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  • Next Action clarification

    I'm a little confused about when to make an action a next action and what to do with it if its not a NA. I'm a graduate student and I manage two research facilities, so sometimes the executive-oriented GTD methods need to be translated to my work. Heres the question:

    If I'm going through meeting notes and come up with two tasks that need to get done on a project that can be down right now. Fore example, if my project is "Prepare for this weeks Lab fieldtrip," I need to email the manage or the facility we're visiting with a head count, etc, and draft data sheets for the students to use during lab. Lets assume both jobs take more than 2 minutes and both fall under the @computer context. Each action can be done without the other and each have the same discreet due date (before lab). Do each of these items get added to my next actions list? Or do I pick 1 next action and put the other in my project support information or on my waiting list? I don't want to clutter my NA lists, but want to give myself every option. This happens alot, each of my projects (many of them research studies) could easily get 3 or 4 actionable items that can be done now.

    Thanks,
    Abby

  • #2
    Moving parts

    I believe the key phrase that you need is "moving parts". David Allen has said that you look at a given project and look for its many 'moving parts' and write down a Next Action for each.

    For example, in a "Wedding" project, there may be 50 Next Actions that can be done, independent of each other. Some things (like print driving directions) may be dependent on other things (rent banquet hall so you have a destination). In that case, you put only the next possible step for that moving part (banquet hall).

    However, that may not affect calling up a photographer, so you can put that as a separate Next Action.

    Some projects will only have one moving part at a given time. Some projects will have many moving parts at a time. Sometimes the number of moving parts will change as various steps get accomplished, or as the circumstances change--this is part of the reason why you review weekly, to look for new moving parts and their associated actions. (For example, okay now that the driveway has been repaved we can move the furniture out of the garage and we can also pull the cars in from off the street).

    You want to have one Next Action per moving part. In effect, your Next Action list becomes a list of all of your next steps, whether that is 1 per project, or 300.

    Hope this helps,
    JohnV474

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    • #3
      To an extent, it's a judgment call.

      The main danger here is overwhelming your Actions lists with hundreds of Next Actions. You don't need to list every possible Next Action, though sometimes it makes sense to list several.

      For example, one of my current Projects is to try 10 new recipes that I've identified. I could list Actions for all of them. Instead, I picked 1 recipe and wrote down a Next Action for that one. I'm going to get through them all eventually, so I don't benefit from having every single possible action open to me on my NA list.

      Generally, I work with more focus and get more done if I limit myself to one Next Action per Project. But that's not an ironclad rule; sometimes it makes sense to write down more than one Action.

      Whatever works for you. No GTD Police will kick down your door if you try something that makes sense to you.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by abwalker View Post
        If I'm going through meeting notes and come up with two tasks that need to get done on a project that can be down right now. Fore example, if my project is "Prepare for this weeks Lab fieldtrip," I need to email the manage or the facility we're visiting with a head count, etc, and draft data sheets for the students to use during lab. Lets assume both jobs take more than 2 minutes and both fall under the @computer context.
        Abby,

        First I want to say from personal experience that GTD can be done in the academic/education field, the principles are the same but the examples are different!

        In terms of your questions, I'd say they are both next actions, since both are part of "this weeks" field trip, and need action quickly.

        The 3-4 actions per research study might not all be next actions, since you might not move on all of them in a given week.

        - Don

        Comment


        • #5
          Abby, I think all of the previous posters are right. Let me try to re-iterate:
          1. identify all moving parts of a give project
          2. decide how you want to move forward each one.
            Within the GTD framework this could mean:
            • writing down a NA to deal with ASAP
            • scheduling time on the calendar
            • noting a WaitingFor item either on the WaitingFor-list or in the project plan itself (project support materials in GTD parlance)
            I guess traditionally some people call this their working style.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by abwalker View Post
            I don't want to clutter my NA lists, but want to give myself every option. This happens alot, each of my projects (many of them research studies) could easily get 3 or 4 actionable items that can be done now.
            I have that as well. I put all actions that can be done now that are not dependent on something else being done on the appropriate context list. Why limit your progress by only putting a single next action down?

            If you move between contexts a lot you might miss the opportunity to get a bunch of actions done on a bunch of projects if you only have one NA listed and don't re-visit your projects until the weekly review.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by abwalker View Post
              I'm a little confused about when to make an action a next action and what to do with it if its not a NA.
              I think this is the point, for me. Avoid confusion that eat our brain's "energy". So first it's important collect, than think to what is actionable and make sense to action, writing down all help us to be like more light!

              Comment


              • #8
                I use outlook tasks to organize all of my next actions so i can change the wording of the next action very quickly. Often if I have an action that is dependent on another action then i will group both of these actions within the NA. For example, if going to the grocery store to purchase a specific ingredient is dependent on first finding out what ingredient that is then my NA would be "Call jim re what ingredient then go to giant eagle to purchase"

                Then once i have called jim i can quickly modify the wording of the NA to be "Go to giant eagle to purchase ingredient"

                Comment


                • #9
                  You could also setup a context called "Waiting for NA" and then put those dependent NA's into that group.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                    Why limit your progress by only putting a single next action down?
                    Why do artists impose limits on themselves?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brent View Post
                      Why do artists impose limits on themselves?
                      I don't think good artists do limit themselves. I think a good artist (and art can be found in many many tasks) always expand their limits.

                      In this context you're not putting stuff on your NA lists you cannot do, but instead capturing all the things that can be done now in an appropriate place.

                      To me that only makes sense and has nothing to do with artistic limits.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                        I don't think good artists do limit themselves. I think a good artist (and art can be found in many many tasks) always expand their limits.
                        Like sonnets?

                        Some of the greatest poetry in the English language has been written within severely limited forms.

                        In this context you're not putting stuff on your NA lists you cannot do, but instead capturing all the things that can be done now in an appropriate place.

                        To me that only makes sense and has nothing to do with artistic limits.
                        Artistic analogies aside, I think it really depends on the person. If the list is too long, it can be paralyzing. For me, at least, that is true of both context and Project lists. Slim it down, choose *not* to do some of it, and the rest is more likely to get done.

                        Katherine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kewms View Post
                          Some of the greatest poetry in the English language has been written within severely limited forms.
                          We have a difference in POV then, I don't consider the definition of specific form (sonnet, haiku) or a specific tool (water color, marble) as limiting the artistic expression, which is what I interpreted the phrase artists limiting themselves as. I don't think true artists impose limits on creativity and expression even when they choose to practice a specific form or style of art.

                          And yes, the feeling of long lists is different for every person.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kewms View Post
                            Like sonnets?

                            Slim it down, choose *not* to do some of it, and the rest is more likely to get done.

                            Katherine
                            About a year ago, I was numb to my lists because they were so long. I saw a similar post from Katherine and since have limited my next actions list to just what I wanted to accomplish within the next week-2 weeks. It helped me enormously! Everyone is different, but for me every project is 1 yr-16 months and every context list is less than about 30. Anything more and I just numb out.

                            Thanks again for that advice, Katherine!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Barb View Post
                              About a year ago, I was numb to my lists because they were so long. I saw a similar post from Katherine and since have limited my next actions list to just what I wanted to accomplish within the next week-2 weeks. It helped me enormously! Everyone is different, but for me every project is 1 yr-16 months and every context list is less than about 30. Anything more and I just numb out.

                              Thanks again for that advice, Katherine!
                              Glad it helped! Now I just need to follow it myself...

                              Katherine

                              Comment

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