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True or False: Multiple Next Actions?

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  • True or False: Multiple Next Actions?

    True or False: Any one project can have only one next action...?

    I have several projects in which there are MANY actions to occur ... some of which I know before the existing Next Action is complete. Do I put all known next actions on the next action list? Do I keep a seperate checklist of all known next actions for a given project?

    How about the big huge projects? Do I break these projects into subprojects so I can create a series of unique but related next actions?

    Thanks for your opinions!

  • #2
    It depends.

    If the actions are sequential, ie you can only do action B after action A, then only Action A goes on the Next Action list. Action B can be written down as part of your project plan/reference material.

    If the actions are independent of each other, and if they are both do-able, then both can go on the next action list. But maybe your larger project can be broken into smaller sub-projects.


    • #3
      related discussion here:

      there's no right answer to this question... some people do seem to try to write down every possible NA they can think of (actions that can be done right away) and to keep separate lists of every possible action they can think of that can't be done yet.

      But your NA list doesn't have to be comprehensive in that way, it seems to me, for the best insights of GTD to work. All you need is for your PROJECTS list to be comprehensive, and then to make sure you have "at least one" genuine NA listed for each project. That should be sufficient to ensure that you're always in a position to move forward in a concrete way -- and by quickly reviewing your projects list alongside your NA list you can easily spot whether there are projects on the go for which you don't have any NAs listed.


      • #4
        Whatever works for you.

        On a large project, many tasks will not be immediately doable. They depend on other stuff getting done first. These tasks are, by definition, not Next Actions. You may find it helpful to write them down, for example on your project notes, but you probably shouldn't clutter your main NA list with them.

        Likewise, on a large project, many pieces may be moving forward in parallel, independently of each other. Whether you choose to treat these pieces as subprojects, each with exactly one Next Action, or to put all the immediately doable tasks together in one list under the main project, is pretty much up to you.

        I think the "only one Next Action per project" rule is kind of silly, actually, and don't follow it. But some people find it works for them. *shrug* It's your system. Do what works.



        • #5
          If they're not sequential (i.e. task 2 contingent upon the completion of task 1), I list them separately.

          I have several projects that have many NA's that are mutually exclusive, and populate my lists with them accordingly.


          • #6
            I too do not list sequential NAs in the NA list - only independent NAs.

            I don't make a list of possible NAs to pull from as I complete items in the NA list. Sure, my project support material will have some notes from project inception, and these notes will have ideas about things I could or should do. And when I have an idea during the morning commute about something else I could or should do, I'll capture the idea and transfer it into the project support.

            The project support file is where I turn to find a NA for the list during mini-reviews or during the weekly review. This way I can ensure that I'm not just doing something because I thought of it five weeks ago; I'm doing it because I reviewed the project status and determined that idea X has the most relevance now and is the right NA.

            Hope this helps,



            • #7
              If an action can be done now, I list it, whether there is one or ten. If it cannot be done now, it is in my project notes with a plan for when it will get done.


              • #8
                Most people have no problems with projects with a few independent next actions. For example:

                Project: Weekend BBQ
                NA: Make list of invitees
                NA: plan menu
                NA: rake leaves from patio

                but more complicated projects can give us trouble. Suppose I am working on a large document with multiple sections. Do I have a list of next actions like

                NA: final revisions, section 1
                NA: polish section 2
                NA: fix problem, section 3
                NA: draft section 4
                NA: call Tom re info for section 5

                or not? If I am doing everything myself, maybe my next action is simply

                NA: resume editing document in section 2

                because that's where I am now, and I know I will get to the other stuff eventually. On the other hand, if I am responsible for pulling together a team effort, then I might need a list like

                NA: circulate section 1 for final review
                NA: polish section 2
                NA: email Martha re problem w section 3
                NA: review Sid's draft of section 4
                NA: call Tom re info for section 5

                The needs of the project and personal working style help to determine how we work on a project.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mcogilvie
                  If I am doing everything myself, maybe my next action is simply

                  NA: resume editing document in section 2

                  because that's where I am now, and I know I will get to the other stuff eventually.
                  This would get me into trouble... for me, that action is not granular enough. That's something I'd definitely put off doing because in my mind, the "next physical action" wouldn't be clear enough.


                  NA: final revisions, section 1
                  NA: polish section 2
                  NA: fix problem, section 3
                  NA: draft section 4
                  NA: call Tom re info for section 5

                  could be done independent of one another, that's how *I* would set it up. To me, those are reminders of *all* of the very next physical actions that can be taken to move that project forward.


                  • #10
                    Next Action = any action you could do now in the right context

                    When making notes for a project, I try to list all the actions that I know I will have to take, whether or not they are true "next actions."

                    Then on my actual context-based next action lists, I list all -- and only -- the actions I could in theory take right now, without having to take some other action first. Certainly one project can have more than one such action, in the same or different contexts. To buy new tires I might want to call Fred for the number of the garage he recommended, and search the Web for model and price information for my car's tires. I could do either one right now, depending on whether I find myself at my computer or waiting somewhere with five spare minutes and a cell phone.

                    I know I'll want to call that garage at some point, so that would be listed in my project notes, but I won't list it as a next action until I've gotten the number from Fred, since until then I can't make that call.