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  • Action List examples

    My apologies if this has already been circulated in the forum...I'm new to GTD.

    I am have difficulty with what seems like a basic question, but looking for examples from members regarding what their next actions look like.

    I have developed my GTD system up to my Project Lists...but lacking a clear understanding of the more basic....most important part...the Action lists.

    I understand that you group them based on activity clusters: home, work, phone, errands, etc. ....but what do they look like and how do they evolve through to project completion?

    How do I know how to take my project [example: create budget] and then say ok...my next action is to...blank [example: at computer, brainstorm items], and then what?....how do I move to the next action both for that project and/or the next project?

    I guess I would love to see examples of your next actions and how they both relate to your projects and how they evolve to the newer next actions. thanks...

  • #2
    > I understand that you group them based on activity clusters: home, work, phone, errands, etc.

    Keep in mind clustering into contexts is optional. I worked with one person who had >200 actions, but liked them "flat" - one big list. If you have a page or two of actions, you might just have one list. In my case I don't have many, but I like splitting out "Errands," with the remainder (computer, home, etc.) under "Actions."

    > but what do they look like and how do they evolve through to project completion?

    They should be small, independent tasks - things that can be done in one sitting, and that don't turn you off. Usually you'll have a mixture of small "five minute-ers" and larger 1 or 1-1/2 hour ones. This is good - you can still make progress independent of time and energy available.

    > How do I know how to take my project [example: create budget] and then say ok...my next action is to...blank [example: at computer, brainstorm items]

    This is a skill you will continue to develop. Usually there are some clear dependencies that will guide you: Needing to do research or collect information, doing preliminary planning (yes, planning is a *great* next action), etc. If you're stuck, just pick an arbitrary one (again, that's not dependent on others) and get going. Lakein calls this the "swiss cheese" method (poking holes in it).

    In the case of "create budget," do five minutes of sketching out a plan - back of the napkin is fine - to figure out what you need, etc. Review Allen's chapter on project planning for a guide. It might be something like "email team for budget forecast numbers."

    > how do I move to the next action both for that project and/or the next project?

    Remember that a) you can't "do" projects, only their related actions, and b) your actions list is a mixture of actions from all your projects (plus "one-off" actions unrelated to projects). You'll learn to choose actions based on your intuition. Allen recommends choosing based on four criteria: context, time, energy, and priority. Reviewing your calendar regularly will "heat up" certain ones - those due soon, but you're reviewing your actions list multiple times during the day.

    > I guess I would love to see examples of your next actions and how they both relate to your projects and how they evolve to the newer next actions. thanks...

    Project: Bike brake problem. Action: Waiting For bike part from shop
    Project: Client xx prospect. Action: Email to set up short phone conversation re: needs

    Hope that helps!

    Comment


    • #3
      My thoughts on NA's

      Next actions are really such a simple thing...but it does require thought and decision making to arrive at the correct one. Sometimes the next action I first come to has something in front of it that I haven't acknowledged yet.

      As an example, I am not particularly jazzed about having my wife's car serviced for a minor recall situation. It's inconvenient to figure out how we're going to juggle cars and get the baby transported and who knows how long it's going to take and... So that project (Have Nicole's car serviced for recall) has a next action of "Find the recall code for Nicole's car service" on my @Home list. It seems like such a small thing...but it really is the thing that will stop the project from moving forward. Initially it feels like "Call the shop for recall appointment" might be the next action since I have their number in my phone already...but that Next Action will sit on the list and languish because it's not REALLY the next action and I'm repelled by the project to begin with. What better excuse to let it slide than a not-so Next Action?

      Be as specific as you need to be. It can seem counterintuitive to write such a small action down because you assume that you will have to note every tiny action along the way...but usually that action will lead immediately to a call to the shop for an appointment and you take care of a few steps without having to note them in the system.

      I always try to find an appropriate action verb to start the Next Action with. I love verbs like Draft, Buy, Purge, Look up, Review, Edit... These verbs are often very different from Project verbs because a project is about outcomes (Complete, Replace, Hire...) and a Next Action is specifically about an action...

      A few real world Next Actions from my @Home list are:
      Set DVR for Yankee Game on 8/20
      Sync laptop
      Lookup Tears for Fears on iTunes (my library is on the server at home)
      Remove the caulk from the guest bath tub

      I hope something helps in these ramblings...

      Comment


      • #4
        Projects as bus rides.

        Project is like a bus ride from starting point (current reality) to destination (successfull outcome).

        Sometimes the destination is at the next bus stop - this is a standalone Next Action.

        Sometimes you can reach the destination using one bus route only - the route segments between bus stops are subsequent Next Actions in one context.

        Sometimes you have to use several buses to reach the destinations - you are switching buses (contexts) at appropriate bus stops. Sometimes you have to wait for next bus so your project is not moving forward but you know what to do next.

        Comment


        • #5
          Great way to picture the process

          Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
          Project is like a bus ride from starting point (current reality) to destination (successfull outcome).
          Nice one TesTeq - a really simple way of looking at a project and it's associated actions.

          cheers

          Nick

          Comment


          • #6
            I think a real key to implementing project and next action lists is to realize that you are already carrying out projects of varying complexity and duration, and you pretty much need to do whatever you are doing now to complete them. Big, complex projects need a supporting structure, but the form depends on many factors. I can't even begin to suggest how to carry out "create budget" because I have no idea if that is routine or novel for you, big or small, et cetera. Many projects, particularly small ones such as "Get Camry A/C fixed", just need the reminder that they are incomplete, and a next action ("Check calendars w spouse re Camry A/C"). Some need more, a page or less of plans and notes. Many people have a few projects that are more complicated yet, and need significant planning, e.g., a wedding.

            Another key is understanding that every moving part of every project needs a next action. Thus for a wedding, we might have

            Moving Part: Music for Reception
            Next Action: Call band leader re music list
            Moving Part: Prenuptial Agreement
            Next Action: Waiting For Lawyer re assets in Caymans
            Moving Part: R&D sexual compatibility
            Next Action: Discuss STD's and birth control w Fiance

            (This is a very modern wedding.)

            The moving parts may be in a note attached to the project on a digital project list, or could be in a paper folder- it's your choice. But the next actions are just book marks for the next physical action on the associated moving part.

            As for the perennial issue of associating projects, sub-projects, and next actions via software, I will only say that the houses of Lancaster and York fought the War of the Roses over precisely this issue.
            Last edited by mcogilvie; 08-18-2007, 08:26 PM. Reason: typo correction

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by gwelch View Post
              As an example, I am not particularly jazzed about having my wife's car serviced for a minor recall situation. It's inconvenient to figure out how we're going to juggle cars and get the baby transported and who knows how long it's going to take and... So that project (Have Nicole's car serviced for recall) has a next action of "Find the recall code for Nicole's car service" on my @Home list. It seems like such a small thing...but it really is the thing that will stop the project from moving forward.
              Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
              Many projects, particularly small ones such as "Get Camry A/C fixed", just need the reminder that they are incomplete, and a next action ("Check calendars w spouse re Camry A/C").
              Perhaps it was blindingly obvious now that gwelch has spelled it out, but just in case.
              Based on Mcogilvie's suggestion of an action item "Check Calendars with spouse", perhaps the reason you can't move on the Camry A/C recall is because the next action is not to find the recall number, but to figure out when it makes sense to schedule the work. I'd think, once you've figured that out, you'll be more motivated to find the number and make the call, before the opportunity passes you by.

              Comment

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