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  • actions vs next actions

    If, in your weekly review, you go through your projects list and identify the actions you want to complete in the upcoming week, you will have a list consisting of 'next actions' and 'actions'. That is, any time you have more than one action per project on your list, there is a chance it is not really a 'next action'. How do you handle this? Or do you avoid it, so there is only one 'next action' per project in your list?

  • #2
    Project Sheet

    Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
    If, in your weekly review, you go through your projects list and identify the actions you want to complete in the upcoming week, you will have a list consisting of 'next actions' and 'actions'. That is, any time you have more than one action per project on your list, there is a chance it is not really a 'next action'. How do you handle this? Or do you avoid it, so there is only one 'next action' per project in your list?
    Just maintain a single sheet of paper per project in your project reference materials, for writing down all steps that you think will be "necessary".

    The sheet will either be helpful (you may be able to pick some next actions directly from that sheet - probably not in the order you wrote them down) or instructive (you may laugh, with hindsight, at what looked so "indispensable" at the beginning). In any case, there is a benefit.

    DIY Planner provides great project sheet templates, see http://www.diyplanner.com/templates.

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    • #3
      Thanks Rolf,

      We are in agreement -- that is how I keep my projects now.

      Currently, though, I only refer to my projects list once a week, when I do my weekly review. At that time, I currently transfer one or more action items per project to my 'todo' list, which GTD calls a 'next action' list.

      I work off the 'todo' list all week, doing and adding tasks as they occur to me.

      Question is, when I transfer multiple action items from my project list to my todo list, there are often dependencies -- one action cannot be done until a previous one has been done. Now, you have the situation where you look over your 'next action' list saying 'nope, can't do that one yet ', 'nope, have to do something else first', etc, which I am sure is not how a 'next action' list is intended to be used at all. GTD says to avoid a prioritized list, so my conclusion is that there can only be one action item per project in my todo list at one time. I think my conclusion is wrong, but I am not sure how the situation is handled.

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      • #4
        You are correct. Next Actions should only be on the list if they are not depdendent on something that has not happened yet.

        You can have more than one next action if they are independent. For example: You could have three potential vendors to call and request competitive quotes for a service. All three calls could be on your list. However, "Compare the quotes" can't be on the list until all three quotes are in. If you want to request three quotes and compare the results before your next weekly review, you would have all three calls on the @ calls list. Then as you spoke to each one, you would add an item to @WF to wait for their quote. When quote1 comes in, you check it off. Can you do anything else on this project yet? No. Quote 2 comes in, no. When quote 3 comes in, you now have nothing on your NA lists for this project. You can now add "Compare the quotes" to your @Office list and do it.

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        • #5
          An action that is not immediately doable (given the right context) is not a Next Action and does not belong on your NA lists. Period. This is one of the core ideas of GTD: if you can't do it, don't force yourself to think about it.

          As others have noted, it's fine to have more than one independent NA per project. It's also fine to refer to your project list and project support materials as often as necessary. If you "run out" of NAs, there's no rule that says you have to wait until the Weekly Review to get more.

          Katherine

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          • #6
            Unless an action is dependent upon a previous action, you can put it on your next action list. And even if it is dependent, you could say:

            Call John re: XYZ (then email joe with results)

            That way, you can keep track of the dependent action w/o having to refer to your whole project folder.

            I have found that most actions for projects aren't as dependent upon others or don't need to happen in a sequential order.. I thought they did, but then I thought further and realized I can get multiple things going at once and GTD really supports me in doing that. I thought they had to be sequential before only so I could track or control them better. GTD sets it up so you can have lots of NAs happening at once and track them all.

            I would not wait until my weekly review to enter another Next Action for a project. If you can't think of the NA off the top of your head, you should refer to your Project Plan asap. Or do it in your daily review in the morning. If you wait until your weekly review, your projects won't move very fast.

            Darla

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            • #7
              I guess I am unclear how far ahead you look in your next action list. For a very structured project with a long sequence of actions, it sounds like you might pop out to your project list to replenish your next action list many times a week. It also sounds like you wouldn't want to keep items in your next action list unless they are truly independent of each other. In fact, it sounds as though, if you had a project with a sharply defined sequence of tasks, and if that project were high priority, that you might run with two files open: your next actions and your projects. And only when you moved to another context where work on that project was not possible would you return to the single list: next actions.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
                I guess I am unclear how far ahead you look in your next action list. For a very structured project with a long sequence of actions, it sounds like you might pop out to your project list to replenish your next action list many times a week. It also sounds like you wouldn't want to keep items in your next action list unless they are truly independent of each other. In fact, it sounds as though, if you had a project with a sharply defined sequence of tasks, and if that project were high priority, that you might run with two files open: your next actions and your projects. And only when you moved to another context where work on that project was not possible would you return to the single list: next actions.
                Quite possibly. Or you might work from the project plan, or from a checklist appropriate to the project. Others have described the next action list as a set of bookmarks, stakes in the ground to show you where to begin. It is not intended to be a comprehensive inventory all by itself--that's where other components of the system come in.

                Katherine

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                • #9
                  I agree with the above that you do not want dependent actions on your NA list if they cannot be done yet.

                  With the bookmark analogy, it would work like this for some projects: imagine a project with 20 steps. They could be sequential or independent or a mix of both. It doesn't matter. Your project list includes an entry with the project name. Your NA list has step 1 on it. At 8:00 am, you look at your project list, see step 1 ("call Jane" or whatever it is), and you do that action. You are in the flow and then automatically complete steps 2 and 3 before breaking to do something else. Now you refer back to the NA list which has step one crossed off and you write step 4 on the list so you know where to pick back up later when you get back to working on the project.

                  It is OK to have other independent steps also listed on the NA list if you want to keep multiple parts moving at once, but by following the practice of noting the next action when you finish work on the project, you will always have at least one action for that project on your NA list (possibly one action per moving part of the project). That is what bookmarks the project on your NA list.

                  Don't think of your NA lists as a precise inventory of actions that you will complete in the coming week. It is just a list of the very next actions on all the projects that you want to advance during the next week. It is possible that every action will be crossed off in a few days and be replaced by other actions.

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