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  • Paper-based mechanics

    Hello,

    I am still struggling with my A5 filofax setup and should be most grateful if somebody could advise on the manual process of recording projects, breaking these down to NAs and then placing the NAs under the various @Context sections

    At present, I appear to be writing out my NAs 3 times - project list to @Contect sections and finally to Daily Calendar to-do lists.

    Is there a simpler way of doing this without the duplication of effort?

    Thanks

    Banjoplucker

  • #2
    Be glad to help.

    Why are you writing actions on your Projects list? Your Projects list records your goals (the end), not your next physical Actions.

    Why are you writing actions on your calendar? You don't need to.

    Here's my implementation: During my Weekly Review, I rewrite my Projects list, as goals ("Add comments system to blog"). If I have a new Project, I think of the next physical Action for that Project, and write that on the appropriate Next Actions list. I only touch my calendar if there's something I need to do on a particular day at a particular time.

    Comment


    • #3
      Write NAs on the @context lists only.

      Originally posted by banjoplucker View Post
      At present, I appear to be writing out my NAs 3 times - project list to @Contect sections and finally to Daily Calendar to-do lists.
      Write NAs on the @context lists only.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
        Write NAs on the @context lists only.
        I've been using GTD principles for three or four years, but it was only yesterday that it finally clicked that this is all I need to do!!

        Guess I must be a slow learner

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by vatark View Post
          I've been using GTD principles for three or four years, but it was only yesterday that it finally clicked that this is all I need to do!!

          Guess I must be a slow learner
          I have a little snag with project lists, too. If I have a sequence of 10 NAs to accomplish (remove the stake in the ground for) a specific project. How do will I remember the next NA after the current one is accomplished?

          I have a project "Get new license plates"
          Which has NAs of

          @Phone Call Smog Check co.
          @Errands Get Smog Check
          @Errands Bring smog check results, dmv, and registration form to DMV.
          (likely) W/F for plates in teh mail

          That's a VERY simple project. If I have a more complex project sholdn't I note all of those in oen project support file and then just do a "next one off the top" to put the next NA on a context-based list?

          Sure, I guess I could do that. Everyone says to just write the one next NA but my mind doesn't "trust that". I feel most psychological clarity writing them out in full.

          Anyway around this?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by validatelife View Post
            Sure, I guess I could do that. Everyone says to just write the one next NA but my mind doesn't "trust that". I feel most psychological clarity writing them out in full.
            I think the difficulty we all face is the trust point - until we realise that we can trust the system - it's just ourselves we don't have much confidence in!

            What you are describing sounds to me like a checklist approach: you take on a project so you think about it and write down some of the things you need to do. I say some because it's quite likely that as you do some of the actions needed to get the project completed you'll realise that you need to do something you hadn't thought of - that's your Next Action at that point.

            You'll pick up your NA for a project either when you've just completed one, and say right I need to do "This to take it forward" or when you do a weekly review. The thing is that if you have a NA that you have to do when you are out of the office, the next one might be at your computer. Which brings me to another consideration – how do I make sure I have my NA lists with me? I don't, I just use my capture tools to record the next action so I can process it through my 'In to empty' routine.

            One step at a time is good way to walk a thousand miles!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by validatelife View Post
              I have a little snag with project lists, too. If I have a sequence of 10 NAs to accomplish (remove the stake in the ground for) a specific project. How do will I remember the next NA after the current one is accomplished?
              How do you know, right now, what the next 10 NAs will be? Why do you think you won't know it in the future, when you're working on the project?

              As you work on the project, you'll gather more information about the project and its elements. Wouldn't it be better to decide on your NAs when you have more information, while you're in the thick of the project, rather than now, before you've gathered that information?

              If I have a more complex project shouldn't I note all of those in one project support file and then just do a "next one off the top" to put the next NA on a context-based list?
              As I see it, there are two possibilities:

              1. You write down all the Next Actions now, and when the time comes to work on the Project, you work through those Next Actions. But as you work on your Project, new information will come to you that will change some of your future Actions. In your example, when you call the Smog Check co, their recording may tell you of a website where you can renew your results, and you decide to use that instead. So, much of that upfront planning was wasted.

