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  • Project/Next Action Lists

    I am a city high school principal, getting an enormous amount of paper across my desk, and multiple urgent interruptions during the day. It is very difficult to maintain even a two-minute focus on some days. The weekly review has helped me tremendously but I have had difficulty figuring out how to set up the Projects List. Recently, I have decided to use index cards. I carry them with me, and when I realize I have discovered a project with multiple steps, I start a new index card with the next few steps on the card. These are not necessarily Next Actions but they could be. Then I can transfer any items to context or agenda files, start a folder if necessary for reference materials, and keep track of my Projects by going through the cards on a regular basis. Makes me feels much more confident about having many balls in the air.

    I'm still looking for a way to manage Next Actions without it turning into a To-Do list.

  • #2
    Next Action

    I'm not sure I understand. Next actions really are a todo list - just better defined and concise than what most people refer to as a todo list.

    As for the 3x5's I think they're great. You might consider a wallet that holds 3x5's though and has a place for a small retractable pen like the fisher space pen. I recently invested in this setup and it works like a champ. I only use it for collection though. If you're going to process and organize with them you may want to go the whole route and make your whole system revolve around 3x5's. But where would that put your calendar, phone book, etc.?

    I think its best to have all that in the same tool.

    My opinion,

    Mark

    Comment


    • #3
      Next Action Lists vs. To-Do Lists

      There are two ways that GTD next action lists are different from (and better than) traditional to-do lists.

      Normally, a person will have more than one next action list, and each one will pertain to a particular context, i.e., a place where you work. This means that a next action list is never cluttered with stuff you can't do where you are right now.

      Next action lists contain only next actions. This is in (stark) contrast to a conventional to-do list which contains next actions plus projects and actions that are not next actions. Again, this keeps next action lists from being cluttered with things you can't work on.

      (A next action is a single action that is performable by you in one context at one time. A next action is waiting on only two things: 1) for you to enter the context where you will do it, and 2) for you start doing it. If an action is waiting for anything else, it is not a next action.)

      So, keep a next action list for each context in which you work and only put next actions on the lists. Do those two things, and you will never produce a traditional to-do list again.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Next Action

        Originally posted by DM
        I only use it for collection though. If you're going to process and organize with them you may want to go the whole route and make your whole system revolve around 3x5's.
        My opinion,

        Mark
        Mark,
        Right now I'm only using cards for collection, vertical planning and review. We'll see how it works out.


        Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
        A next action is a single action that is performable by you in one context at one time. A next action is waiting on only two things: 1) for you to enter the context where you will do it, and 2) for you start doing it. If an action is waiting for anything else, it is not a next action.)

        So, keep a next action list for each context in which you work and only put next actions on the lists. Do those two things, and you will never produce a traditional to-do list again.
        Scott,
        Thanks for the clarification. Every day, by reading this board, I understand GTD a little better.

        Ruth

        Comment


        • #5
          I am an elementary school principal, so I know what you mean by having lots come your way. Back in February, someone was wanting to implement a system based on index cards and was looking for suggestions. Posted below was my suggestion. As far as how to keep from having a "to-do" list, I suggest separating your index cards by the context for the next action. All of the cards where a phone call is the next action go in one stack, those where the next action is something you have to do out in the building in one stack, etc.

          Here goes my February post:
          I will take a stab at this one. Here is one way you could structure a system with nothing but 3X5 cards:
          1. Have an index card for each project (instead of each task). Write the name of the project at the bottom of the card phrased in such a way that you will know when you have completed the project.
          2. On the top line of the card, write the next action.
          3. If you know what the NEXT next actions will be, continue listing them on the card one underneath the other.
          4. As you complete a next action, highlight it with a highlighter and make sure you have at least one next action listed below it.
          5. Use the back of the card to make notes regarding details of phone calls, confirmation numbers, and other info related to the project.
          6. Organize your cards by context. All cards where a phone call is the next action will be sorted together, all cards where an errand is the next action will be sorted together, etc. You could put a rubber band or paper clip around each context.

          You will be "done" with a card when the project has been completed. In other words, you have accomplished the last line on the card. The card will contain all of the next actions that led up to the completion of the project (you could even date the next actions as you complete them). All of your miscellaneous info will be on the back. You may want to keep a 3X5 file box of your completed projects.

          This is just a thought of the top of my head. Hope it helps.

          Comment


          • #6
            Frank,
            Your approach is perfect! I have been trying to find a way to incorporate GTD with my franklin planner (FP), and would like to keep my project notes with a running list of actions for each project rather than in a seperate place. I will substitute index cards for blank FP sheets, using FP cut off sheets when extra paper is needed, and create seperate tabs for each action context. I'll then use the calendar pages to list appointments, day specific actions, and 'tickled' notes.

            All your posts in this topic have been very helpful guys! Thanks!

            Paul Backes
            San Diego, CA

            Comment


            • #7
              This method may have a problem when dealing with more than one "Next Action" on a project. Where do you put the card when the next thing that you can do is "Call Bob re: project XYZ" and "Pick up two cases of doorstops from Lowe's for project XYZ". The idea of next action lists is to capture at least one action for each project, as well as any next actions that are not project related, and have them all available by context.

              -Mark

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by markr
                This method may have a problem when dealing with more than one "Next Action" on a project.
                You have a point, but I'd say it's better to design a system for the norm rather than the exceptions. For 80-90 percent of my projects, I only have serial next actions, rather than concurrent, so this method (or something like it) would work fine. Only build in exception handling when it's really needed; otherwise, some of us who, uh, tend to prefer complicated solutions might never get started.

                There's a tenet in the XP (extreme programming) world that goes "do the simplest thing that could possibly work." A corollary to this is "you ain't gonna need it." I try to keep these things in mind when I design a new process or system for work or home.

                Comment


                • #9
                  markr wrote:
                  This method may have a problem when dealing with more than one "Next Action" on a project.

                  If you could make the phone call or run the errand, the question I would ask if which are you more likely to do first and put the card in that stack.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Good points

                    Good points, guys. I've abandoned that idea. I have revamped my planner, basically throwing out the 2 page per day calendar pages, and replacing them with just the montly tabs (and 2 pages/week backups when a week demands it).

                    I went to office depot and bought 5x8 index card tabs (100), 5 tab cut. I created a template in Word in order to print on the tabs, which I like. I then cut the tabs off and tape them to a larger planner page (less thick, and obviously te 5x8 is too small). Here are my tabs:

                    (Monthly Tabs)

                    Inbox / New Ideas (To Be Defined)
                    Next Actions Lists
                    Errands & Agendas
                    Waiting for & Incubating
                    Someday Maybe Lists

                    Desired Outcomes (Project List)
                    Project Plans & Notes
                    Syllabus' & Assignments
                    Self-Assessments & Processes
                    References

                    (Calendar tabs)

                    Comment

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