something I didn't expect to get to.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Originally posted by kewms
      My Next Action list contains everything that's immediately doable.

      However, when I do my Weekly Review I identify the Actions and Projects that are most important for the coming week. Those get done first, but the others are still there. Having the complete list is useful if my priorities change, or if serendipity puts me in a situation where I can do something I didn't expect to get to.

      Katherine
      "I identify the Actions and Projects that are most important for the coming week. Those get done first"

      How do you assure that this happens? I suppose that is the crux of my question. Are these items identified in some way in your next action list e.g. putting an * next to them? Or if you have a next action list with lots and lots of items (and you must if it contains everything that is immediately doable) how do you make sure you don't forget the 3 or 5 most important for coming week?

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      • #4
        Use intuition

        Like Katherine, my next action lists contain every immediately doable action. This fact makes it possible for me to get far more done than any time management system ever could. I grappled for ages with the problem of priorities, but I've found that provided you review your lists regularly, you really don't need to worry about formally prioritising things - the context/time/energy/priority idea in conjunction with intuition works very well. If something has crucial deadline and I'm afraid I'll forget it then I might make a note on my calendar as well as having it on the next action lists, just to make sure.

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        • #5
          Great question! (Just came up in a seminar yesterday...)

          "I identify the Actions and Projects that are most important for the coming week. Those get done first"

          How do you assure that this happens? I suppose that is the crux of my question.
          A participant asked this question early in a seminar yesterday here in Minneapolis. I gave a 50,000-foot answer (like I read here in the post line-up) about context/time available/resources, and then promised to re-address the topic later in the day.

          In the afternoon, I led the group through an exercise we always do at the end of a workshop. By that time, people have created a "projects" list, and started their "action management-list system." I ask them to review a list that has a "lot" of actions on it. Instead of prioritizing it, I ask them to find the easy ones. Then, the ones that aren't easy, I encourage them to get real clear about the "next" action. If something can be done, it's the next action. If it's something they still have to think about later, it's going to stay on the list.

          Prioritization and Procrastination go hand in hand. When the action is "so easy I don't procrastinate," it becomes the priority by default. (Maybe not priorty as in most important, priority as in "What I'm doing right now.")

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ScottL
            How do you assure that this happens? I suppose that is the crux of my question. Are these items identified in some way in your next action list e.g. putting an * next to them? Or if you have a next action list with lots and lots of items (and you must if it contains everything that is immediately doable) how do you make sure you don't forget the 3 or 5 most important for coming week?
            In a couple of ways. First, I assign dates to all Actions. Some of these are hard deadlines (which I flag), some are "would be nice," but they all have dates. That provides the first level of filtering, and gets me down to typically 5-10 current items per context. (Yes, I know strict GTD doesn't use dates. I find them essential because so much of my work is deadline-driven.)

            Second, the nature of my work is very project-oriented. I usually know which major project I should be working on, and so it's pretty easy to focus on actions related to that project.

            Finally, my system is mostly electronic but I typically work from a printed Next Action list. This contains my current actions (usually about a week's worth), sorted by context. When I update this list after I process my inbox, I use a highlighter to mark the three or four top priority items.

            Hope this helps,

            Katherine

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            • #7
              Like many of the other posters have mentioned, my Next Action list consists of everything which is immediately actionable. But there's a problem, like your original topic refered to: What do you do about that handful of tasks which should be done before the others, or by X day? Here's how I handle it:

              I use Shadowplan on the Palm (but any task manager will do) to enter in all of my long-range or due-date oriented tasks. I just keep a simple sort based on due date so that the things at the top are due the soonest. But my Next Action list is kept on paper (gives me a much more tactile feel, blah blah). I make duplicate entries for a task that has a due date, one in the Palm, and one on my paper List. Then I just treat it as a normal Next Action. But every morning, I check that ShadowPlan list and see if anything has a due date coming up, and if I see one, I know to focus on that Next Action moreso than any others.

              In doing it this way, I can work on those tasks without concern, but should I ignore them for too long, they begin to crawl up to the top of the Shadowplan list, which acts as a gentle "you should think about this soon" reminder system. As I said, there is a bit of duplication, but since I don't use Shadowplan as a Next Action list, and only as a reminder system, I don't notice the overlap very much.

              Matt

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              • #8
                Scott,

                As I am looking through the list and come across things that MUST be done today, I remove the category. That put the task in a category called "Unfiled" on the Palm which syncs to "None" on Outlook. That "None" category appears at the top of the task list in Outlook (and while am in in my office, I am working from Outlook).

                The aim is to get those things done as soon in the day as possible. In fact, those are the things that drive the context from which I will be working. For example, if one of those "None" items is a phone call, that will drive my decision to pick up the phone call and make that one along with half a dozen other calls from the Calls list.

                I find that on a typical day I will have 5 or fewer of these "None" items. When I get them done, I can proceed through the rest of the day working on things that "fit" together well and not having to worry about a deadline.

                Frank

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                • #9
                  Another solution is to have an "@Today" Next Actions list, which contains all the actions that must be completed today. Make this list top priority.

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                  • #10
                    Today's actions in Outlook

                    Originally posted by Brent
                    Another solution is to have an "@Today" Next Actions list, which contains all the actions that must be completed today. Make this list top priority.
                    You can raise the priority of your "@Today" next-action list by calling it "@@Today" - in Outlook, this makes the list appear at the top of a sorted action list.

                    That being said, I still use dates in all of my task lists to pre-sort the actions that are really on my short-term radar screen. This leads to the problem that I mentioned in a post in another thread regarding the issue of the daily ritual of re-scheduling some tasks that don't get done on the scheduled day.

                    Because I'm not religious about switching to my calendar view, I also created an "@@Appointment Today" list that I put an entry in the Tasks list into whenever I make a calendar entry

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