              2. You write down just the Next Action. When the time comes, you start with that Action, then work using all the information available to you at that time. The Next Action becomes your bookmark for what you plan to work on next.

              It's like a martial art. If a master gets into a fight, he doesn't plan out his next 10 moves. He can't; he doesn't know what his opponent(s) will do. He reacts to the most important thing at the time, which changes as the fight progresses.

              Sure, I guess I could do that. Everyone says to just write the one next NA but my mind doesn't "trust that". I feel most psychological clarity writing them out in full.
              You could certainly write down all your expected Next Actions for a project in your project support materials, and use that for reference.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Brent View Post
                It's like a martial art. If a master gets into a fight, he doesn't plan out his next 10 moves. He can't; he doesn't know what his opponent(s) will do. He reacts to the most important thing at the time, which changes as the fight progresses.
                Actually, if he's a master, he forces his opponent to react to *him.*

                One of the regular posters here introduced me to the idea of the NA as a bookmark. I've found thinking about them in that way really helped me break away from a fussy obsession with keeping the NA and Project lists "in sync."

                The project support materials contain as much planning as you need to feel "in control" of the project. For me, that usually means a list of project components and/or milestones. Most of these could be seen as subprojects; they're much less granular than next actions.

                The NA lists contain the very next immediately doable action. Some of these might appear in a project plan, but most are too small to have been anticipated in advance.

                I use paper, and have found the amount of clerical work to be wonderfully low. There's really very little copying from project materials to NA lists and/or calendar.

                Hope this helps,

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kewms View Post
                  One of the regular posters here introduced me to the idea of the NA as a bookmark. I've found thinking about them in that way really helped me break away from a fussy obsession with keeping the NA and Project lists "in sync."

                  I use paper, and have found the amount of clerical work to be wonderfully low. There's really very little copying from project materials to NA lists and/or calendar.

                  Hope this helps,
                  It helped me, thank you.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Write what you know now, save the other details for later.

                    When I have a project, I take a blank piece of paper and write down all my ideas on it and things that will need to get done. I'll also create a file folder to keep it in. I leave plenty of spaces in between each item in case I think of an extra step or more details I want to fill in.

                    For example: I working on a week-long service project involving elementary school kids. Some things I have written are:

                    1) Find local sponsors for prizes for the kids.

                    2.) Email teachers explaining the project.

                    3.) Heavy Marketing/Reminders every day for the students and teachers.

                    4.) Document successes for full report.

                    As I think of more details I'll write them in--but they still aren't next actions. For 1.) I might write in the names of businesses that might be willing to donate. THEN I figure out the next action. I will need to contact the managers/owners of the businesses. So I will need their number. In my NA list I'll add: "get phone number for ________________." Then underneath I'll write "contact manager of ___________ to explain project and ask for sponsorship."

                    Any notes I take on my conversations with these businesses will also go in the folder.

                    As long as you review your projects and keep asking "what's the next action NOW?" you'll stay on top of your projects without having to pre-plan everything. Still, if you already know it has to be done, go ahead and write it down on your project notes. I just wouldn't spend extra time thinking about what every step is going to be along the way.
                    Last edited by babysnowbyrd; 05-16-2010, 06:27 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by babysnowbyrd View Post
                      Still, if you already know it has to be done, go ahead and write it down on your project notes. I just wouldn't spend extra time thinking about what every step is going to be along the way.
                      Very true - I have some projects that Iv just done in some form or another 1000 times before. I usually do a bullet list titled "steps" outlining what theyre going to be. I know 9 times out of 10 theyl be right,.

                      Other times I have no idea where a project will go, i just have an outcome I identify with - and then its just a case each time i complete an NA thinking "whats next". The only downside with this is that you dont always do thinks the most direct way - but hey, thats what learnings all about, right?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Next Actions aren't dependent on anything being true that isn't already true...

                        Originally posted by validatelife View Post
                        If I have a sequence of 10 NAs to accomplish (remove the stake in the ground for) a specific project. How do will I remember the next NA after the current one is accomplished?

