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"Next Actions" and Dread

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  • "Next Actions" and Dread

    Hi, everyone,

    I'm a beginner with GTD but am loving it. I'm a Myers-Briggs INFP and anyone who knows about "P"'s will recognize that I tend to procrastinate, and I have lots of grandiose visions and feel despair at ever implementing them all. GTD has done wonders for me and I am trying each week to further refine my adaptation of it.

    I hoping that someone can provide insight in a certain area. That area is the "Next Actions" lists. As DA recommends, I have them grouped by context - "At Office," "Emails to Write," "Phone Calls," etc. Some of these lists are still quite long, however, and I've noticed that GTD doesn't say much about those Next Actions that, for whatever reason, you're dreading (even if they're important) - a conversation you fear could go badly, an onerous task you dislike immensely, etc.

    Is it bad if a Next Action item stays in the list for a long time while the easier ones around it seem to get done? Is it worth tracking the "shelf life" of these action items to make sure I don't procrastinate for too long on any one of them? Has anyone else dealt with this?

    I was ecstatic to find this forum today. I've spent years trying to "roll my own" perfect system, and GTD has shown me some of the psychological pitfalls I've been running into. It's good to find a forum of like-minded people who care about improving their systems.

    Thanks so much in advance,

    Jeff Benson

  • #2
    Well, Are those items that stay a long time things that could leave your life all together? What if you put them on your Someday/Maybe list which you only have to look at weekly? Or make that list a monthly review?

    If you are sure they have to be in your life, ask yourself, what is the gain? what would outweigh the dread? Keep that foremost in your mind and just do one dreadful thing a week.

    Like putting a dirty cup on the counter instead of in the dishwasher, you've made a commitment to yourself to have to deal with the dirty dish yet again. Stress twice!

    If you are dreading it because you can't quite see what you should do about it, then maybe the Next Action needs to be re-written. It might be unclear, or it's not really THE next action.

    You could also try a reward. Or you could set the timer for 15 minutes and work on the dreadfuls JUST for that 15 minutes. When the timer is up, tell yourself, the guilt is up too. Reset the timer tomorrow, or later today. You can do ANYthing for 15 minutes, right?



    • #3

      It has been mentioned before but "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore wonderful book.

      I am half way through and I am still wondering if this guy has been listening to my internal conversations for the last twenty years. He outlines five different types of procrastination (all of which I am sure I hit at some stage) one of which is the fear of the output or outcome not being perfect.

      He talks about reprogramming your internal conversation so you are making a positive choice to do something. That is not saying everything has to have a positive outcome but you choose or decide to do something rather than have it imposed.


      • #4
        Originally posted by blaster151
        I've noticed that GTD doesn't say much about those Next Actions that, for whatever reason, you're dreading (even if they're important) - a conversation you fear could go badly, an onerous task you dislike immensely, etc.
        Try searching the forum for "Cringe-busting" for ideas on how to address these sorts of tasks. The Now Habit also suggests keeping a procrastination log for a day or two that may help.


        • #5

 all who replied - very helpful! (The book recommendation looks great; it's in my Amazon wishlist already.)

          I think the point that Elena made about some Next Actions not being properly defined is insightful. I realize that sometimes I put things in the list (like DA's classic example "Call Fred") even when I'm really not sure what I'm going to say or how I'm going to say it. Some of my actions need to be rewritten as "Plan how to X" or "Brainstorm about Y" - so I guess they're not true Next Actions at all.

          Thanks again to all for the helpful comments!


          • #6
            Originally posted by Desultory
            Try searching the forum for "Cringe-busting"...
            I did and found this link:



            • #7
              Originally posted by tim99
              There's a nice little procrastination roundup today:


              • #8
                I heard David Allen say in a lecture once that procrastination has has two sources: either you aren't really excited about the outcome or you haven't broken it down into a small enough step. I have yet to go wrong with that snippet when I find myself proctrastinating - usually it's that I haven't defined the next action quite well enough, but sometimes being unenthusiastic about the outcome is the problem as well.