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when do you replenish your next action list?

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  • when do you replenish your next action list?

    If I have a list of next actions for 50 active projects, I should take a step toward each every week.

    If I add a new next action for a project every time I complete one, I can't tell by looking at my next action list whether I am making progress on all projects or concentrating on a few.

    If I remove next actions as they are completed, over the course of the week, I can do a next action for every project.

    But, some projects are high focus, and may require dozens of next actions every week. This may obscure next actions for other projects that are lower priority.

    How do you handle this?

    Thanks,
    Arc

  • #2
    Hi Arc, there are a few things I can think of that might help this.

    First, part of this is a philosophy question, having to do with how often you review. Basically, if you're reviewing your project and actions lists frequently enough, you should have a basic mental picture of what is a higher priority item. Especially at your weekly review, when reviewing your projects list, try to think about what the priority of each project is given the context (not in the GTD sense) of when the deadline is and how far you might actually be from completion. Thus, if you're consistently watching the project and you forecast about three weeks of work, it can be okay to defer some of those actions as long as you have at least three weeks until your deadline. If you're constantly aware of those deadlines, I'd think that perhaps when Do-ing, your priority scale could be affected by the future plans, not just the priority of that possibly early stage action.

    Also, each week, when doing your weekly review, take a look at the actions you've completed that week. If you're tracking on a paper system, perhaps make a note of when things were crossed off, or use a special colour pen or highlighter. Electronically, see if your system tracks the date you mark something completed, or alternatively, perhaps copy and paste your completed NA's into a general text file for the week or day. Then, at your review, you can see what actions have been done, and perhaps see if certain projects have been monopolizing your time. Then, if something else needs to be done, you can highlight that either in a special context (I use a Most Important Tasks context for certain items like this) or again, with some kind of cue that triggers that even though this might look like a lower priority action, it has been stale for too long and needs to be completed. If you're using a paper system and manually rewrite your lists, you can also get a feel for what is being rewritten week after week after week.

    So there are a few ideas, hope they can help!

    Cheers,

    Adam

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    • #3
      I print off my Projects list every week and post it to my studio door. I periodically highlight any Projects that I've made progress on (literally, with a yellow highlighter). If I complete a Project, I also highlight it in red.

      So, if I see non-highlighted items as the week progresses, I know that they need some attention.

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      • #4
        I mark the date next to each Next Action when I record it. In other words, if today is October 23, then when I write a next action, it looks like this: "Send TPS report to Lumbergh [10/23/07]"

        The date is there to help me see how long a particular action has been on my list. If something is more than a week old, then I know I better get on it.
        Last edited by jknecht; 10-23-2007, 11:22 AM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Brent View Post
          I print off my Projects list every week and post it to my studio door. I periodically highlight any Projects that I've made progress on (literally, with a yellow highlighter). If I complete a Project, I also highlight it in red.

          So, if I see non-highlighted items as the week progresses, I know that they need some attention.
          Nice suggestion, I think I'll try that.

          Yours
          Alexander

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          • #6
            Originally posted by hth View Post
            Nice suggestion, I think I'll try that.

            Yours
            Alexander
            I agree. This is a great suggestion.

            Comment


            • #7
              Color Schemes for Tasks with Deadlines

              I really like some of the above suggestions. I designed some scripts for the mac that help me color-code my next actions based on either when they are due or how significant they are for me. All next actions due within one week get colored red. Those that are due in three weeks get colored orange. And those that are six weeks out get colored yellow. So as tasks approach their deadlines, they go from Yellow to Orange to Red. It's a great way for me to keep things from slipping through the cracks.

              Here is a sample picture:
              Attached Files
              Last edited by Todd V; 07-02-2011, 12:07 AM.

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              • #8
                Thanks thanks thanks!

                It's been one day and I love it!

                I pruned all the action items out of my project list, so now I have a flat list of about 30 projects.

                I 'verbed' all of them with 'complete', 'look into', etc.

                I added a descriptive word to each project -- this word then is used for every action item for that project, so that when I look at my next action list, I can see what action goes with what project.

                I printed out my project list, and have been happily highlighting each as I complete an action item associated with it.

                The day feels productive and in control.

                Let's see what tomorrow brings

                Comment


                • #9
                  project list in spreadsheet

                  Great idea Brent!

                  I don't have a place to hang my proj list, so I think I'll try to make a list in my spreadsheet program, and highlight the tasks under each project as i go along.

                  Thank you for the tip!


                  Originally posted by Brent View Post
                  I print off my Projects list every week and post it to my studio door. I periodically highlight any Projects that I've made progress on (literally, with a yellow highlighter). If I complete a Project, I also highlight it in red.

                  So, if I see non-highlighted items as the week progresses, I know that they need some attention.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    An unexpected benefit of highlighting projects:

                    As I repeatedly look at the unhighlighted ones and think about working on them, it dawns on me that, given my circumstances this week, I am just not going to get to some of them. So, for this week, it is inappropriate that they be 'active' projects -- I should move them to someday/maybe, if only for this week. This in turn could really help me to visualize where I should be spending my time in the upcoming week, and to be energized by knowing that it is all possible

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                    • #11
                      I'm still just a 3 week old newbie - so, I'm in the stage of building habits and building trust in my system. I spend time every morning on Collection, Processing, Organizing, and Reviewing - which basically means ensuring that my Next Actions list is up to date before I start the workday. The rest of my day is DO, unless an emergency comes up that will cause me to reassess.

                      My Next Actions list is a spreadsheet with one row per active project, and room for one or two next actions, and blank rows at the bottom for Ad Hoc next actions (longer than two minutes but not multi-step). I'm trying to make my Next Actions small enough so that I can easily make progress, otherwise I will fall into the same old trap of getting overwhelmed and looking like this: Given the number of interruptions around here, that means anything longer than 15 minutes probably needs to be subdivided into smaller Actions if I'm to make any progress at all.

                      Once the list is built, I print it, and highlight my 5 most important Next Actions for the day. That, plus my calendar, tells me what my focus needs to be for the day, barring any emergencies. Most days I have so many distractions that I don't get much past those 5. But it's progress, it's helping, and I feel better for it. On days when I do make a lot of progress, I'll update, reprint, and reassess my "high 5" whenever I feel it would help.

                      Until I build the right habits and build trust with the system, I'll continue cycling through the entire workflow at least daily.

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