It just occurred to me when reading awebber’s second post in the Tom Peters thread, and his reference to NAs in the context of that post: is Next Action a misleading description? Does it obscure/belie its real purpose: to tell us where to begin when we take up a particular project again?
I know this sounds like hair splitting, but speaking for myself, I find that when I read my list headed “next actions” I feel an impulse to try to do them all. (I know some of them are context specific: @hardware store, or @boss for example, but the bulk of them are centred on the desk).
Awebber said he reviews his list of NAs each morning, and then picks out the 3 or 4 projects he feels he should try to move forward that day. It was this easy transition from "NAs" to "projects" in the same sentence that made me realise he was using the NAs to identify the projects: picking up certain rope-ends as it were.
The insight made me realise that I had developed a mental image of GTD as being like a very wide snow plough that catches all of my projects and tries to move them all forwards simultaneously.
It’s a bit like David’s own example of the garage that needs cleaning – every time you walk past it a voice in your head says “Clean the garage now!”, “Clean the garage now!”, “Clean the garage now!”, over and over. GTD should knock that voice out, but I find that the NA list can have the same effect – all the actions in front of me on the list are crying out to be done NOW.
I think the concept of “bookmarks” catches the true intent of NA lists more accurately, and plays down the "imiediate action" tone.