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  • Gigantic Next Actions of Death

    Every so often, I have a gigantic, ill defined next action. It might be - "prepare project plans for 2004." You don't need to be a rocket scientist to guess what the outcome of this task is - lots of spinning, eventually I produce something, churn occurs.
    If I hit the occasional poorly-defined next action, is it time to stop and ORGANIZE (I'm thinking of trying this).
    Any other advice on handling or avoiding next actions like this would be great.

  • #2
    Reviewing next actions to make sure that they really are next actions is a part of my weekly review. That's where I catch most of those actions like you mentioned.

    Occaisionally, during the day, if I find lots of items that seem to be in that place, or lots of items that I just haven't moved on in forever, I review them with a eye for redefining them into true next actions.

    Part of it, I think is practice. The more and more I use GTD, the better I'm getting at really identifying the next action for everything that comes into my space.

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    • #3
      I think I get caught about worrying whether, when I break this next-action-that-really-is-a-project down, I'll end up with tasks that somehow should be included in another project. I probably shouldn't be worring about this.

      For example, in order to produce my project plan for 2004, I need to build something to generate estimates from our work tracking system. That task is also already under a different task.

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      • #4
        furashgf wrote:

        For example, in order to produce my project plan for 2004, I need to build something to generate estimates from our work tracking system. That task is also already under a different task.
        If that is the case, then doing your project plan is not a next action. If it were me, I would list it in the plan for the project for which you are building the "estimate generator." That way, once you were finished, you would have a reminder to start the project to do the 2004 project plan.

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        • #5
          Verbs

          "Prepare" is too vague. Watch your verbs. A next action may be intractable because it has a vague verb driving it. Make your verbs more concrete, and your next actions will be easier to do. I also have a problem with putting vague verbs in next actions, so I have become sensitive to the problem in myself.

          Try rewording your next action as the answer to this question: if I were watching you, how could I tell that you finally getting started on preparing the project plans?

          Weird as it may seem, you may need a project plan to prepare project plans, even if it's just a list. Break your task down into smaller pieces, and make sure each piece is so concrete that a child could confirm that you are doing it.

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          • #6
            Thanks. I think initially I was dismissive of getting very detailed about next actions - concrete, real, next steps.

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            • #7
              spring - thanks for sharing that question as a measure of whether or not a NA is concrete enough. I am also trying to be more sensitive to making sure my NA's are really NA's, and worded well, and this is a good tool.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Anonymous
                Thanks. I think initially I was dismissive of getting very detailed about next actions - concrete, real, next steps.
                Practicing GTD is an art. Choosing the correct level of detail for actions is part of that art. Doing it well requires sensitivity to your inner state.

                For some people, "Prepare 2004 project plans" might be a fine action. It's not a very specific action, true, but if you don't fret about it and you get it done in time, then there's no problem. If you find yourself resisting it, though, that's a danger signal. Ignore the signal at your peril.

                Perhaps the task is too vague. Break it into small, concrete pieces.

                Perhaps you haven't really committed yourself to doing the task now. Defer it till later.

                Perhaps you haven't really committed yourself to doing the task at all. Put it into "Someday/Maybe."

                Perhaps the task involves physical/emotional pain or conflict with someone. Read Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus.

                When you feel that "ugh, skip it" feeling about an action, immediately write your feeling in a note and drop the note in your inbox. You need to think some more about the action, or you'll pay for it one way or the other.

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                • #9
                  put in waiting for file

                  For the project A mentioned where the actual NA is already part of another project B, maybe project A should go in the Waiting for file with a note that you are waiting for the tast to be completed from the other project.

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                  • #10
                    Still having trouble. I'm thinking of just putting an arbitrary time on my N/A. e.g., any next action that takes more than an hour has to be broken down.

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