Details that make your life easier

Date: Thursday, March 03, 2011 by GTD Times Staff

David Allen was asked how much detail is needed when listing next actions. His answer gives a look at the psychology of GTD, and why it’s about more than the lists:

The purpose of having the granular next action on a list is to define what “doing” looks like and where it happens, so you can finish your thinking about what to do about the commitment (outcome, project, etc.) That said, another reason for the granularity on the action lists is to subvert the procrastination that potentially shows up because of a pre-conscious insecurity about success. As in, “I don’t want to step into something I don’t think I can control.” If the enormity of the next action causes you to falter, then it’s advantageous to define a smaller, doable chunk. For example, “draft plot ideas” instead of “draft great American novel.”

For more on this topic, see this excellent article in The New Yorker that mentioned David’s book Getting Things Done, and the value of the GTD approach.

2 Responses to “Details that make your life easier”

  1. Poul Andreassen says:

    There are certain things you do not realize until you read them.This is excellent article.

    Thanks once again!!

  2. Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach says:

    This post makes an excellent point that you should notice where you’re experiencing resistance. Emotional hesitation is a sign that you need more granularity.

    One thing that I’ve found works well is to not necessarily list every tiny step on a next action list but to take a few seconds at the beginning of a task to write out the steps. For instance in responding to a complex e-mail, you could scratch on a piece of paper:
    -Read e-mail
    -Take note of questions
    -Look up information
    -Write up responses
    -Review answers for clarity and grammar

    Having this level of detail on a next action list would diminish clarity and perspective on next actions. But writing down these steps right at the beginning of the task really makes it easier to “ease into” the activity.

    To your peace and productivity!
    Elizabeth Grace

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