Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.

Announcement

Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

Never Seeing an Empty Next Action List...

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Never Seeing an Empty Next Action List...

    I've been using OmniFocus for well over a year now, having fallen off the wagon numerous times.

    Within the past year I've once gotten all of my Next Actions and overall projects to a bare minimum. One day I managed to clear everything off my next actions list; to point of having nothing else to do...and admittedly it felt great.

    But that was a one time ordeal and i've since come to terms that perhaps the goal in our GTD lives is not to work for a clear action list, but rather to achieve the "successful outcomes" we ourselves fist set upon ourselves when initiating any particular project.

    ..But I gotta admit, seeing a laundry list of next actions every single day seems daunting. I've gotten numb at times from seeing more and more pile up.

    Perhaps i've just so confused that I decided to start a new thread regarding the matter here, but one thing I know for sure, and it is that life does not stop hence our projects and actions won't stop....and getting a clear, clean action list doesn't seem to fit as being a long term goal.....

    ...so what are we doing all this for?

    My best guess right now is to achieve the outcomes we assign each individual project....and that's fine, in fact this is a great outlook...

    Yet admittedly have gotten "blah" over the matter and just won't open up my OmniFocus for a day or two, wanting to forget of a system that I trust so much. A system I am devoted towards after 4 day of mental RAM building up.





  • #2
    The secret to empty next action lists:
    Want to accomplish nothing.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by HappyDude View Post
      ...so what are we doing all this for?
      We're doing it so that we actually drive what we're doing in life rather than feel like we're constantly being driven by others/circumstances/whatever. If we're in the driver's seat, then we get to decide where we are going and can schedule our own goals and get to where we want to be next weekend/next week/next month/next year/next 5 years/etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        Project planning

        This might sound harsh but your blah is probably due to insufficient (or possibly complete lack of) project planning. Don't be offended because I'm speaking from years of experiencing the same thing.

        Project planning is an important step in the whole process. If you don't plan out you project, really put stakes in the ground about it, more often than not your next actions end up being mini-projects but you don't know that until you start trying to do it.

        Example. On my sent action list is Call Fred. I go to do it. What's freds number? Don't know. Maybe Sarah knows. Next action, call Sarah. What's sarahs number? It's in my...left it at home. Maybe John knows. Call John. John is at lunch. I'll call him after lunch. Ive had this happen in many forms many times. Insufficient planning make s you numb to your lists.

        I guess what I'm saying is that choosing an action to do next is not the same as choosing the next action. And you can't trust your list of next actions if you haven't planned/thought out the project sufficiently. Therefore, numbness.

        Hopefully that made sense.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by HappyDude View Post
          ...so what are we doing all this for?
          Do a weekly review. Especially go through all projects and even more important: higher horizons than projects. Do it now, and do it weekly if you are not doing it already. Get the bigger picture. Once that is kept alive, the actions can be seen as nuts and bolts of those things.

          In addition: Look at your action lists as a "can wait" lists from time to time. Occasionally just finish the "cannot wait" items and relax in the confidence that other things can wait, and you exactly know what they are.

          Regards,
          Abhay

          Comment


          • #6
            The lists can't be empty. The plate is always full of bookmarks of different books you need or want to read. Your life is a bookshelf. When you got it it had a few books. Then new books were added. You are reading simulationsly a few of them and put bookmarks when putting back.

            Comment


            • #7
              Next Actions probably won't go away but...

              One of the things I've noticed is, especially with projects and goals, is to visualize the outcome, then work to that. Are there any projects on your lists that have next actions that you're actually working toward? Are there any just for fun, just for you projects that you're working on? Each time you can cross off one of those Actions, you can see you're closer to the completion of the project. That means looking at the projects during the weekly (or monthly or quarterly or annually depending on the level of the project/goal) reviews. Then, finally, when you've accomplished one, is it time to set another one? Is there something more that you want? Just some ideas from a newbie.

              Comment


              • #8
                If you want a "The list is cleared! Hurray!" - effect in your GTD system, the NA lists are the wrong place to look at. NAs are about beginning work, not finishing. You can creating lists to clear by grouping your projects. For instance you can have a group of projects that you want to complete 'next'. Once every project on that list is done, you arrived at 'next'. You cleared the list, know you can shout your Hurray!

                Comment


                • #9
                  ...but what does it mean that you haven't gotten to the end?
                  "Since I still have things on my to do list, I can't go play."
                  "Since I still have next actions, I must not be doing a good job."

                  Maybe that's the question you need to ask?

                  Years ago I had a summer job in a technical library with a wonderful coworker. One day, he said, "Time for a break!" "Well, I'll be there in a few minutes. I have these magazines to catalog first." "Patti," he said, "this is a library. Magazines and books will always be coming in. Take a break."

                  I will always have laundry to do, dog hair to sweep up, meals to plan and cook, and next actions to do. But I still make time for breaks.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    There's not only work, make time for areas of focus:

                    - Play&Rest
                    - Work
                    - Children
                    - Family
                    - Friends
                    - God
                    - and the others you may have

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Try inverting your attitude towards your lists

                      "You can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing" -D.A.

