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Granularity of NAs

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  • Granularity of NAs

    If a person has "projects" that generally take less than 15 minutes but require multiple but extremely simple NAs, is it heresy to put the whole project on the NA list? For example, I receive files to update databases. Here's my NA list:

    Save file attachment
    FTP file to server
    Log into server
    Import data

    My inclination is to put "update database" on my action list instead of all the steps needed to get it done. Anyone care to comment?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Suziloo
    My inclination is to put "update database" on my action list instead of all the steps needed to get it done. Anyone care to comment?
    If your intuition says that it's the right level of granularity, and you know the steps you need to do to solve it, trust your intuition. If you find yourself adding Next Actions in the system just to satisfy the system -- and not to actually help you get things done -- you've probably gone too far!

    If you find yourself wondering how to get started on your Next Action, it's probably worth breaking down into more concrete, smaller next actions.

    I suspect you wouldn't start your Next Action list as "get keys, find car, unlock car door, go inside, close car door, etc." when you really wanted to "buy cookies at store".

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    • #3
      A different time management expert says that action items should be able to be done by a complete stranger so use that as a test "Can I give this to a complete stranger" while putting together next actions.

      Andy

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      • #4
        If you think of something as one action, then it's one action.

        For someone who has never done it before, "update database" could require actions like "call IT to get server address and password," or "review file import procedure." For someone who does it regularly, it's one step. Whatever works for you.

        (Although you might want to document these "simple" multistep procedures in case someone else has to cover for you, or to make sure you don't forget steps if you're in a hurry.)

        However, if you find that an action just isn't getting done, you might consider whether it's really a project in disguise. Even something like "buy cookies for party" could have "hidden" actions like "Call Mary: is little Jonathan allergic to chocolate?" or "review RSVP list for cookie count."

        Katherine

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        • #5
          granularity of NAs is still something I am playing with as I learn how to get myself going most effectively....

          For my 2004 tax paperwork, for example, a task which I avoid like the plague, I have a very innocent "take out 2004 tax paperwork from files" as the next action, which is much less intimidating than "finalize 2004 taxes calculations", which I would never get to.... I increase the level of detail of granularity to help me get past procrastination.

          On the other hand, some NAs really serve as "bookmarks" or placeholders of where I have left off in a complex project, and it is enough to remind me a) that I have to do something about it b) where to begin.

          Other tasks need to have very specific NAs, such as specific location of electronic files I need to open, or specific information I need to search for on the internet.

          In your example of updating databases, I might keep the steps stored as a checklist, if there was any chance I may forget a step if I hadn't done it in a while.

          I use whatever level of granularity is necessary to get me going, and keep me going, but not too much to gum up my system, for the sake of "doing the system properly".

          I hope this helps,
          Jeff

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          • #6
            Use your intuition.

            Originally posted by andybme
            A different time management expert says that action items should be able to be done by a complete stranger so use that as a test "Can I give this to a complete stranger" while putting together next actions.

            Andy
            I completely disagree with the "a different time management expert".
            GTD is a personal productivity improvement system. Not for strangers, not for organization of company's workflow processes.
            The granularity of NAs should be optimized for you (use your intuition). The only precondition is that there mustn't be any preconditions to execute the NA. So - in my opinion - NA can consists of several routine steps.
            For example you have "Call Bob" next action - not the "Get the phone", "Open phone directory", "Find Bob's phone number", Dial Bob's phone number", "Wait for Bob's answer" ... and so on - chain of actions. It would be ridiculous.

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            • #7
              Thanks for all the replies

              I was thinking that I was asking a stupid question, but appreciate all the responses. Especially the one about documenting the steps in case someone else has to take over.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by TesTeq
                I completely disagree with the "a different time management expert".
                GTD is a personal productivity improvement system. Not for strangers, not for organization of company's workflow processes.
                The granularity of NAs should be optimized for you (use your intuition). The only precondition is that there mustn't be any preconditions to execute the NA. So - in my opinion - NA can consists of several routine steps.
                For example you have "Call Bob" next action - not the "Get the phone", "Open phone directory", "Find Bob's phone number", Dial Bob's phone number", "Wait for Bob's answer" ... and so on - chain of actions. It would be ridiculous.
                Right... for me, though, if it wasn't easy to get Bob's phone number (as in, it wasn't as easy as looking in a directory), "Get Bob's phone number" would be the NA.

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