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I feel like I have too many Next Actions to choose from.

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  • I feel like I have too many Next Actions to choose from.

    When I'm in my office, I feel overwhelmed with all the next actions I could potentially do next. If I don't have anything on my hard landscape, that means I'm free to do @Computer, @Office, @Calls, whatever.

    I have 273 tasks right now and with out prioritizing, how do I know which ones I should start doing first?

    Am I just supposed to go through ALL my next actions lists and then try to decide?

    I feel like I should prioritize during my weekly review so I know which ones to concentrate on.

  • #2

    I thought I had alot at 150 or so.

    How granular are you about these next actions. Is "take out the trash" a next action?

    I think there are routines that done need to be next actions - you are not going to forget to feed the kids. But the idea behind next actions is that they are open loops. "This could slip through the cracks if I dont write it down" type stuff.


    • #3
      I feel like I have too many Next Actions to choose from.

      I don't think I'm too granular. It's all stuff that needs to get done. I have a small business and I think just have a tone of stuff to do.

      It's very frustrating to read through the 178 things that I could possibly do when ever I'm in the office.

      Also, I've moved as many things to someday/maybe as I can.

      There's just sooo much!


      • #4

        How many projects do you have? Are a lot of these 'next actions' linked to projects?

        I too run a small business, and I'm discovering that all the GTD planning in the world can't take the place of hiring trained employees who can lighten my load.

        I'm finding out that the next actions that really get my attention are the ones that make my projects move along. I have some tasks that, not being project linked, just never seem to get done.

        Also what seems to help, is to block off an hour or two on your calendar, put your phone on voice mail, and just attack your list--start with the category that you can move through the quicketst - like @calls. This will give you a 'boost' of crossing things off, which feels great!




        • #5
          I feel like I have too many Next Actions to choose from.

          Stephen, those are great tips. I'll try that. Thanks for the help.


          • #6
            too many na's


            Your # of tasks seemed to drop off. 179 is a lot better than 273! I have about 170 myself. Good points brought up by Steven. Next actions are next actions - I wouldnt get to hung up about how many there are.

            David Allen says the project list is the key list to making GTD work. I would focus more on that list than the NA list in deciding what to do next first. Maybe you're like me in that context is not the best way to look at deciding next actions. If I need to be by a computer to do whats most important then I will figure out how to get @computer. I cant just let where I happen to be drive my decisions about what to do. I need to think about where I should be to do whats most important.

            I dont know if that helps or not - it helped me to remind myself though.

            Of course the key to it all is the weekly review which I'm beginning to think I wont get done this afternoon (again).


            • #7
              I feel like I have too many Next Actions to choose from.

              DM, those are great tips too!

              It's nice to have a long weekend. I'll put everything in Projects AND use the weekend to whittle down the sheer volume of tasks.

              Hopefully then, I will be able to stay ahead of the curve a bit.



              • #8
                Projects ala Bill Kratz Method


                Yes, the ever evasive weekly review. I feel so good when I can really get through it.

                I really want a laptop so I can do my WR off in a quiet nature setting, far away from my wife and kids. Without that, I usually do it late at night--or early Sun morning.

                My projects have really taken off since I incorporated Bill Kratz' method of using an Outlook 'contact' form as a Project form. Now I can just click on a project, and see all the tasks that are linked to it. Appointments too.


                Have a great 'Labor Day' holiday!



                • #9
                  when in confusion with 100+ actions, I just pick randomly

                  In principle there ought to be just one immediately actionable next action for each project. 100+ next actions imply that there 100+ projects which is likely. Many times, when I am in a similar state, I just go with a random pick of next actions and act on them without worrying about which might be more important. In a larger scheme of things, I would atleast get something done and gain some momentum. If there were any highly prioritized next actions within the 100+ list, they would pop out intuitively anyway.


                  • #10
                    When I feel overwhelmed, the it is likely that I feel there are lots of important things to do. As he says early in the book, "It's all important" because all these things represent commitments to ourselves and/or others.

                    Block out time, and run the program, that is, start closing loops.

                    I had one day week before last when I could not focus on anything all morning. I got frustrated, pulled out the palm and started closing loops (starting about 11 am). Didn't get up until about 2 pm (had a big breakfast) because I was in the flow. It was cool to be able just to focus on getting the things to the next stage, or out of my life. I didn't even care if it was business or personal: if it was next on the list, it was next to be done.


                    • #11
                      Re: I feel like I have too many Next Actions to choose from

                      My way of reducing the number of next actions is to be pretty rigorous about only allowing myself one next action per project, and to carefully manage the number of 'live' projects I have.

                      The way I implement this in practice is to have one 'live' next action and a number of 'pending next actions' under each of my project lists. As soon as I have completed the live next action, I make one of the pending ones live, and so on.

                      This means that I have a relatively short 'live' next actions list (30-50) which are the ones I have to actually worry about doing plus a list of a couple of hundred pending next actions, which I don't have to worry about.

                      I do something similar with projects. Given I can only do so many projects at once, I try not to have too many 'live' ones in any one category (e.g. home improvements). For example, I just have one 'live' home improvements project at present (Fix the light in the hall) and three or four pending ones, which I'll get to once I have fixed the light in the hall. So I have a live projects list with 20-30 projects on it (this is the one I look at every week), and a pending projects list with another 40-50 (from which I grab new projects when I finish an existing one).

