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  • Next Action list question

    I've read the book, am using the system, and had my first full week of stress-free productivity. I was sold on this book after the first page and it is not an exaggeration to say that GTD has saved me from career burnout. I'm enjoying my job again!

    But, like many I see here, I am trying to fine tune the process, and discovered this forum and here I am with my question.

    I have my Next Actions list broken up by Context... but sometimes when I look at my Next Actions list, I feel... not anxiety, but more like, "Whoa, there's a LOT of stuff that I still need to do." This is unavoidable, but part of the reason to put stuff into a trusted system is to get it out of your head... but when I look at my Next Actions list for my next task, I look it over and try to prioritize and sometimes, that process puts the stuff back in my head. So then I have to tell myself that I need to not think about it, and for the most part I am successful, but I can't help but feel I'm missing something. So my question is, what am I missing?

    Hopefully that made sense...

  • #2
    Perhaps some of your next actions are actually someday/maybe or perhaps you need to break them down into more contexts.

    I know there are people out there who say they have fifty items on one list, but I know I could not handle that. I work from home so technically I only need two context lists: home and errands. However, I have about eight contexts according to the categories of my life. When I'm working on business things, I'm only working on business things and I don't want to think about whether or not I should go mow the lawn. When I'm doing personal things, I want to be reminded that I need to mow the lawn. I have my hobbies in a separate context (aka Rest and Recreation), I have my business tasks divided into client and non-client oriented tasks. I have a section just for cleaning my home (everything I would delegate if I had someone to delegate it go) and another for household tasks that must be done by me.

    Most of my lists start out with about eight to twelve items on them at the beginning of the week. I work on whichever list has the most items to be done and that is how I maintain balance. I never let them get to more than twelve, and I like to have it down to about eight. I work from the top of the list down, generally (I have a paper system so that is FIFO) but not always. I divide my day into three parts - morning, afternoon, and evening - and work on one list in each part (again, generally). So, for instance, in the morning I work with personal items that must be done by me, and in the afternoon I will work on a specific hobby project. That's just how I manage my time.

    You just have to experiment until you find what works right for you and your personal rhythms.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks - From the sound of it I think maybe my problem is two-fold:
      1. Not having enough contexts, and
      2. Putting all of my contexts in one file.

      But maybe I'm close. My largest context list is "@ Computer" and I currently have 17 items in it, but I've only been doing GTD for one week. I'm envisioning I'll get that list down smaller this week. Definitely the contexts help... I wasn't even doing that at first.

      I guess I'll ride with my current setup and if it gets to be a bigger problem maybe I'll make a next actions folder instead of a next action file, and put each context into its own file in the folder. Maybe I'll just go ahead and to that anyway! Thanks again.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by rmaclema
        My largest context list is "@ Computer" and I currently have 17 items in it, but I've only been doing GTD for one week. I'm envisioning I'll get that list down smaller this week.
        I shouldn't worry about the number of items in any list, per se. What's important is to do a regular (daily-weekly) review and do the next actions that you feel is appropriate to do. However, if there are any that you are consistently avoiding doing, you should also try and question yourself why you are avoiding them.

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        • #5
          What you are missing is the trust in your system. That will take time. You are doing good. Just keep whittling away at things. If they stay on your Next Action list more than a few weeks, then you should re-evaluate whether they should even be on there. Can they be moved to Someday/Maybe? Or maybe they should just drop off entirely while you concentrate on what's current.

          Even if you stop GTD today, you are further ahead than if you had never tried GTD.

          Elena

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          • #6
            Try the project/context list

            I've found it less overwhelming to work from a list of projects/outcomes and contexts instead of next actions. One step I added to my weekly review is to identify projects I need to focus on next week - everything else is someday/maybe'd. This pared-down list is sync'd into my PDA, which can display NAs by project or contexts.

            The infinite number of things you "still need to do" will never really end. The trick is in capturing and tucking them all away until the time you're able to address them with the appropriate focus and energy level.

            Comment


            • #7
              Contexts

              Originally posted by pageta
              Perhaps some of your next actions are actually someday/maybe or perhaps you need to break them down into more contexts.

              I know there are people out there who say they have fifty items on one list, but I know I could not handle that. I work from home so technically I only need two context lists: home and errands. However, I have about eight contexts according to the categories of my life
              This echoes my own insights about GTD and context lists: Contexts are not just physical places, but can also be contexts of attention, energy or focus.

              I have an @house context for lots of home-related chores. I also have an @Nervecenter context for whan I'm at my desk and dealing with files and home computer stuff. Physically all that stuff is in my house, but to my mind it represents a very different context.

              I also have an @Internet context whose actions could physically take place at home, at the office, at the library, in a hotel room, or wherever I have a connection. And an @TV Time list for fairly mindless stuff I can do at home while watching TV (sharpen pencils, polish shoes), and so on.

              Comment


              • #8
                This is close to the question I was about to post. I'm a freelancer with a growing art career as well as my indexing business. I have my unfinished loops well tucked away in project lists (sorted by life roles) and next action lists (At Desk, Online, Phone calls, Around House, Anywhere, various agendas, Errands). My problem is that tasks sit on the next action lists for weeks and months while I put them off. I review the lists regularly, but often can't get myself to do many of the tasks. Anxiety? I just don't want to do the tasks? I also sometimes feel reluctance to do the brain dump and get the open loops written down--because then I'll have to do them! And looking at the lists feels overwhelming, taking the psychic energy I'm supposed to be saving.

                I always meet deadlines and get other urgent stuff done. It's things like the doctor appointment phone calls that get put off.

                I'm going to try to be specifically aware of what's stopping me at any given moment. Does anyone have GTD system-based ideas for dealing with this problem?

                Do Mi

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DStaub11
                  Does anyone have GTD system-based ideas for dealing with this problem?

                  Do Mi
                  I wrestle with this at times, and my only suggestion is to "just do it" because that's what I have to force on myself.

                  This post from 43folders may also help with ideas:
                  http://www.43folders.com/2005/05/23/...our-todo-list/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Take a look at what projects you have on your list. I found that if I put 30,000 foot and 10,000 foot projects side by side, it was very hard to specify the right NA for each. For example, I had two projects following one another that read: “Make sure retirement fund is adequate when I reach 65”, and “get car serviced”.

                    After listening to GTD Fast I realised that there was no NA for “Make sure retirement fund is adequate when I reach 65”: what I had to do was brainstorm all the ways I might achieve that goal. Each resulting project would then have its own NA. If I had attempted to come up with an NA for “Make sure retirement fund is adequate when I reach 65”, it would have been a false one and would have muddied my NA mental state each time I looked at my NA list.

                    So make sure you are not forcing NAs where you should really be brainstorming and breaking visions down into projects.

                    Dave
                    Last edited by Busydave; 11-05-2005, 04:41 AM.

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