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When do I create my next actions?

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  • When do I create my next actions?

    I am reading my way through GTD and I am afraid that I missed something...

    I am confused... I am working my way through the book - and starting chapter 6 it said that it is best to read all of ch 6 and 7 prior to actually performing the task of chapter 6 - emptying the in box...

    I have my in box (more like a small mountain) filled with my single sheets of paper for each project, plus all sorts of other items...

    I read ch 6, 7, and 8...but what I am confused about is ... when was I supposed to actually "create" my next actions for my projects????

    And for my large projects... do I have many next actions or only one? These projects are my work projects and have several definable and seperate parts - does each part have a next action???

    Even to determine the "next action" for some of these monster projects is going to take some blood, sweat, and tears...

    and (if that was not enough where in the book was this... maybe it was when I was reading late at night!!! - but I cannot figure this out.

    Many thanks for the help and any words of wisdom!!!

  • #2
    "when was I supposed to actually "create" my next actions for my projects????"

    Raymond, this is what the "Processing" stage is for. After your initial mindsweep and collection is complete, just start working through your piles, defining NA and parking them on your lists. As new things show up, they should get processed too. Depending on how big your pile is, you may not have time to process the whole thing at one sitting, but as long as you keep it corralled, you be able to come back to it and keep chipping away.

    "And for my large projects... do I have many next actions or only one? These projects are my work projects and have several definable and seperate parts - does each part have a next action???"

    It depends. Large projects will most likely have several NAs. An NA is something that can be moved on now and is not dependent on anything else happening first. As long as the next steps on the "definable and separate parts" of your large projects are not dependent upon any other step, then they're a NA. Here you'll have to experiment with listing just one large project on your list, or breaking those "definable and separate parts" out as their own projects and listing they separately.

    Finally, I don't have the book in front of my so I can't cite you chapter and verse, but trust me, it's in there.


    • #3
      Divide huge projects into manageable parts.

      Every person has different ability to manage complex things (projects). So there is no absolute rule in GTD what is a huge project and what is a simple project.

      I think one can identify the "huge" project as a project that is too overwhelming to decide what's the Next Action (it seems to be too complex). But even in this case it is relatively easy to define the successful outcome. So define it and write it down.

      Then think how to divide this project into manageable sub-projects for which you can easily define successful outcome and one or more independent Next Actions. Do not forget about any possible dependencies between these sub-projects.

      Reduce the complexity to the level that you are comfortable with.


      • #4
        Thank you both for the replies!!!

        Between your responses, lots of lurking through the forum threads, and being almost done with the book.... things are starting to "gel"!!!

        I have a very large cup of coffee here, a very sharp pencil, and a very full in-box.... so I am good to go!!

        Thanks again!



        • #5
          Dont' forget to use your "tickler" file to help you manage those large piles of paper. Remember what to do with paper: throw it in the trash can, file it in a file folder, or put it in your tickler file for future action.

          If you have six action steps you need to do on a project you want to start tomorrow and you believe you can do the project in 2-3 days then you can probably put all six actions on a single sheet of notebook paper (the general rule is one next action per sheet of notebook paper) then put it in tomorrow's tickler file. Tomorrow, if you get the first four action steps accomplished, then check those off and put the paper back in your tickler file for the next days work. Then, the next day, you pull the paper back out of the tickler file, see what you need to do on that project, then accomplish it. Once accomplished, you can take the notebook paper and either throw it away or put it in a manila folder for storage.

          The system is not really that complicated, the problem is finding the "time" to work the entire system, from collecting, processing, and doing.

          GTD will hopefully help you to get there.

          Good luck!

          Danny Hardesty


          • #6
            Thanks for the notes on the neat use of the tickler file...

            I am still trying to figure out what kind of "role" my tickler file is going to play...

            Are my projects driven by my NA's in a ticker file for today or do I just scan my NA list and decide which project is the "hotter" one for today.

            You see, my clients still like to turn the "heat up" randomly and this helps to determine the current priority...and this may change from day to day - even hour to hour.

            So my thinking is that my tickler will not contain my client project NA's... but other more date-driven types of actions...

            This is a bit confusing.....

            Thanks for any inputs!!!



            • #7
              While not always true, the fact that I have two NA's for a given project is in indiack to one cator to me that these are really two projects, or two subprojects of a given project. Once the division is made, I'm back to one NA per project/subproject.