                      Your action lists remind you of the things you could be doing, but not necessarily what you should be doing at this moment in time. There's a principle in GTD that you must track every commitment you've made internally or externally with yourself, but many of them are not important in the grander scheme of things.

                      When you want to relax, take a vacation, spend time with your family, or get some spontaneous urge to do something wild, crazy, fun or enriching you know that you can do it and give it your full attention because you know that everything on your lists can wait while you go do that thing.

                      An empty next action list could be a sign that you've got actions that you've not yet defined. These will shake out during your weekly review. Having a page worth of next actions is not a bad thing unless you can't make an intuitive choice from it. At that point, renegotiation of your commitments may be needed. But it's far from a bad thing.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think I know the feeling...

                        I just had a similar experience with my newly commissioned cell phone notepad list of next personal actions. It only shows 7 on the first page, so once I went past that I started getting nervous. But mostly I started going numb to the list because there were some items I couldn't get done easily so I got sick of looking at them.

                        As I typed this I just had a thought - maybe I should change "find cell phone charger" to "look for cell phone charger", mainly because that is doable - I can look for 10 minutes, and after a few of those sessions decalare it "lost". So maybe "find cell phone charger" is really a project, not a simple next action.

                        The same goes for my "Back Burner" list at work. It is huge and has many ancient and/or trivial items, but at least it is in chronological order, newest last, to aid in scanning it.

                        Man, this stuff is addicting! Seems crazy, but it really has energized me by helping me get a few tasks done in some small windows of available time. With the cell phone list for example, it seems like there are a LOT of benefits just from writing something down as it occurs to me.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Spalding View Post
                          As I typed this I just had a thought - maybe I should change "find cell phone charger" to "look for cell phone charger", mainly because that is doable - I can look for 10 minutes, and after a few of those sessions decalare it "lost". So maybe "find cell phone charger" is really a project, not a simple next action.
                          This is a great example of a project in disguise, and it happens more to me than I'd like to admit. Even though you might find it when you look the first time, you might not. Since you don't know if you have a single action or a project, it's better to identify it as a project.

                          I think the project here is "Find or replace cell phone charger". "Search house for cell phone charger" is an action, but once I do that unsuccessfully I might not define a new next action; I might just wait to see if it shows up. Or, perhaps I should put "Cell phone charger: 8/5: Magically reappear" on my @Waiting For list since that is technically a next action. Often I never find lost things during a deliberate search.

                          During the weekly review I decide whether or not to define an action to replace it or if I should just wait longer.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by HappyDude View Post
                            Within the past year I've once gotten all of my Next Actions and overall projects to a bare minimum. One day I managed to clear everything off my next actions list; to point of having nothing else to do...and admittedly it felt great.
                            The way I've interpreted this is as a common response to Next Actions caused by widespread preconceptions with traditional "To Do" lists. On a "To Do" list, the sense of accomplishment is in crossing tasks off and making your way towards the bottom of the list. Once you get there you are "done!" and have achieved completion.

                            While ,to a certain extent, this is an element of GTD, feelings of success and completion shouldn't come from seeing empty lists but rather from those that are full! With GTD you are not simply completing chores but also working on higher levels (Horizons of Focus) and therefore, as long as your projects and actions are aligned with these, a continuously renewed NA list is one which is moving you towards these life goals.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi, so here I am responding to this thread. I didn't reply after each reply..wanting to really take to heart the advice from fellow GTD'ers and make sure it truly resonated with me.

                              Originally posted by PeterW View Post
                              We're doing it so that we actually drive what we're doing in life rather than feel like we're constantly being driven by others/circumstances/whatever. If we're in the driver's seat, then we get to decide where we are going and can schedule our own goals and get to where we want to be next weekend/next week/next month/next year/next 5 years/etc.
                              & I have to say that right off the bat this really hit home for me. Perhaps I forgot about why I even purposefully set out to discover a system to help me sort my life...but ever since reading this I revamped my entire OmniFocus system...from de-complicating my contexts, projects and the folders that rested to house it all...but i'll get to that.

                              Originally posted by bradenchase View Post
                              This might sound harsh but your blah is probably due to insufficient (or possibly complete lack of) project planning. Don't be offended because I'm speaking from years of experiencing the same thing.

                              Project planning is an important step in the whole process. If you don't plan out you project, really put stakes in the ground about it, more often than not your next actions end up being mini-projects but you don't know that until you start trying to do it.

                              Example. On my sent action list is Call Fred. I go to do it. What's freds number? Don't know. Maybe Sarah knows. Next action, call Sarah. What's sarahs number? It's in my...left it at home. Maybe John knows. Call John. John is at lunch. I'll call him after lunch. Ive had this happen in many forms many times. Insufficient planning make s you numb to your lists.

