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  • Why a Next Action for EVERY Project?

    I'm trying to get rolling and I can see how well thought out this whole thing is. I have two hurdles.

    1. Why does there have to be a next action for every project? It seems like some projects - especially a someday maybe type - should not have a next action. It clutters up all the next actions that need to get done.

    2. I have too many next actions. I write software. Almost everything is in the context @Computer. The list can be 200 Next Actions. It's too big to manage. Stuff falls through the cracks.

    Thanks for any advice.

  • #2
    You don't need a next action for EVERY project. You need a next action for all your CURRENT projects. You can decide on the next action for Someday/maybe projects if and when you decide that you want to actually do them.

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    • #3
      You can't do a Project; you can only do Actions. If you want a Project to happen, you need at least one Action to do.

      Someday/Maybe means you're not actively working on it, so those don't need Actions.

      200 Next Actions may indeed be too much to do in the coming week. But now you know what you've committed yourself to do. You may need to defer, delegate, or renegiate your commitments.

      HTH

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by SomedayMaybe
        I'm trying to get rolling and I can see how well thought out this whole thing is. I have two hurdles.

        1. Why does there have to be a next action for every project? It seems like some projects - especially a someday maybe type - should not have a next action. It clutters up all the next actions that need to get done.

        2. I have too many next actions. I write software. Almost everything is in the context @Computer. The list can be 200 Next Actions. It's too big to manage. Stuff falls through the cracks.
        1. Others have already made good comments here. But look at what you said about clutter on your lists. You should not clutter up your next action list with things that are not next actions. This includes actions for S/M projects, actions that are dependent on other actions, and things that are not really actions at all. If you aren't rigorous about this, you will look at your lists and see undoable stuff on them, go "yuck!" and not do anything on your lists.

        2. Two things to try: consolidation and more fine-grained contexts. An example of consolidation is where you have a list of bugs to fix, and your next actions are

        Begin fixing bugs in module X
        Continue fixing bugs in module Y

        rather than

        Fix bug 1 in X
        Fix bug 2 in X
        ...
        This has good effects, for example, when it turns out the best thing to do is rewrite X so that bug 1 and bug 2 are replaced simultaneously by something elegant and correct.


        An example of finer-grained contexts is to split @computer into
        @coding
        @debugging
        @designing
        @documenting
        et cetera

        Making either of these work for you is highly dependent on your work habits and your environment. You have to be honest with yourself about how you work best, and try to structure gtd to support those behaviors.

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        • #5
          I have too many next actions. I write software. Almost everything is in the context @Computer. The list can be 200 Next Actions. It's too big to manage. Stuff falls through the cracks.
          In my experience, some tasks, like programming and writing, are most productive when handled in chunks that are a bit larger than a Next Action, but smaller than a project. They need the intuitive, in-the-moment, trial-and-error method used, for example, in solving a complex math problem, where the outcome is specific but unknown, and the "next actions" needed to reach the outcome are discovered as the work is being performed. The only way to break up these kinds of tasks, in my opinion, is by intermediate outcomes, not contexts.

          My suggestion: instead of splitting up your tasks into contexts, split 'em up into smaller, more manageable sub-projects. These could be a single feature or sub-feature you are coding, or a bug you are trying to fix. The product's feature list is the prefect place to start. Unit tests (the kind you write in Test Driven Development or TDD), are also ideal candidates.

          Hope that helps.

          Comment


          • #6
            Someday AND Maybe

            I have a huge volume of next actions as well so I have a "Someday" list that includes Projects and Next Actions that MUST be done, but not necessarily this week. Then I have a separate Maybe list that is all that other stuff that David refers to most typically. It has those things that are both optional, as well as "dreamer" stuff.

            The content of my NA and Active Projects list is ALWAYS something I either must do this week, or feel that I can or want to squeeze into this week.

            As a result, I tend to move things on and off the Someday list more frequently then others do, but I have a HUGE list of things that I will do "someday", but I'm able to focus on a week to week basis on what I need to.

            As the week goes on and things change, I often have to recalibrate and move things from someday onto NA, but this is easily done because of the rigour of the weekly review.

            WRT the whole context thing, I have a similar problem so I have the following contexts that others might roll up into @Computer:

            @Online (requires that I'm online, but not

            @VPN (where I'm VPN'd into corporate via my laptop.... typically I don't like to do dev where I'm dependent on lots of db network activity like this)

            @Devbox (desktop highly crafted toward development productivity, 1Gig net connection to servers, 2 LCDs, 2G ram, etc.)

            @Solaris (needs to be done on my sun dev box, too painful to do via SSH or VNC as it's an older box)

            @Computer (what I can do on my laptop while disconnected)

            Yours will surely look quite different, I did some previous contexts that were more along the lines of the kind of activity because of the way our source control was done with ClearCase, but we're no longer having that issue, so it didn't matter to me.

