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Next actions list - am I using it right

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  • Next actions list - am I using it right

    Hi all I am new to this forum and to the GTD system. I have a question about how to use the next actions list and planning for a project.

    If I plan out a project lets say and end up with 15 actions to do to complete it. Do these go on the next action list? or do they stay on a plan somewhere, with one action on the list and then when that is done put then next action from the plan on the list. Obviously with a plan of actions there will always be other actions that have not been forseen in the original plan. Basically do the actions from a plan go onto the next actions list and so the plan is then in the next actions list?

    Also how many actions do you break an action down to. Is making a phone call one action or is it one for picking up, phone, two for dialing number....

    Many thanks

  • #2
    GTD book!

    Originally posted by macgrl View Post
    Hi all I am new to this forum and to the GTD system. I have a question about how to use the next actions list and planning for a project.

    If I plan out a project lets say and end up with 15 actions to do to complete it. Do these go on the next action list? or do they stay on a plan somewhere, with one action on the list and then when that is done put then next action from the plan on the list. Obviously with a plan of actions there will always be other actions that have not been forseen in the original plan. Basically do the actions from a plan go onto the next actions list and so the plan is then in the next actions list?
    I think the best way to learn GTD is to read the book first. Not all actions are the Next Actions so some of them go to the @Context lists and some don't.

    Originally posted by macgrl View Post
    Also how many actions do you break an action down to. Is making a phone call one action or is it one for picking up, phone, two for dialing number....
    It is personal choice but it's all about the Advanced Common Sense. So my advice is not to divide dialing a number into Next Actions for each digit.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you very much for your reply, it is very much appreciated. I have the GTD book and have read it a couple of times. It is just this use of the next actions list and whether I am putting to much on it / putting parts of plans on it that don't need to be on there that I find a bit confusing.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think you should firsT understand that You plan not next actions but outcomes or sub projects. This information you keep in your project support material. For example:

        Project - move to new apartment
        Subproject - pack stuff
        Subproject - hire movers
        Subproject - etc

        When that's done it's easy to plan next action for the sub projects. They are just a start of the action that would trigger the rest of the action to follow. You can put as many of them as required to move your sub projects. In my scenario it would look like this. My action lists:

        @Home - search Internet for movers
        @Errands - buy 6 large boxes for my stuff to be packed

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you so much for your reply. I tend to plan out what the next actions are for a project and put them all on my next actions list according to context this means that there is a plan of future next actions that I need to do on my next actions list. For example

          Project to fix outhouse door (I have left out the contexts for expediency but they would each go into their respective @phone @ work etc context

          My next actions are in order

          Measure frame and door with tape on desk
          Go to hardware store to get wood
          Get hinges at hardware store
          Get screws from dad
          Build door and hang it
          Fx lock
          Paint one coat with paint in shed
          Paint second coat

          All my next action are planned out for the project. Is this the best way of organising it? It seems good to me as I can see what needs to be done to complete the project in one list

          I have bigger more complex projects that involve waiting for others to do things and for decisions about next actions that need to be made later based on other info so in those cases the next nexus actions can't be planned out to the end but the outcome and actions i think may well have t be done can be but I don't put these on my next actions list where should i put them really project support materials? Many thanks for your time

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by macgrl View Post
            I tend to plan out what the next actions are for a project and put them all on my next actions list according to context this means that there is a plan of future next actions that I need to do on my next actions list. F
            The biggest problem with your approach is you can't do some of those actions until the prior ones are finished, so they are not really next actions. If you tools allow you to set a project and all it's actions to be sequential then doing it your way will be fine as the actions won't become ready to do until the prior one is completed. Omnifocus on the mac allows this.

            What you describe is more properly kept with the project support material for that project. I use Omnifocus and because of its flexibility I tend to keep most of my project support stuff stuff, planning notes and future actions all in it at once but I can set it up so I never see any but the actual true next action.

            If your tool will force you to see the painting actions and the measure door actions at the same time then that is not a good way to do it. You can't paint the door until it is measured and built so you should not see that action until you really can do it.

            Otherwise your next actions lists will be hard to use as you'll have to rethink can I *really* do this action now or is it waiting for some other action to be completed.

            Comment


            • #7
              So really all those pre planned actions that can't be done yet should be kept say in a word file or a project support folder and then when the actual next action do to has been done I refer to that project take the take next action from it and place that onto my next actions list ?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                So really all those pre planned actions that can't be done yet should be kept say in a word file or a project support folder and then when the actual next action do to has been done I refer to that project take the take next action from it and place that onto my next actions list ?
                Correct, or switch to a GTD tool that allows you to put in the future actions but keep them hidden until they can actually be completed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you so much for your help. So applying what you said to my example of the door - My next actions are in order

                  Measure frame and door with tape on desk - would go on next actions list
                  Go to hardware store to get wood - project support list as can't be done until measuring
                  Get hinges at hardware store project support list as can't be done until measuring
                  Get screws from dad - next action list
                  Build door and hang it -project support list as can't be done yet
                  Fx lock - project support list as can't be done yet
                  Paint one coat with paint in shed - project support list as can't be done yet
                  Paint second coat

                  The going to get wood and hinges would move from project support to next action ( with @shops context) after I have done measuring as that would then be the next action

                  Is that right?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yes. Now you are understanding it. I think you were overthinking it a little initially.