                              I guess what I'm saying is that choosing an action to do next is not the same as choosing the next action. And you can't trust your list of next actions if you haven't planned/thought out the project sufficiently. Therefore, numbness.

                              Hopefully that made sense.
                              It made great sense and this leads me further want to ask why when i'm looking at my NA lists, or overall projects for this matter, I am purposefully numb to say 3 particular projects...and it just so happens these 3 projects with the next actions i'm numb to, ignoring them as I scan for other NA's, are the most important projects in my GTD/OmniFocus system.

                              Since posting this thread and totally revamping my system I've been tackling NA's left and right with a sense of accomplishment, but still having my mind being tugged by the top 3-4 important projects that I know i'm numb to. (I'd love to admit that i'm probably ignoring them because of insufficient planning these projects but on the other hand I think i'm afraid of not successfully completing these 3-4 big important projects)

                              Take for example, transferring to a university. My successful outcome would be to transfer to a 4 yr. university within a month. Not unheard of, but in my mind i'm hearing voices saying its too late or the financial aid wont transfer over or the units i've taken wont, etc. - Which has led me the past few days to tackle actions around this project; and yes i'll feel good knowing i tackled 15 needed-to-do actions, but having not tackled that 1, 2 or 3 actions from this very important project weighs my mind down big time. David Allen in a recent podcast said something along the lines regarding intuitive next action decision making Which next action if I accomplish will provide me with the most satisfaction and sense of accomplishment?

                              Originally posted by abhay View Post
                              Do a weekly review. Especially go through all projects and even more important: higher horizons than projects. Do it now, and do it weekly if you are not doing it already. Get the bigger picture. Once that is kept alive, the actions can be seen as nuts and bolts of those things.

                              In addition: Look at your action lists as a "can wait" lists from time to time. Occasionally just finish the "cannot wait" items and relax in the confidence that other things can wait, and you exactly know what they are.

                              Regards,
                              Abhay
                              In my OF i've created a few folders (I should mention this is all trial and error, if it works great, if not during my weekly review its back to the drawing board) that read "Active" "On Hold" and "Someday/Maybe"..with the Active Folder holding a sub-folder titled "Focus."

                              Someday/Maybe folder is only really pulled out during the Weekly Review, while the On hold folder houses projects that aren't going to blow up anytime soon, could be on hold, or may have a start date soon but isn't quite about to hit prime-time. The active folder houses all the projects that i've assigned to be active and should be tackling when I'm in any appropiate context, have time and energy...while the Focus folder (within Active folder) will house some active projects in the active folder that I should be focusing on.

                              I jotted down a note suggesting for my upcoming WR at the end of the week to perhaps try creating 3 folders in the Active folder housing projects in level of significance; such as 1)Most Important/Satisfying, 2)Should Tackle, 3)Do These Too.

                              Again- i'm thinking out loud here.

                              Originally posted by DragonsLady View Post
                              One of the things I've noticed is, especially with projects and goals, is to visualize the outcome, then work to that. Are there any projects on your lists that have next actions that you're actually working toward? Are there any just for fun, just for you projects that you're working on? Each time you can cross off one of those Actions, you can see you're closer to the completion of the project. That means looking at the projects during the weekly (or monthly or quarterly or annually depending on the level of the project/goal) reviews. Then, finally, when you've accomplished one, is it time to set another one? Is there something more that you want? Just some ideas from a newbie.
                              This too really hit a sweet spot for me. For the longest time I would only add things to my system that I considered work. Things for fun, at most would be added to my iCal if it had a set time/date.

                              Since revamping my system I've cleared out my mind with everything i want/should be doing....including the fun stuff, not just work/school.

                              Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                              If you want a "The list is cleared! Hurray!" - effect in your GTD system, the NA lists are the wrong place to look at. NAs are about beginning work, not finishing. You can creating lists to clear by grouping your projects. For instance you can have a group of projects that you want to complete 'next'. Once every project on that list is done, you arrived at 'next'. You cleared the list, know you can shout your Hurray!
                              I think this is the post that originally made me think about creating the current Active, and On Hold folders...and furthermore the level of importance folders.

                              Originally posted by peakaytea View Post
                              ...but what does it mean that you haven't gotten to the end?
                              "Since I still have things on my to do list, I can't go play."
                              "Since I still have next actions, I must not be doing a good job."

                              Maybe that's the question you need to ask?

                              Years ago I had a summer job in a technical library with a wonderful coworker. One day, he said, "Time for a break!" "Well, I'll be there in a few minutes. I have these magazines to catalog first." "Patti," he said, "this is a library. Magazines and books will always be coming in. Take a break."

                              I will always have laundry to do, dog hair to sweep up, meals to plan and cook, and next actions to do. But I still make time for breaks.
                              After listening to DA's podcast about how to begin doing and he mentioned level of energy available i've been seeking some way to add this to my system. Admittedly daily, there are times after banging out numerous actions that I do want to keep going but need a break to tackle the stuff (if available) that don't require too much brain power.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X