View Full Version : How to optimally formulate next actions
08-08-2010, 04:58 AM
I think it's important to formulate next actions right. It's better to have Call uncle Ben to discuss action plans re garage furniture to make it look fashion then Call uncle Ben re garage furniture. Any ideas or insights on what's the best way to formulate NAs?
08-08-2010, 05:53 AM
I agree with what you said, put in enough detail to make it clear and to fully cover it. Since I keep my personal next action list on a cell phone where entry is tedious, I am tempted to shortcut the entering process, but that always bites me later when I look at a next action and think: "Huh?"
08-08-2010, 06:01 PM
You're exactly right: Greater specificity is better (although you may be limited to what you can see on your smart phone or other device if you have limited screen size - something to consider).
I actually think much of what Next Actions are missing is connection to a clearly articulated outcome. The outcome clearly, and specifically, states what 'Done' would mean. So…
I'm satisfied with the look and feel of the furniture in the garage | @ Phone: Call uncle Ben to discuss action plans
After you call uncle Ben, you can add the next action step. The key is how important it is to have (a) A clearly articulated outcome and (b) To see that outcome on the runway with the next action needed to move it forward. Many next action lists lack this clarity and thus many next actions simply get left undone.
In addition, if the outcome takes quite a few steps to complete, it should go to Projects and you should specify the primary purpose, standards, outcome vision, and the action steps needed to complete it.
You can also change the format so that all of your contexts show first:
@ Phone: Call uncle Ben to discuss action plans | I'm satisfied with the look and feel of the furniture in the garage
Hope this helps.
08-08-2010, 08:40 PM
In extension of the previous post, I would say that the outcome of the next action should also be clear apart from the outcome of the project. What you will achieve with the action can be and should be to some extent mentioned in the action (within reason, unless you want the next action itself become an essay :) ) As you said, the intended outcome of the discussion is not finishing the discussion, but to get a better idea of how you want it to look, and it's a good idea to put a sufficient hint of it in the next action.
08-09-2010, 07:04 AM
I think we can formulate any Next Action like that:
"Visible Action Verb with action description" + "to" + "outcome"
Call Uncle Ben re: garage furniture design to be satisfied with the look and feel
08-09-2010, 09:21 AM
That looks like a good idea to be structured, but I think most of my next actions are so simple that that step would be unecessary.
For example, my next action for home is "Recycle oil", and it is understood that a satisfactory result is all of the used oil is gone from my garage. But in contrast, the last personal action I just completed was "Call car dealer trans warr expired". That is what I wrote and it follows your suggestion. If I just had "Call car dealer", I most likely would have looked at it and thought: "Why?". :) But I do have a limitation in my cell phone notepad app that doesn't allow anything longer than that example, so I need to use good abbreviations.
I think this is a good thread - nice and basic and useful.
08-09-2010, 09:24 AM
While processing it's important to clarify why you need to take the next action and what you hope to accomplish, but you only really need to be reminded of the action itself while in context. "Call Uncle Ben re: garage furniture" on your @Calls list is sufficient (assuming you have Uncle Ben's phone number on hand or in memory).
When you look at the list in the appropriate context and often enough, your brain subconsciously connects the outcome and the purposes to that action. You really don't need to describe the action in extreme detail. If you find that you do, chances are it's a project or sub-project, not a simple next action.