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  • Separate lists for Projects and NA or not?

    Hi
    I have been implementing GTD since last year (and one of the things I really like about it is the sense of there being depths of competency! - so I'm learning all the time). This may sound like a stupid question to you people but at the moment I'm using an Excel workbook for my projects - linked into another Excel sheet which has my next actions.
    I use pen and paper to capture (or a voice recorder if I'm out walking) stuff but how many next actions should I set out for each project...?
    Is it sufficient to identify just one...then note the next action that emerges as I complete this one? Any one got ideas for best practice?
    Thanks..
    Anne

  • #2
    Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
    Is it sufficient to identify just one...then note the next action that emerges as I complete this one?
    Absolutely. To me, this is one of core the ideas of GTD -- if you had nothing else to work on but that one project, what is the very next thing you could possibly do to push that project forward? And if you can't do it until something else is done first, only put that first thing on the next action list (the second thing goes in a project plan somewhere).

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    • #3
      Thanks for that..

      Thanks for responding to my thread. Much appreciated!
      I suppose I want to get pretty granular about it. I was using a combine Projects and NA list (sometimes with a few NA for the same project) but now I'm experimenting (after listening to the GTD system CDs) with having a master project list that has projects only and then having a next actions list that I update a couple of times a week.
      I was just wondered what other people were doing that really worked for them..
      Could you say a bit more about the following..."only put that first thing on the next action list (the second thing goes in a project plan somewhere)."
      Thanks!
      Anne

      Comment


      • #4
        Welcome!

        Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
        Hi
        how many next actions should I set out for each project...?
        Is it sufficient to identify just one...then note the next action that emerges as I complete this one?
        It's called a Next Action for a reason.

        You only need one. If a Project has several truly independent NAs, you can write down all of them. If you want to record future Actions, you can put those in your Project support materials.

        All other things being equal, the closer you are to one Next Action, the better. It's easy to overwhelm an NA list with several independent NAs per Project, thus inviting analysis paralysis, as opposed to picking one. It's not like you'll have a small list of NAs to choose from anyway!

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        • #5
          I only have more than one NA if the each is completely separate and independent, preferably in different contexts. The whole point of GTD is to have a specific next action to do, so if you're dithering between two (or more) the system breaks down.

          But, I do often list the "next" Next Action under the one that is currently active. Sometimes I have several listed - they're usually more like notes, and not set in stone. But there's not harm in jotting down what might come after the action that is current active.

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          • #6
            First, let me say I like your Excel system. Many people take half the fun out of GTD by using Outlook.

            Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
            Thanks for responding to my thread. Much appreciated!
            I suppose I want to get pretty granular about it.
            Pretty granular is good. Use NAs as jumppoints, not as descriptions of a whole stream of actions.


            Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
            I was just wondered what other people were doing that really worked for them..
            Just plain vanilla GTD works fine for me for years now. I have every possible NA in my system - not 'artificially reduced to one NA per Project. I have one NA per moving part of each project (p. 76 in GTD book).

            I review my lists constantly. Most of the time I work off of my head because the constant reviewing makes me conscious for what is the 'best use of my time.

            I use that olde trick of starting the day with a pre-defined most important task.

            Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
            Could you say a bit more about the following..."only put that first thing on the next action list (the second thing goes in a project plan somewhere)."
            Only put true NAs on the context-lists. Put other already apparent actions, milestones, sub-project, definitions of outcomes and so on into an action plan for the project. Each project that needs more planning than the NA to make you stop thinking about it, get's an project plan. There is a chapter in GTD about project planning / natural planning.

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            • #7
              I used to believe that I could only have 1 next action per project. But the members here were very helpful to instruct me on a better practice and I have not looked back. I now have multiple independent actions on my lists and accomplish a lot more as a result.
              Last edited by GTDWorks; 01-13-2010, 12:14 AM.

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              • #8
                It's plenty to have just one - in fact, I think that it may technically be a violation to have more than one. I've been trying to suppress my frequent urge to write a long elaborate set of actions, because often I end up following a different path, and I have to clean up those actions. Thats not much work, because I use an electronic system, but it's still two pieces of time wasted - the time to write all the actions, and the time to turn around and delete or rearrange them.

                I _do_ sometimes wrote a long series of terribly obvious actions when I'm feeling overwhelmed by a task. If I find the bits of the task that I _do_ understand, write them up as actions to make them important, and then nibble away at the problem by working them and checking them off, I often find that by the time I get to the center of the problem, I know how to handle it. Without tricking myself with all of those little actions, I might still be staring blankly at the outside of the task.

