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[u]Next[/u] action only? Why?

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  • [u]Next[/u] action only? Why?

    Why list the only next physical action? Why not list a number of action steps for the required outcome? What is the thinking behind this?

  • #2
    two thoughts

    one - every subsequent action you take depends on how the very next action changes the world. You may make detailed plans for a project only to find that in taking the next action, something unexpected happens that makes you have to rethink or even abandon the project. All you can really be sure of is, given what you know, what step should you take next.

    two - there is nothing that says you can't plan multiple steps for a project in great detail, but those should go in the project notes or support material - the single, very next physical action for each project goes into your lists (to-dos) to serve as a marker to let you know where to pick up from where you left off.

    Often, in the notes section of a project on my Palm or in Outlook, I may put notes or plans beyond the next action - however, in my action lists, I only list the next action for each project, and refer to the project notes once that action is completed and I see what the world looks like after it is done.

    Max

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    • #3
      Next Action

      I think the previous poster answered your question. In case this spin helps, there's also a periodic debate over whether a project with multiple possible next actions should have all those next actions on an action list. For example, you could call Joe about the report that formally closes out the previous portion of the project, call Jane about a quote on a consulting service you know you need to move the project forward, email your boss with a status on the project (he asked for it yesterday), or...you get the idea. Some include any action with no predecessor action on their action lists (in principle, a large project could have 10 or 20 physical next actions possible; others include only one action per project). The difference is really how long your lists are.

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      • #4
        The difference is really how long your lists are.
        Agreed. The way I tend to work is that in the brainstorming phase of a new project, a bunch of next actions will come to mind, and I will put them down on all my lists. Later, perhaps during the weekly review, if too many of these are still undone and I'm unhappy with the apparent lack of progress, I might back things down so that only one next action for the project appears in my lists (it's a single checkbox in Life Balance). Or I might think harder about dependencies that have appeared since I started working on the project, and rearrange the NAs to match reality.

        Some people really feel oppressed by long lists of NAs (it's a recurring thread here), but it's usually not a problem for me. What I need is to see change in the lists, rather than the lists shrinking to zero.

        The other thing I make a point of doing with my NAs is leaving myself a "bookmark" when I'm winding down a session of working on a particular project. This saves me enormous amounts of time when I pick it up to work on it again, because the "... now, where was I?" phase I have to engage in without that bookmark/NA can be so intimidating as to cause me to leave it moldering for another round instead of completing it!

        Cheers,

        Ambar
        http://ambarconsulting.com/[/quote]

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        • #5
          Why Only Next Actions

          Another short answer. It keeps your action lists from being cluttered with actions that you can't do yet.

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          • #6
            Reducing to Next Action

            Sure there is only 1 Next Action for each Project/subProject/Single-Step Outcome. I find that there are 3 general situations about writing out more steps than just the Next Action.

            1. The no-brainer - I know how to get to this outcome. I don't bother to write anything but the Next Action.

            2. The complex Project - I know what I have to Do but I have to brainstorm a bit - write out the actions and then sort them into a logical order, transferring the Next Action to the appropriate list. Having written the various steps, there's not much point in deleting them just because there is only 1 Next Action.

            3. I have no idea what to Do - I need a single action just to get started - call a friend, ask the audience, use a lifeline, etc. I don't know what will come after that, so there's no point in worrying about it until I see what comes out of that first action.

            Andrew

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            • #7
              Ambar said:
              The other thing I make a point of doing with my NAs is leaving myself a "bookmark" when I'm winding down a session of working on a particular project. This saves me enormous amounts of time when I pick it up to work on it again, because the "... now, where was I?" phase I have to engage in without that bookmark/NA can be so intimidating as to cause me to leave it moldering for another round instead of completing it!

              A good point, very relevant to my own situation. Can you say a little more about the form of the "bookmark"?

              Christian

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              • #8
                ...you may want to check out the post:

                "Bogged Down in Minutia"

                Three pages long (lol) and with a lot of perpsectives on the "Next Action" Model of Reality

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                • #9
                  Re: Next action only? Why?

                  Originally posted by dano77
                  Why list the only next physical action? Why not list a number of action steps for the required outcome? What is the thinking behind this?
                  Here's one thing I do with clients who have a LOT of ideas (ie: next, next actions) on larger projects:

                  What do I do with the next, next actions?

                  My rule of thumb is this…I capture all the thinking I can, while I am thinking. I demonstrate this in action with clients. Perhaps you'd be willing to try it out too! First, pick one of the BIGGIES on your plate right now. What one issue, circumstance or situation needs your attention? Next, get three pieces of paper for the following activities.

                  PAGE ONE: Project Outcome. Describe in detail your intended successful outcome. Write one to two sentences (or one or two paragraphs!) outlining your commitment to an end result.

                  PAGE TWO: Brainstorm (write down!) ANY potential actions, ideas, thoughts, names, places, etc that come to mind about that. I usually suggest you go for 20-50 items, depending on the size and scope of the project. (These are not necessarily TO-Dos; instead, this is a page to…capture the thinking while you're thinking.

                  PAGE THREE: Next Actions. Process the project and your brainstorm by deciding what's NEXT. What action can you take next to start moving toward closure on that outcome? Also, through the course of the project lifetime, consider reviewing, editing and adding to that "idea collection" piece of paper. (I call it Project Support.)

                  Then, in your weekly review (and, you might do two+ weekly reviews a week, some clients do), check these three pages and see where you are, and add any outstanding actions to your lists...

                  I hope that helps!

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                  • #10
                    Multiple N/A for a Project

                    If I have several independent NA for a project (each one can be done immediately without waiting for one of the others to complete first), then I will list all of them. That way, I'm not arbitrarily sequencing what are essentially parallel activities.

                    If I come up with an NA and then I realize that there is a predecessor (or circumstances change and now a predecessor is required), then instead of deleting the task I convert the context to my handy-dandy @FutureTask context. There are generally only a few tasks in this list, so it's easy to see when one of them can be promoted to a true NA.

                    Claudia

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                    • #11
                      A good thing about Life Balance is the ability to select "Complete sub-tasks in order". Then when a brainstorming session generates ideas some of which require a specific sequence, you can list them all in order and the next will appear automatically when one is checked off. If they can be completed in any order, you can either have them all appear in context lists to be done when time, context & energy allow or subordinate their importance so they don't show up until you activate them (equivalent to keeping them on a list in the project).

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                      • #12
                        "bookmarks"

                        Ambar said: The other thing I make a point of doing with my NAs is leaving myself a "bookmark" when I'm winding down a session of working on a particular project.
                        A good point, very relevant to my own situation. Can you say a little more about the form of the "bookmark"?
                        It's not so much a form as a discipline. When I find myself "petering out" after a burst of work on an incomplete project, I want to take the few minutes to record exactly what needs to happen in order to complete it (which is often more than one NA, although not always), while this knowledge is still in my head and hasn't fallen out!

                        When I do this, I find I can easily restart the project at a later time. If I have not -- say I notice the project at weekly review time, it has no next actions and yet still isn't complete -- I have to recapitulate a fair bit of thinking.

                        Is that what you were after?

                        Regards,

                        Ambar
                        http://ambarconsulting.com/

                        Comment

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