                        I have a project "Get new license plates"
                        Which has NAs of

                        @Phone Call Smog Check co.
                        @Errands Get Smog Check
                        @Errands Bring smog check results, dmv, and registration form to DMV.
                        (likely) W/F for plates in teh mail
                        I think everyone's really answered your question, but I would add that they're called "next actions" for a reason. It means you are not dependent on something else being already done or "true" to be able to perform them... With that caveat in mind, your only next action here is "Call Smog Check co." The other items on this list are your best guess as to the logical progression the project will likely take.

                        The bookmark analogy is great, and I also like to think of "leap-frogging..." One action might take me into an entirely new realm of which I never would have dreamed. So I just keep doing the NA, and leaping off from wherever that NA has taken me onto the next NA...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Purpose of project plans...

                          On many projects, just having the outcome listed on the Projects list will be enough for you to know what to do (do laundry).

                          There are times that there will be several NA's, like the emissions example you gave, and these most properly will go on a Project Plan... which may be nothing more than a post-it with the steps you don't want to forget.

                          I find it most helpful to keep my Projects list clean and only list the outcomes. The NA list must maintain its virtue by being ONLY the Next Actions. If there are multiple Next Actions, then list them all. If there are multiple STEPS, but only some of them are NA's, only list the ones that are the real NA's on your NA list.

                          Put the rest on a Project Plan, which you can refer to after the current NA is done. If a project requires enough information (steps, sequences, "don't-forget-to's", etc.) that marking a NA as "complete" will not obviously and intuitively spark the following NA, then write it down. Get it out of your head.

                          To make it easier on you, put an asterisk or other indicator on the Projects List that tells you where to look for more information.

                          In this way, the Projects list, NA list, and Calendar can be with you and function in their proper roles--to be your Dashboard--they let you monitor a lot, and point you in the direction of more information when needed. You want to have your Project Plans as available as a folder in your briefcase, but needn't be in your pocket.

                          Don't be confused by terminology, though. We often say a project has 10 NA's, but we often mean "a few NA's and several Future Actions". Next Actions for the Next Actions list. Future Actions (steps/sequences/priorities) for the Project Plan.

                          That way, you 1) get it all out of your head, 2) have a trusted system that you will know where to find what you need, and will have it when you need it.

                          Does that seem like it would work for you?

                          JohnV474

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My paper system

                            I also struggled with the duplication issues, and I think I've found a solution that's right for me - it's still pretty new so we'll see.

                            Because of the nature of my projects and the nature of my brain:
                            1) I often need my project support materials to carry out my NAs. (e.g. "Write to Bob re: Steve's feedback on proj X" requires a quick review of my notes on Steve's feedback.)
                            2) Over half the time I write a list of possible future actions as soon as I decide I want to do a certain project (or even before, when it's a S/M) I have to make this future actions list to get the ideas out of my head
                            3) After I complete an NA I nearly always need to refer to the project support materials to determine the new NA
                            4) I like to note the completed actions and the date in the project support materials (otherwise I may forget having taken that action and will repeat it)

                            One day I was reading this forum and someone said that they put NAs on paper, one action per paper, and kept all those papers in context folders, and that was their NA list - and a light went on for me. I still keep all the past and future actions in a manila folder with the other project support materials. Then I put a sticky note on the front of the folder with the Next Action for that project. I treat the stack of folders as my NA list, just like others treat a stack of paper that way. When I have a small project with only a few actions (as happens occasionally) so I don't have to make a future actions list of have any other support material, I simply make a temporary folder for that project, with nothing inside it, and a sticky note on the front.

                            I don't think this would work for everyone. I do nearly all of my work at my desk, with an occasional trip to a conference room 20 feet away, so having a Next Action list that is many inches thick is not really an issue. I would have to come up with something different if I had to carry an NA list with me.

                            Theoretically the stack of folders could also double as my projects list but I still keep a paper projects list. Since the project folders are always getting shuffled about it is useful to have that list in one place in one order. Plus it makes it easier for me to check things off during the weekly review.

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