There is an old counselor's trick that is used to overcome inertia: reduce the goal to the ridiculous.
For example, if the client can't bring him or herself to exercise for a half hour per day, reduce the goal to 90 seconds of exercise. Anyone can do that during a commercial break while watching TV. Of course, once started, many will, most of the time, exercise longer.
So with next actions--if you are resisting, make the next action more granular, something so simple, so ridiculous, that you can do it easily.
One thing that I frequently notice on these boards is a tendency to define a NA in micro terms, such as the example given above: "Exercise for 90 seconds". I'm not saying this is totally wrong if it works for you, but some NA's are just action reminders that rely on your own intuition at the moment. I would simply write "Exercise" and set aside 1.25 hours in my Calendar. I know very well that if I decide to honor that commitment, I won't be exercising for 90 seconds. I will be saying: "I have decided to exercise. I know that means a minimum of 15 minutes to get to the aerobic stage, at least 10 minutes working at an aerobic level, some time for stretching, cool down, shower, etc." When I commit to doing it, I will see that 1.25 hours in my Calendar makes sense, the time is already set aside, and all I have to do is start. I'll just get the file out" mindset is the way to start.
I find that trying to be precise in advance of the moment interferes with the inspiration of deciding to honor the commitment to the outcome, and all that writing amounts to "make work" - where I come from, we call it "chewing the cud".
What I have realized is when I get bogged down with a lot of things that have to get done, pesky and otherwise. Its time to hunker down and plow through the back log or lots of current next actions. I find that I cannot trust myself to intuitively pick the right action,since the right action tends to be the one I am resisting most. It is a question of getting started. I need blocks of time scheduled for working on specific things. Somethimes I use a timer and take a short break for a cup of tea or a walk around the block then back to work. I answer phone calls etc during specified times and then its back to what I have commited to do.At the end of the week I tend to accomplish more than when I dont do this. In Covey terms my week consists during those weeks of the Urgent and Important and Important but not urgent.
During regular weeks I have blocks of time to do what specific next actions I have commited to do during the weekly review. The rest of the time I can be more intuitive in picking from the list.
Though I have never heard about Mark Forster before I use the "I'll just write the header for the next report" method for about 15 years now. But I can't remember where I got this method from. Anyway, it works for me quite fine most of the time.
I just finished GTD Fast this weekend, and one of the things I took away from it was on this topic. David Allen describes the concept that people who made widgets didn't really "stress" about their work when they weren't doing it. They showed up and made widgets, and when the last widget was made, they left. (More or less.) David said GTD is essentially about reducing your job, life, responsibilities to the equivalent of making widgets. That's why most NAs are very simple, basic, short, physical actions. What others have said about naming them in such a basic, simplistic way rings true. A "open Quicken and enter next receipt" will probably get you going; you might realize just how little time it will take to enter the next, and the next, and the next.
If it's on your NA list, but it's bugging you (and it sounds like it is), is it off your mind? If not, what do you need to do differently to accomplish that?
Great thread. I also use the "simplify description" approach, but find it is getting harder and harder to trick myself this way because I know deep down that it's not an easy thing, it's a giant can of worms that will be opened by just getting the file out.
Sometimes on things I'm resisting (where it is possible), I will make a firm commitment to somebody else about when I'm going to get something done. Works well if I tell a client I will get them a draft by a certain date, etc. It doesn't necessarily actually have to be done, but since I've told them it will be, I have to get it done.
Another thing I sometimes use is the "a little bit each day" approach. For instance, I have a giant list of documents I have drafted over the last 4 years that I have to print and organize into notebooks by category for later reference. I.e., all the contracts have to be sorted together, etc. The list has to be evaluated to see which to print, then they have to be printed, hole punched, etc. This is a big "yucky" project. So I put the inch thick list in my tickler, and each day I pull it out and do one page. Often I get on a roll and do more than one page, but I can always get one page done in a day.
My favorite procrastination quote is: "Once the camel gets his head in the tent, the rest of him will soon follow." From the "Procrastination for Dummies" book.
My overall favorite technique: Plan a vacation. Then you get all your work done, out of necessity, and you also get a vacation!
This won't work everytime but...When I see a next action that won't leave my lists, I refuse to put any new next actions on any lists until that one NA is done. Creates a logjam in my head, since I know I have many other NAs that need to go on the list so their projects can move along.
That lone NA then aches and swells until it's a tooth that has to be pulled.
Interesting to note the tremendous release of energy you feel once you get that pesky NA done. The amount of energy you're putting in to resist doing is 12 times more than the energy needed to simply do it.
During my weekly review, if I come NA's that have been there for a while, I try to ask myself, what is keeping me from getting this done?
Often it's because I really haven't put the very next action on my list. I may have "Call Joe" on my list, but really my next action should be "Call Jim for Joe's phone number."
I'm also finding that it's important to make sure all relevant information is right there, at my fingertips. For me, this means adding the phone number of the person I want to call (unless it's a number I know by heart) into the Note section of my NA (I'm using a PDA). This has helped me speed through a lot of NA's, especially phone calls.
The cure I have found for actions I am resistant to: Make them public.
Here is an example. We updated all of the workstations at our company to Windows XP. The anti-virus software we have works fine, but when I was talking to the vendor about another issue, he recommended upgrading all our workstations to their newest truly XP compatible software. So I put on my list "Upgrade anti-virus software on all workstations". And it sat on my list. I was resisting it because there was no urgency. So yesterday I wrote the action on my whiteboard. Several people commented on what a good idea that was. And today it is completed. By making it public I was more motivated to get it done and check it off.