            One last thing I do. . . I tag actions and projects with a role, which is basically a grouping to segment the different groups I interact with and in turn play a specific role. On the development side, I have roles that coorespond to the product or customer. This helps me to quickly print out the current project and NA lists along with the Someday'd list for that customer. So when I walk into a meeting I can show them what's going on this week, and what's a candidate for next week, etc., all specific to them. As a plus for me, I can show them what I've got "@Waiting for" from them and others. In certain cases, this gives the execs the amunition they need and the project managers the info they need.

            Have fun!

            Mike

            Comment


            • #7
              Some of your next action list clutter might be:

              1)Routines and regular tasks that are or are not yet routine and regular. Perhaps just the first one in the chain could be on an action list and the remainder in @Lists??? For example I have a list of 37 things I need to do everyday in my home, I don't have them on my @Home list, even although they correspond to the project FAMILY:keep things running smoothly (which I do have further define). Instead I have on @Home-check37 (FAM:runs smoothly) and this refers to a paper list I have.

              2) Actions you know that you gotta do and you will do but you are not really committed to doing them in the next week or other segment of time before your next weekly review. I don't know what to do about these because in my case I need a reminder of them to create the opportunity to do them or to do them when the opportunity avails itself. I still struggle with these because they are not SDMB, they are things like renew driver's license and deliver items to Goodwill.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jamie Elis
                2) Actions you know that you gotta do and you will do but you are not really committed to doing them in the next week or other segment of time before your next weekly review. I don't know what to do about these because in my case I need a reminder of them to create the opportunity to do them or to do them when the opportunity avails itself. I still struggle with these because they are not SDMB, they are things like renew driver's license and deliver items to Goodwill.
                For these particular items, I would create @errands NAs, and do them when I am next running other errands in the right general direction.

                In general, I review items like this at each Weekly Review, and decide to either do them or put them off. If I put them off, I use the date field to hide them until whatever future time.

                Katherine

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                • #9
                  I just put those on a list with context "errands" and don't fret about the fact that they may not get done before the next weekly review. The commitment is just "as soon as possible/practical."

                  For household tasks, I have a checklist. I printed it out and put it in a clear plastic sleeve, and I cross the tasks off with a dry-erase marker. I've got two sets (together they both fit on one side of a page)--a list for every weekday, and one for the weekend. I further divided the daily tasks into "probably done in the evening" and "probably done in the morning."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What about meetings?

                    When I saw the title, I thought to myself, "Yeah, what about meetings?"

                    Often times the next action for a project is a meeting- essentially, I'm waiting for a meeting to occur so that we can make a decision, get more information, find closure, etc.

                    Unfortunately, putting the meeting on the hard landscape (e.g. Outlook calendar) as well as my @waiting-for list seems like too much work. However, this is the only way to ensure that it shows up in my task list when I do my weekly review.


                    Does anyone else put meetings as @waiting-for NAs?

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                    • #11
                      If the next action is a meeting, then I put the meeting on my calendar, put the agenda for the meeting in the calendar item, and don't worry about it until after the meeting takes place.

                      Now, it's possible that the next action is really scheduling the meeting, preparing for the meeting, or calling the person running the meeting to get on the agenda. Those are all "normal" next actions, and can be handled in the usual way.

                      Technically, this does break the rule that each active project must have a next action. But honestly, who cares? You can declare the project inactive until after the meeting, you can list the meeting as an @waiting for, you can scribble "pending meeting" next to the project name on your project list. Whatever works. The important point is that you have closed the open loop related to that project and therefore don't have to think about it any more.

                      Katherine

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                      • #12
                        37 things

                        Originally posted by Jamie Elis
                        For example I have a list of 37 things I need to do everyday in my home, I don't have them on my @Home list, even although they correspond to the project FAMILY:keep things running smoothly (which I do have further define). Instead I have on @Home-check37 (FAM:runs smoothly) and this refers to a paper list I have.
                        Hey Jamie
                        Please let me know how you keep things running smoothly with your home-check37... what all do you have on it?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SomedayMaybe
                          2. I have too many next actions. I write software. Almost everything is in the context @Computer. The list can be 200 Next Actions. It's too big to manage. Stuff falls through the cracks.

                          Thanks for any advice.
                          Someday,

                          Not tracking your next actions in a list doesn't make you have less of them! If you feel like your litsts are cluttered, imagine what's been going on in your brain not having written them down.

                          If you feel that you truly have too many NA's, maybe a solution would be to re-evalutae your standards and/or the commitments that yoiu make.

                          Hope this helps,

                          Jim

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