                    Next actions are just that - NEXT actions. If you can't do an action because it's dependent on a different action, then it shouldn't be clogging up your NEXT action list.

                    Also, think of your next actions as a bookmark on projects. When you are in a certain context and complete an action on a project, then go to that project support and see what needs to be done next. You can either continue with the next steps if the time and context permits, or you can add the actual next action to your next action list so you remember where you are on the project. I keep all the previous steps marked with an "x" in my project support so I know what I've done and those without the "x" still need to be done.

                    Regarding the breakdown of next actions, that is a personal choice. Basically break it down as small as you need to motivate you to actually take action. I don't think you need to put down "pick up phone", "dial number", etc. That's a little too much for any person. You could simply put "pick up phone and call..."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank you very much for your reply. I feel a lot better now that i have a clear idea of What to do. It makes sense now and I can get on and trust the system

                      Much appreciated

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        So it is ok to have more than one action for a single project on your next actions list, either in more than one @context or not? Providing that they are actions that can be done next without having to do anything else first? How many is it ok to have or is it just as many as there happens to be

                        Looking at my example of my door

                        At one time I would have measure door in the @home context and the get screws from dad in the @parents house context.

                        On a bigger project there may be many more next actions that can be done at the same time independently of others presumably it is ok to have them all on the next actions list?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                          So it is ok to have more than one action for a single project on your next actions list, either in more than one @context or not? Providing that they are actions that can be done next without having to do anything else first? How many is it ok to have
                          Yes, perfectly correct. How many is more up to you, some folks feel overwhelmed with too many on their lists some do not.

                          As to granularity, do what works. For me I tend to as a rule have very large actions, but if I am procrastinating on a project I will break them down into very small ones to get me moving.

                          So an example from my existing lists was "knit shooting socks". This is a project that has been sitting there for a while (it started with spinning the yarn for the socks)

                          I was not getting that done so I broke it down to this series of actions as I went through the planning for the socks.

                          start toe up version of shooting socks
                          knit toe of shooting sock to the foot
                          knit second toe up of shooting sock to foot
                          put shooting socks onto double points for 2 at a time knitting
                          knit feet of shooting socks
                          Turn heel of sock 1
                          turn heel of sock 2
                          Knit to the calf increases
                          Work the lower calf increases
                          Knit the rib above calf
                          knit the checkerboard pattern
                          wash and block both socks
                          package and ship to J before Christmas

                          Those are actions I can really do and I am now on the Work the calf increases section. If I get bogged down again I'll break that even further if necessary.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                            So it is ok to have more than one action for a single project on your next actions list,
                            Sure is. The simple project examples often cited when you're learning GTD ("set up printer") may only have one, but in real life you tend to find its common to have half a dozen next actions on a project. If you start getting to a dozen or more next actions you might ask whether you can bunch them up into new sub-projects. Thats a judgement call for you to make, I tend not to unless I need to.

                            So at the mo we're employing a new staff member. My NAs on various lists include
                            • Pull out previous directors JD from HR files
                            • Brainstorm the areas of responsibility the director would have
                            • Brainstorm the essential skills we would expect
                            • Email XXXX from XXX to meet and talk about their director
                            • Enter the payscale into the management accounts to see consequent impact on margins
                            • Check internet to see how many similar jobs are out there right now
                            • Email committee members to see who is available to interview
                            • Email XXX staff to advise that we will be going to advert within 6 weeks
                            • Email XXX at XXX to enquire current cost of advertising
                            • Brainstorm key points for job advert

                            None of these are dependant on another so they're all live.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Only what's really next : Only if it gets it off your mind

                              Plan the project. Write down all the action you're sure you'll need to take to accomplish that project. Only write down on you Next actions list the actions that are truly NEXT-nothing in the way, not dependent on anything else. when those are complete (during your daily or weekly review) look at your project plan and move the next NEXT actions to you NA list.

                              As far as breaking down the actions, it's dependent on your familiarity with the action. Just make sure you're focusing on actions. Very few americans are unfamiliar with how to make a phone call and to do so just need a working phone and a number. Someone who has never seen a phone in their life (I live in Brazil and have met a few) would actually need all those little steps. From a different perspective, "buy company" could very well be a next action for someone like Bill Gates but for someone like me, it's more of a 30,000 ft goal. How basic your next actions need to be are dependent on your familiarity with the action.

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