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What's in a name? "To Do" vs "Next Action"

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  • What's in a name? "To Do" vs "Next Action"

    I'm new here, so someone may have posted about what I'm about to post.

    It's occurred to me that the term "To Do" sounds rather ad-hoc, i.e., one-off items you need to do. On the other hand. "Next Action" shows some continuity to what you're doing - you've done this, now what's the next action? Also, it gives a sense that you need to complete this next action for the project to progress, whereas a "to do" item does not look like it's attached to any project.

    Psychologically (right word?), "Next Action" sounds more positive, more active, and I think I'm more likely to do a "Next Action" rather than a "To Do". Especially if it's listed with the project name at the top, as in:

    Next Action:

    In fact, I've been doing something similar ever since I started reading GTD and Ready for Anything. I would use one page per item, and write at the top, the name of the project and that day's date.

  • #2
    You're on target, but for me it's more than a semantic difference.

    "To do" is so non-specific and it just implies that somehow, sometime, someday this item has to sort of "get done somehow".

    My concept of "Next Action" is:
    1) Only after I have defined the successful outcome of the whole project, then
    2) I can determine what the very next action required to move that project toward its successul outcome will be, and
    3) then I can put that N/A in its proper context, and
    4) The project and its associated N/A are in a trusted system that I can rely upon to bring it up at the appropriate time, and
    5) I can forget about it until that time.

    The concept of Getting Things Done is as much about clearing your mind as it is about completing N/A's & projects. Accomplish the first and the second will fall into place.
    Last edited by spectecGTD; 09-22-2005, 05:58 AM.


    • #3
      For me, "To Do" is short for "Things I Gotta Do", which is so laden with a sense of obligation and mortification of things long put off I can't even bring myself to make the list. (Yes, I'm a procrastinator.)

      Probably because it's a new concept for me, "Next Action" is a lot less threatening. Even better, I can define an NA to be so small, I'll actually do it.

      For example, when I redefined a "To Do: Call Insurance company" as an "NA: dial 123-456-7890", I called them up. (The lady I talked to was very nice, too!)