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Questions about next actions

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  • Questions about next actions


    Back on the GTD bamdwagon and confused around next actions...any help appreciated.

    1. I am writing a long document, perhaps 8 hrs of work therefore "complete document" isnt my NA is it? But my writing style is to hop around the document working on different sections during a working session. So I can set the NA as "finish introduction". Any ideas?

    2. Once I finish an NA on a project, another may be required. Do GTDers write the NA on this list and then do it (i use MLO) or just do it and then keep asking the "whats the NA question"?


  • #2
    When granularity becomes overkill...

    I wouldn't worry about putting the various sections of your document in as next actions unless you're going to be working on them in a disjointed fashion (ie the introduction on a monday, the summary on the friday, another section in the following week). If you're working to finish the document in one go, you'll be involved enough to know what's left.

    I'm also using MLO - and I don't worry about putting next actions into the software if I'm going to work on them straight away following another NA

    ... so if A, B, C and D are my tasks that have to be done on a project - and I work on A (which is in MLO), and then move onto B and then C straight away, they won't go into the software. If I then take a break and move onto something else, D will go onto my lists.

    Hope that makes some sort of sense!



    • #3
      Next Actions

      I use the coaching to think of next actions as a bookmark for reading. If you're going to read the whole book cover to cover the using a bookmark would get in the way.

      I also use David's tip that a next action isn't necessarily short.

      So in your case, "Finish writing X" is a useful next action if you're going to just sit down and knock it out. You could also note which section you might want to focus on first - e.g. coming back to the thing after a day or two.

      Think of the next action as helping with the reminder to yourself, "Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that ..."



      • #4
        I sometimes use something like 'work on ms xxx: revise yyy?' to let me know that a) I need to work on the xxx ms; b) revising yyy might be a good place to start, but if I feel like doing something else on the ms, it's fine. I think having a small, specific trigger helps, even if I don't immediately do it.


        • #5
          Thanks for the advice

          thanks, thats good advice. will try to do as you all suggest


          • #6
            I used to use next actions like 'write draft strategy' but found it repelled me and I would never want to do it. So I use smaller next actions, like 'do outline for draft strategy' and 'research references for draft strategy', as they sound easier and I'm more tempted to do them, even if it means I have multiple next actions for the one document.
            Consider whether the next actions as you have written them repel you or tempt you. If the answer is repel, you need to change them.

            I also get distracted really easily when writing, so I now put a notepad and pen next to the computer, and whenever I get a distracting thought or idea that would take me away from my current action to a new one, I'll write it down on the pad. When I'm done with my current action, I'll check my notepad and the next actions list and see what I'd like to do next. When I'm finished the session and want to change to a different project altogether, that's when I'll process the notepad and put all the next actions into my next actions list, and put any ideas/notes into my project support.


            • #7
              Originally posted by neil007 View Post
              I am writing a long document, perhaps 8 hrs of work therefore "complete document" isnt my NA is it? But my writing style is to hop around the document working on different sections during a working session. So I can set the NA as "finish introduction". Any ideas?
              I used to over-define projects, the way you might set them up in Microsoft Project with dependencies, start this after that, and so on. MLO will let you do this if you want. But I read somewhere that its enough to get things out of you mind into a trusted system without having to plan them to the nth detail; the existence of the project is sufficient.

              So what I'd do now is create a project "write document". Using MLO, in the "task note" section I might track what parts I've completed if I do it over a long enough time intermixed with other work that I'm not sure what I've already done. And I create a single next-action that shows up in the to-do list. In your example it might be "write intro". When that finishes the continued existence of the project (make sure you have MLO set up so it doesn't mark a project as complete when all tasks under it are complete) will remind me there is more to do.
              Last edited by Mike L; 08-16-2011, 09:58 AM.


              • #8
                Working on long documents NA vs. Project

                As someone working in academia, I'm also often working on long documents (e.g., preparing manuscripts for publication or grants for submission). I'll enter "Submit manuscript to X Journal" or "Submit grant to NIDA" as my @Project to keep a placeholder, but along the way, may have Next Actions such as "complete statistical analyses," "Continue writing manuscript," "Talk to co-author X about discussion section," etc. and eventually a @Waiting For of "Co-authors - return manuscript with comments before submitting."

                Hope that helps.


                • #9

                  Yes, I guess it also depends on your personal style. For some procrastinators, its better to see - "write intro" than "finish document".


                  • #10
                    personal style and writing as a project

                    Your personal style and how you construe the project will give idea about how to "work" the project. There are many different ways that people successfully write. Just as my dear partner used to study quantitative chemistry with just the book, without a pencil and paper, sitting in a rocking chair, and rocking out to the Allman Brothers, he composes lenghty grant proposals and scientific articles in his head, and sits down for 3-4 hour blocks and just types. He only revises if he exceeds the word limits. His next actions are to protect his time, to put the data in graphs and tables, to just to sit and type. I on the other hand, outline, revise and revise. So, my next actions are often pretty tightly defined. I have found a few next action tricks that work: write a paragraph for myself on the purpose and scope of what I am writing, as well as the features of the intended audience. Also, if there is data involved, and there always is something that is an incontrovertible fact, such as names, dates, places (even if you are writing fiction), to list them in front of me. Finally, on the rare occasions that I have needed to included an abstract, I will next action it as the first task:write the abstract, leave blanks for what I do not know yet. A prolific writer I know, now age 92, writes everything, proposals, letters, book reviews, memoirs, obits. in the old college theme style of work. Each fact goes on an index card; each source goes on an index card. These get arranged in the best way to support the thesis, which, by the way, is always stated in the the opening sentence. This has served her well in all her personal and professional roles. She is lightening fast once the cards are completed.


                    • #11
                      Project help


                      Well if this were me, I would make sure this is a project (first easy step). In creating that project, I would make a mind map of all the parts that need to be included in the paper and brainstorm about all of the different sections that need to be written. Once I have that and I am able to take out the necessary actions of what needs to be written, I would make a checklist of what parts need to be written and then just keep that as reference. THEN I would ask myself, what is the next action, and it could be as simple as buy a new keyboard so that writing this paper is more comfortable, or it could be get started on my outline.. that one is your call.

                      That's just my two cents. I am not a coach, but that would be my method of getting out of overwhelm. I would also look at using the Natural Planning Model, and write down the purpose of the project, guidelines, and what wild success would look like before I start the organization of it all.

                      Best of luck!



                      • #12
                        I am excited to read the books that you are doing..I will wait for them.