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Confused - Next Actions or All Actions?

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  • Confused - Next Actions or All Actions?

    I have just read GTD and am keen to implement it. I am struggling to get 'Next Actions' clear in my head.

    I can go through and collect all the items that need doing. My problem is whilst doing that I come up with a number of actions per project. For each project I seem to have mulitple actions that need doing and can be done without reliance on the others. These I assume are classic 'Next Actions'. My issue arises when I look at items that will need doing sometime in the future but can't be done until the 'Next Actions' are done. Do I still put these somewhere to get them out of my head? If so , where do they go? They are not 'Next Actions' but 'todos'.

    Am I collecting too much information? Where should these little 'furture work items' that are rattling around my mind go?

    Really appreciate advice on this as I want to push forward with this and get things going!!

  • #2
    Originally posted by oidsman View Post
    I have just read GTD and am keen to implement it. I am struggling to get 'Next Actions' clear in my head.

    I can go through and collect all the items that need doing. My problem is whilst doing that I come up with a number of actions per project. For each project I seem to have mulitple actions that need doing and can be done without reliance on the others. These I assume are classic 'Next Actions'. My issue arises when I look at items that will need doing sometime in the future but can't be done until the 'Next Actions' are done. Do I still put these somewhere to get them out of my head? If so , where do they go? They are not 'Next Actions' but 'todos'.

    Am I collecting too much information? Where should these little 'furture work items' that are rattling around my mind go?

    Really appreciate advice on this as I want to push forward with this and get things going!!
    I will have different types of active projects: those that have most actions spelled out, those for which I've included some actions, and those that just include the actual next action. Not all my active projects todos are next actions, particularly those that are dependent on a previous next actions. Don't put those on your next action list. Rather just include those in your project support material, which can be electronic or paper-based. Then you just refer to those when you need to continue with the project or you need to record the next action for that project.

    For tasks or projects that you may want or need to do someday, but aren't ready in the next several weeks or even years - if at all - put them on your someday/maybe list.

    You aren't collecting too much. The point is to get it out of your head and into your system somewhere. There's a lot of freedom in knowing that you have it captured and put somewhere in your system.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by oidsman View Post
      My issue arises when I look at items that will need doing sometime in the future but can't be done until the 'Next Actions' are done. Do I still put these somewhere to get them out of my head? If so , where do they go? They are not 'Next Actions' but 'todos'.
      A good question!

      Nope, you don't need to write them down, and one primary reason is the way work changes as we work on it. The projects you work on will probably change somewhat in nature as you work on them--you'll realize that you can't build the cabinets quite the way you wanted, or your web hosting company doesn't integrate the way you expected. So, recording Next Actions beyond the immediate ones is often counter-productive, as many future actions will become obsolete before you are able to act on them.

      It's also a good idea to limit the number of "real" Next Actions that you write down, to keep yourself from being overwhelmed by NAs. If there are a dozen different ways to move forward, you don't need to list all of them, as long as you're making progress. You'll be updating your NA list over time, too, so you can always add other NAs.

      When it's Thursday afternoon and you've worked on a Project and you need to figure out the Next Action to put on a list, you'll rarely be stumped. I don't think you need to worry about pre-loading your list with lots of NAs; you'll be able to figure out the next step while you're in the thick of things.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by oidsman View Post
        Where should these little 'furture work items' that are rattling around my mind go?
        For project related actions, that are not next actions, you should write those down in the project reference documentation for that project.

        For me this is as simple as some quick text in the notes section of my Outlook task for the project.

        Writing it down gets it out of your head. I don't do this for all my projects, but for some of the more complicated ones. I also don't write down every action it will take to complete a project, but at least name some of the things that could be considered sub-projects.

        Many others use some kind of mind-mapping software for this time of information.

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        • #5
          Similar method

          Originally posted by dragynox View Post
          For project related actions, that are not next actions, you should write those down in the project reference documentation for that project.

          For me this is as simple as some quick text in the notes section of my Outlook task for the project.
          I use the same system. When I write a new project in the tasks of outlook "arrive" the possible sequence of future next actions but generally only one is the very next. This one has to be written in the tasks, in his context (office, home,...). Then when this first action it's finished, you can open the task of the project, review and verify the new next action required, double click to select all the line than you open a new task, copy in the subject, context and that's it.

          Only after the second reading of the book and the second reading of GTD & Outlook I realized clearly.

          Ciao from Italy

          Claudio

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          • #6
            This sounds like part of the project planning stage. For me, that involves about 5-10 minutes scribbling everything I can think of on a piece of paper, which then becomes my 'support material' for that project. It's that simple. That way, I don't forget anything that I've thought of, but it's not clogging up my NA lists either (because that stuff isn't Next Actions).

            Some projects don't need any support material at all. Some need far more that just the one page of scribbling. But whatever amount, it's all support, kept out of your active system until you need to refer to it.

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            • #7
              A somewhat philosophical note:

              GTD emphasizes the importance of forward momentum. It's about making sure that you're actually moving forward on your work, instead of just organizing it more.

              Thus, Next Actions. GTD emphasizes the creation of one Next Action, and an entry for the Project in your Projects list, per Project. Yes, you can write down more Actions than this. But every minute you spend writing down "stuff to do later" is a minute you're not spending on actually completing your Project. All you need is one NA and one item on your Projects list.

              This is just inherent in the system. It's not to suggest that planning is bad. It's not to suggest that you shouldn't note down future Actions.

              But there is great value in disciplining oneself to start work quickly, and come up with new Actions during the work.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Brent View Post
                A somewhat philosophical note:

                GTD emphasizes the importance of forward momentum. It's about making sure that you're actually moving forward on your work, instead of just organizing it more.

                Thus, Next Actions. GTD emphasizes the creation of one Next Action, and an entry for the Project in your Projects list, per Project. Yes, you can write down more Actions than this. But every minute you spend writing down "stuff to do later" is a minute you're not spending on actually completing your Project. All you need is one NA and one item on your Projects list.

                This is just inherent in the system. It's not to suggest that planning is bad. It's not to suggest that you shouldn't note down future Actions.

                But there is great value in disciplining oneself to start work quickly, and come up with new Actions during the work.
                I think the project dictates how much planning is needed. I don't ever want to drive over a bridge that was built by someone who just wanted to start working quickly. On the other hand, you could starve to death while you plan and re-plan and revise and plan again how you are going to make lunch.

                In general, though, I agree with you, Brent. Most of us spend too much time planning the last detail before we get started. 99% of what we do will turn out just fine without a detailed plan. Most plans fall apart to one degree or another within a short time after we begin anyway.

                Still, an initial plan is important for catching any major gotcha's. As Drucker/Eisenhower/Churchill (depending on whom you believe) said, "Plans are worthless, planning is invaluable". The trick is to know when to STOP planning, and just start doing.

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                • #9
                  For your next actions list, just put the next action. It's a bookmark of where you left off that will launch you back into that project faster than just the name of the project. When you work from the NA list, use that action to get you going on that project and don't feel you need to stop until you reach a natural point to stop or are interrupted. Then set a new next-action "bookmark" ready for next time.

                  Some projects require planning each step, that plan is "project support material", the amount of this you really need to write out depends on the kind of project it is.

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