View Full Version : Multiple next actions
08-04-2010, 02:25 AM
Hello. I just been listening to David on my walk to work, very interesting stuff.
One thing I'd be grateful for clarification on is in regard to next actions. With a project do you just decide on the very next action to take it forward or do you put as many next actions you think of and add them to your list as you go forward?
08-04-2010, 02:58 AM
I'm pretty new to this myself, but one of the big values I see is just getting things out of your head and into a system, so I would list as many actions as you know right now that need to be done. I still really haven't done project lists, just next actions, so I need to work on that too.
I can see how a big list of stuff can be daunting or even depressing, but I think it is better on paper than exclusively in your head. You will still load it into your head's "RAM" from your system's "hard disc drive" as needed, or more likely as your brain decides it needs to be there, even during sleep.
08-04-2010, 04:04 AM
As proposed do a brainstorming session (alone with your friend/boss/collegue/team). You should end up with subprojects or actions you need to take to complete the project. Then take only one action, the very beginning of the chain and put in your system. It's like a train analogy. A train starts with a locomotive and a few cars. So you need to put locomotive's headlights on your next action list to trigger the whole train :)
08-04-2010, 04:08 AM
With a project do you just decide on the very next action to take it forward or do you put as many next actions you think of and add them to your list as you go forward?
As many as you have on your mind. But there is a difference in the steps of a project, and the next actions to be added to the next actions list. Next actions are those which satisfy (at least) two criteria:
(1) There is nothing else that needs to be done before it.
(2) It is a clearly physically visualizable action. "Change the lightbulb" is not an action unless you already have the new bulb in possession. "Buy a lightbulb" would be a next action in the context "errands" or so. Once you get the bulb, the changing action would go in the context of where the bulb needs to be replaced. (Or if it's right at the place where you are processing, and you think it's less than two minutes, do it!)
In more complex projects, it is a good idea to write down all that occurs to you regarding that project and keep it in a "project support" folder for that project, since not all that you write is "next actions", but one would like avoid repeated thinking about those things. Then it is during reviews that stuff from these things gradually gets transformed into next actions as the project proceeds. The third chapter of the GTD book, regarding getting projects under control, lays this out in detail, to show the flow and transformation of thoughts from when they occur to when they are transformed to next actions. Chapter 2 and 3 together are both essential and complementary to each other, and I think they are both must-read before proceeding to implement the practices.
08-04-2010, 04:09 AM
for me it varies. Sometimes I brainstorm out as many future actions as I can think of and write them down. Or perhaps I've done identical projects before and just know how its going to pan out. These aren't next actions yet, since you cant do them straight away, but I right them down and tag them when they go live. Certainly if you've had the thought, capture it. The advantage of this is that if you complete a next action in the middle of a busy period no thought or effort is needed to move on to the next one.
On the other hand if I'm doing something new, chances are I wont be able accurately predict what the future actions are. Similarly if the outcome is inherently unpredictable, then you cant know. If I'm going to a meeting with a potential funder where they're going to tell me whether they can give us some money or not, my next action changes pretty dramatically according to that meeting. No point second guessing something as specific as a next action. (note that this doesn't mean you shouldn't plan for different eventualities, but those plans would be projects or even longer term goals, not next actions I would think)
08-06-2010, 05:29 PM
Always remember that determining the true next action(s) of a project is impossible unless you already have at least a basic project plan. Project plans need only be as complicated as the project itself and the planning for it may take 12 seconds (change shower head) or 12 hours (buy car). When I start bigger or more complex projects, my first next action is usually to have a planning session. Which I start by just writing down thoughts and asking myself questions about the project. These are the kinds of things David calls project support materials. They are necessary. To do it properly follow the natural planning model.
After I have at least a basic idea of the project, determining the next action(s) is a matter of tracking how far i've progressed (or regressed, depending) and determining where to pick up. Just like putting your axe away after the day is over. Your axe goes here, the tree stay there, and you leave work behind and go home, with a clear mind. (I hope that analogy makes sense because it sounds great in my head) :grin:
Hope that helps!