ForumsGetting Things Done®When do you define "next action #2"?

When do you define "next action #2"?
Author Message

Posted: May 31, 2009
Score: 0 Reference

I am new to Toodledo, and am thrilled to find such a great online task mangager!

I have a GTD question that I cannot figure out. When you finish a "next action," do you immediately stop what you are doing to put the new next action on your n/a list? Do you just wait until your weekly review?

For example: If pretend you are planning a birthday party, there will be many next actions involved. Using GTD, you would NOT make a list of all of them at once. Instead, you would identify "Have birthday party for John" as the project, and "Call John to select date for party" as next action #1. After I mark "Call John" as a completed task, then what?

Sometimes it is not practical or possible to stop everything to think about "what is the very next physical action, now that I have called John?" However, if I do not immediately replace "Call John" with another next action, I may not do so until my weekly review several days later. (Meanwhile, I could have been doing more "next actions.") Do you review your completed tasks as part of your daily "processing" to remind you to create new next steps? (I like to delete/hide my completed tasks to get rid of the clutter on my computer I won't necessarily see them after marking them as "complete.")

I know this is a simplistic example, but you get the idea. I find myself thinking about "next action #2" (which is not yet written in my next action list or in my master project list) which defeats the purpose of getting all off my mind.

Until I get proficient with GTD, I am following David Allen's suggestions literally. (I will then be better able to change them to suit my specific needs.) I don't think I've heard David Allen mention this specific issue.

Thanks in advance!

Posted: Jun 01, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
Actually there is a place within GTD for creating those 'next actions' up front. It's called brainstorming.

Generally the first task in any of my projects is "Brainstorm ___". This signals me to spend some time to capture as many tasks related to that project as possible which in turns facilitates getting the project out of my mind and into the system. If you don't do that you are constantly going to be thinking of items for that project and your mind will not resemble water in any form. ;-) In fact you acknowledge that happens in your post.

That said if you don't flesh out the project ahead of time as you begin to think of things that need to be done you have got to get them into Toodledo (or at least on paper) that instant. Then during your daily processing you will associate those tasks with the project and voila you have your next actions.

That said I think it is a good practice to do a quick project sweep each day to ensure there is a next action for each project. I don't know how GTD compliant this is as I'm just now beginning to read the book again after four years. Nonetheless it should take less than a minute when all is well and will ensure projects don't stall.

I must admit I am in the process of setting Toodledo up as my GTD system. I've been system-less for a while and let me tell you there is an overload of 'next actions' swirling in my head. I'm glad it's so easy to dump stuff in to Tooledo, it really seems to be the best tool for me.

Hope that helps!

Posted: Jun 01, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
I agree with TheGriff. David Allen would tell you to do enough planning up front to get the project off your mind. That includes brainstorming the tasks for the project, and organizing them (when necessary) into subprojects, sequences & priorities. Check out his writings on the "Natural Planning Model".

Most projects are small, and don't need much "organizing". But some of them need quite a bit. "If the project is off your mind, your planning is sufficient. If it's still on your mind, keep applying the model until it's clear." Similar to theGriff, I generally make my first action "Plan for project x", unless it's a simple project that I can plan out in 2 minutes or less. (Luckily, most projects are that simple).

In Toodledo, when I brainstorm the project steps, I enter them as tasks immediately. I place them in the project folder. But I don't assign them to a context until I am ready to do them (I use contexts to identify next actions). When I complete an action for a project, I can go to the project folder and quickly pick which tasks come next. Then I either do the task, or assign it to a context so it becomes a next action.

Also, Like TheGriff, I do a brief project sweep at the end of each day. When I scan the list, I know right away if I've worked on a project, and I quickly go in and pick the next action if I haven't already done so. It doesn't take more than a few minutes.

During my weekly review, I look at the projects more closely to see if the project plan still makes sense, or if it needs revision. If it needs revision, I will create a next action called "Re-plan project x".

Hope this helps.

-Big KC

Posted: Jun 01, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
By the way, in my opinion this is the most important thing David Allen has said about project planning:

"Countless questions have been e-mailed to me asking for the best ways and tools to organize project thinking. People want to know how to relate project pieces to each other and to all the other projects and their pieces. Ninety-nine percent of the time, my answer is the same: 'Once a week, do a thorough review of all your projects in as much detail as you need to. If you do, your systems will work. If you don't, no system will work." This kind of weekly conscious overviewing of projects and their associated actions keeps you organized with incredible effectiveness, because it's really about capturing, catalyzing, and executing creative thinking, not about 'getting organized'."

His point, I believe, is that if you have done a thorough review each week, you will have enough awareness of your commitments to trust your gut instincts for the day-to-day operational details. That's why he doesn't get into the kind of tactical detail you're asking about. You don't need to micromanage at the tactical level if you trust your gut. And you will trust your gut if you have done the thorough weekly review. (Personally, I think the daily project scan, even if only 5 minutes, helps me trust my gut 100% better.)

That quote is from an article on "'organizing groupies'--people who dedicate an inordinate amount of time and energy to experimenting with organizing details that don't seem to me nearly worth the effort." Those of us who hang out on time management forums are probably in constant danger of crossing that line. So take what I say with a grain of salt. :-)

Posted: Jun 01, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
Thanks, Big KC and TheGriff, for the great information.

Like Big KC, I keep any "not yet a next action" tasks without a context (but put them in a project folder) to capture them. That way, they are not prematurely on my Context list (which is what I work off of during the day). However, I must admit that I neglect the brainstorming phase, which will probably address my question.

TheGriff -- Since I am fairly new to GTD, too, I understand wanting to skim the project list daily. I do that, too. I have noticed that the more I learn to trust the GTD system, the more I can trust that I am not missing anything. At first, I felt like I needed to review everything daily, just because I did not have my system fine-turned yet. Now that I know I have a good, dependable system, I will do a "quick scan" just to give my added peace of mind....but I know I will be ok if I don't.

Thanks, again!

Posted: Jun 08, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
Big KC and TheGriff,

Great information as usual. I agree 100% as I am currently in my second read of the book. It's amazing how things pop out at you the second time around or third for that matter.
You cannot reply yet

U Back to topic home

R Post a reply

To participate in these forums, you must be signed in.