My definition of an action is something that I can "just do". I don't need to research it, I don't need to think about it, I don't need to figure out how to do it, I just know how to do it.
If I _do_ need to research it, then the next action is "research". If I need to think about it, then the next action is "think". I back up until I reach an action that I really can "just do". If I can't figure out a next action immediately, then the next action may _be_ "figure out next action".
So for example, let's say that my next action for "Jane's birthday party" is originally phrased as "Make cake."
I can't just up and make a cake. I don't know what cake I'm going to make. I don't know what ingredients I need. I don't know much about making cakes. So I need to divide the project up into tasks that I can "just do". Some of those actions might be:
- Spend twenty minutes going through cookbooks to select recipe for Jane's cake.
- Make final choice of recipe for Jane's cake.
- Inventory kitchen to confirm that I have necessary equipment for baking Jane's cake.
- Make list of ingredients for Jane's cake.
- Purchase ingredients for Jane's cake.
- Call Frieda to borrow cake stand.
- Pick up cake stand from Frieda.
- Call Charlotte for cake frosting tips.
And so on. The less I know about doing the original action, the more actions it's likely to end up being broken into.
Now, if I _can_ "just do" a relatively complex task, because I have the practice and expertise, then I may need fewer actions. If I have a well-stocked kitchen and I'm confident that I have all ingredients and equipment and I can make that cake in my sleep, then the action may truly be "Make cake." But usually, at least for me, actions are much smaller than this.