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Are there really some "simple actions"?

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  • Are there really some "simple actions"?

    Hello all!

    David Allen gives an excellent stratification on 6 levels of actions: where on the lowest level "single actions" are made, and on the top level your life is flowing. The more I think about this scheme, the more I see that there are no "simple actions" - which are not bound to some project, and that project in its turn has its place in larger plans and perspectives.

    So my question is to people who use GTD for a long time already: how many percents take "actions within projects" and how many - "simple actions"? What are these "simple actions" - of what sort?

    Well, on first steps it is not very good to think about placing actions into proper projects. But it is very useful when you try to integrate your life, to find some meaning of your life as a whole.

    Oh, and I also found an answer on my previous question: about regular actions. They lie into projects perfectly: when you need to do something regularly, you very possibly act under some plan, so then it is handy to put one note about regular actions into a project, and also, after finishing next regular action, write into the calendar a note about the same action after some days. (Don't blame me severely if I invented a bicycle.)

  • #2
    Simple Next Actions.

    Examples of simple Next Actions:
    1) Buy "Ready for Anything" book @errands.
    2) Replace the light bulb in garage @home (assuming that you have spare light bulbs).


    • #3
      I could almost say that the next action concept changed my life. It's amazing how something so simple is often overlooked. When I started reading GTD, I realized that most of my tasks were poorly defined, or were defined at such a high level that it was no wonder I wasn't getting anyway. Once I started thinking in terms of "what action, no matter how small, would make this move along?", accomplishment got a lot easier.


      • #4

        TesTeq: well, for the 1st item, I'd ask: why would you buy "Ready for Anything"? Will you read it yourself, or maybe you'll give it to somebody as a gift? But - as for boughts, then you may want to find a book "just to read", some novel or thriller. It is hard to build it in a project, yes. And for the 2nd item - I must agree too, it is a simple action (which can be divided into two if you don't have extra bulbs in your inventory: buy a bulb and screw it in).

        But it is still interesting for me: what is the percent of such "simple actions" in the whole NA list?

        emuelle1: I'm talking rather about "transparency" - if your project doesn't "descend" to NA level, then it is a non-actionable project, literally saying.


        • #5
          I do not have many "simple actions". Occasionally I have something like "Take book back to library", which does not have a follow-on action. Otherwise almost everything on my NA lists is associated with a project - admittedly often a very small project, but usually there is at least one more action to do once the current next action is completed.


          • #6
            Granite, I can't say I'm following you very well. Isn't a project, by definition, a series of actions? I don't quite understand a non-actionable project.


            • #7
              Well, as I see it, there are linear projects - step two cannot be started before step one is finished - and there are non-linear projects where multiple steps can be taken simultaneously. I don't necessarily call my linear projects "projects" so I would say a majority of my next actions are simple actions. As an estimate, a third go with complex projects, a third go with simple projects (linear), and a third are stand alone next actions. Write someone a note is a next action unless you need to buy a notecard and then it is a linear project. It just depends on how simple you make things.


              • #8
                Where you draw the line dividing N/A's from projects is a personal decision. Some people cut it off with a time limit such as 20 minutes for a single, simple N/A.

                In the case of buying a lightbulb and then screwing it in: that is technically a project by DA's definition, but it really requires no more than a complex N/A description such as "Buy lightbulb>Change Lightbulb" which is really two N/As noted together. Or you can think of it as an initial N/A noted with an outcome. This N/A would first appear in the errands context and then in the home context.

                You can get a lot of mileage out of this kind of notation and help reduce your project list. I think it helps make the system more efficient to do this as much as possible. I think most of my N/As are this type.

                So then the next question becomes, "How do you separate complex N/As from projects?" And again it is an intuitive call, but if making something a complex N/A does not get it off of your mind, then it should be a project.