                      All this keeps my 'live' lists nice and short. I appreciate it kind of appends a new 'pending' category to David Allens excellent system, halfway between 'projects' and 'someday/maybe'. Heresy perhaps!


                      • #12
                        Preparing a weekly commitment list

                        I have also stuggled with the issue of too many next actions -- my master lists are huge! What I do following the weekly review is to then prepare a plan -- just a plan, not fixed in stone -- of the tasks that I wish to commit to doing for the week. This is based on the complete weekly review -- horizontal and vertical -- of my goals, objectives, projects, etc. -- what is most important, due soon, etc. SO, I have a weekly plan with some times blocked off of the calendar to focus on critically important tasks. I HAVE to have some hard coding this way! I think it is personality dependent -- I am a very structured person and like things this way and have never been comfortable with pure GTD. I embrace most components of GTD, but this is my modification of the process. Without a work plan for the week, I feel too disorganized and at the mercy of hundreds of next actions, constantly trying to decide what to do next. I DO NOT overstructure though and am willing to change my plans if issues arise that dictate such changes. However, as a professor at a major university, I can (at least good percentage of the time) can decide what and when I will be doing.

                        I would be happy to share my planning strategy with others. It is a combination of GTD, First Things First (Covey), The Time Trap (MacKenzie), and Managing multiple projects (Tobis).

                        Best to all


                        • #13
                          Hi Longstreet

                          I think GTD, Covey and MacKenzie inter-lock very well, (see my post under “Other Good Time Management Books”). Based on your post, I have just ordered “Managing Multiple Projects”. I would be very interested to learn about your combination of their methods.




                          • #14
                            IMHO, one must prioritize the projects.

                            To paraphrase from DA tapes...

                            "Focus on positive outcomes, organize them by priority, and work on the next actions of the most important things."

                            How one determines what the most important things are, is really the hard question, addressed by GTD in chapter 9 "Doing: Making the Best Action Choices."

                            The summary by DA is to use your intuition after first looking at your life from various levels and perspectives. There is even an example on the DA tapes of a situation that has different answers depending on which level you look at it from. Then you must decide which level you choose to use. I apologize in advance for butchering the example since I am doing this from memory, but the example involved what to do when a colleague steps into your office and asks a question. From the runway level, you should avoid spending time on the question since does not help you get anything done. From a higher level, though, maybe one of your focus areas is employee morale and you should spend time on this person to further that goal. Or, maybe that person will be important to one of your projects in the future, so cultivating a relationship now will enhance your future success.

                            How to pick which level to choose from is largely intuition.

                            There are many other resources regarding prioritzing, from Covey to Tony Robbins, and on and on.

                            I frequently refer to a set of questions that I got from Day-Timers. The short version is as follows:

                            1. What long-term project should I work on today?
                            2. What project has greatest return for time invested?
                            3. What projects will have worst impact if not done?
                            4. What does my boss think is important?
                            5. What misc, quick items can I knock off easily?
                            6. What does my life plan, or company mission suggest I do?
                            7. Is there anything else I am not considering that will have good long-term results?



                            • #15
                              Too many things "to do..."

                              Originally posted by Docta
                              I have 273 tasks right now and with out prioritizing, how do I know which ones I should start doing first?

                              I feel like I should prioritize during my weekly review so I know which ones to concentrate on.

                              This is a great prompt! In fact, a question we face in the work we do comes from people who, for the first time ever, see in one place EVERYTHING they’ve ever said yes to! My response would be one of an information seeking-nature…

                              Have you done a full inventory of all your levels of work? Even starting with the 20,000 foot level and working your way down to Next Actions could be very valuable.

                              At the 20,000 foot level, what are your areas of focus, interest and responsibility. Most clients I work with have 4-7 on the personal side, and 4-7 on the professional side: (Homeowner, Community Volunteer, Education; Information Technology, Marketing, Sales).

                              Then, identify all the 10,000 foot projects out of that: (Organize new roof for winter; Complete FY ’04 projections). Of course, your 50-150 projects “should” all line up to your areas of focus. This offers interesting feedback, especially if a lot of the projects and next actions are “off course” (meaning they don’t line up to your areas of focus, interest and responsibility.

                              I think defining ALL of your projects (big, little, personal, professional) is a great exercise. Then, what you actually DO decide to work on is top quality, and top priority. The Someday/Maybe list, though, is what I'd suggest you utilize more. (I have well over 100 items on it right now.) Might as well either dump the stuff or park it on S/M so you don't have to have anything actually to DO about it.

                              That way, you won't feel bad about your own agreements.

                              Sometimes, it's easy to avoid defining the project because it's too big ("amorphous, out of my control"), too small ("some dumb, dorky little thing") or too ambiguous ("I'm supposed to do WHAT?"). Interestingly, you would only avoid moving on it if the action step isn't clear enough or the project is not meaningful enough, given all your other projects. A great way to get around that is to completely define the successful outcome of the accumulation of action steps required to complete that "thing." For every active project on that list, ensure there is a "next action" defined and captured into your system. Finally, if you're still not getting it done, then slide it off the active list.

                              My teacher once told me, “Fulfill the agreements that you make with yourself and with other people around you. Fulfill your agreement to your family, your employers and employees, your friends, your landlord, your doctor, your dentist, your creditors, etc.”

                              Being the “not-wanting-to-work-real-hard” guy that I am, I’ve found that by identifying the “drivers” (also known as agreements) at the various levels, it makes it much easier for to identify projects and prioritize next actions.