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                • #9
                  @Brent - thank you first!

                  Hi Brent...
                  Was intrigued by this
                  "You only need one. If a Project has several truly independent NAs, you can write down all of them. If you want to record future Actions, you can put those in your Project support materials."
                  So would you suggest that I have a folder per project (I've got lots of projects and the idea of creating folders - well - to use the GTD term "repels" me!

                  Any thoughts on that..
                  Thank you
                  Anne

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                  • #10
                    Thank you El Stiff!

                    Originally posted by El_Stiff View Post
                    I only have more than one NA if the each is completely separate and independent, preferably in different contexts. The whole point of GTD is to have a specific next action to do, so if you're dithering between two (or more) the system breaks down.

                    But, I do often list the "next" Next Action under the one that is currently active. Sometimes I have several listed - they're usually more like notes, and not set in stone. But there's not harm in jotting down what might come after the action that is current active.
                    Thanks for this...I got a a-ha with this...so it looks as though it would be fine to have more than one NA - as long as they are in different contexts - e.g. if my project requires both research and a few phone calls...I could put the research under @computer and maybe one or two of the calls under @Phone
                    Thanks for that..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                      First, let me say I like your Excel system. Many people take half the fun out of GTD by using Outlook.

                      Thanks for that...I love Excel (sigh!) and have separate sheets for NA and another file for Focus and responsibility and another for Projects..

                      Pretty granular is good. Use NAs as jumppoints, not as descriptions of a whole stream of actions.

                      I've noticed that the more granular I am...the more likely it is to get done.



                      Just plain vanilla GTD works fine for me for years now. I have every possible NA in my system - not 'artificially reduced to one NA per Project. I have one NA per moving part of each project (p. 76 in GTD book).

                      Yep, I need to re-read the book! thanks

                      I review my lists constantly. Most of the time I work off of my head because the constant reviewing makes me conscious for what is the 'best use of my time.

                      I use that olde trick of starting the day with a pre-defined most important task.


                      Only put true NAs on the context-lists. Put other already apparent actions, milestones, sub-project, definitions of outcomes and so on into an action plan for the project. Each project that needs more planning than the NA to make you stop thinking about it, get's an project plan. There is a chapter in GTD about project planning / natural planning.
                      So would you suggest drawing up an action plan for each project (using one's judgment on it though...probably don't need one to make a dental appointment for my son..although it does generally take longer than 2 minutes!)
                      Thanks again.
                      anne

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                        I used to believe that I could only have 1 next action per project. But the members here were very helpful to instruct me on a better practice and I have not looked back. I now have multiple independent actions on my lists and accomplish a lot more as a result.
                        Thanks for this as well..

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
                          So would you suggest drawing up an action plan for each project (using one's judgment on it though...probably don't need one to make a dental appointment for my son..although it does generally take longer than 2 minutes!)
                          Yes, by all means draw up an action plan for each project that needs one.

                          (Identifying which projects those are is left as an exercise for the reader.)

                          Having an action plan means you only need to go through the "what does this project entail" exercise once, instead of every time you need to generate a new action. Action plans are also very useful when you're trying to set other people's expectations.

                          Katherine

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by annewalsh View Post
                            Could you say a bit more about the following..."only put that first thing on the next action list (the second thing goes in a project plan somewhere)."
                            Thanks! Anne
                            Its pretty easy if the tool does the job. For me i use simpleGTD web app and it basically deals with projects and next actions. it lives up to its name. To answer the above quote all you need to do in SGTD's project section is "star" the single action that you need to do next and then it appears in the next action list ready to catch your attention.

                            And for sure you can add more than one next action in my opinion.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kewms View Post
                              Yes, by all means draw up an action plan for each project that needs one.

                              (Identifying which projects those are is left as an exercise for the reader.)

                              Having an action plan means you only need to go through the "what does this project entail" exercise once, instead of every time you need to generate a new action. Action plans are also very useful when you're trying to set other people's expectations.

                              Katherine
                              Thanks a million for this and I've just implemented this idea by having a separate Excel sheet for bigger type projects. I was struggling with it for the exact reason that you describe..."only needing to go through what the project entails" exercise once.
                              Good point about working with others as well.
                              Best wishes
                              Anne

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