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how "deep" do you go with describing next actions

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  • how "deep" do you go with describing next actions


    I am gtding since about november last year.
    since then it has helped me with getting things clear, but the more I think of it the more some things are getting a bit strange to me

    please help me out on the following parts
    A project list should contain the keywords of the thing you want to do
    The support material can contain the succesfull outcome of this project
    secondly this support material can contain the physical next actions to get to this succesfull outcome.

    I want to maw (mow please chekc spelling?) the lawn
    succesfull outcome is: lawn is mawed, debri is cleaned

    In my n.a. list: do I write down:
    - get lawnmawer
    - get green bin
    - maw the lawn
    - clean up grass
    - put the bin and mawer back where thy got it from

    these are the next physical actions.


    is it enough to write down Maw the lawn in my n.a. list.

    I am no executive or so
    just a simple employee
    so thinking of work when I am at home is not done for me at this moment (dont get paid too well for this)

    would someone recommend two project lists?
    1 for at work
    1 for personal/home stuff

    thanks anyway for reading this

  • #2
    Whether mowing the lawn is an NA or a project is really up to you. If you know that *all* you have to do is mow the lawn and clean up the debris, then it might be an NA. If it's the first time you've run the mower this season, and you need to buy gasoline, change the oil, and sharpen the blades, it's probably a project.

    It doesn't really matter, except that if you find an NA isn't getting done it might be because it's really a project and you haven't found the true next action. (For instance, the NA might be "mow the lawn," except there's a pile of branches you need to clear first.)

    Some people have separate home and work systems, some combine the two. Again, whatever works for you is fine.



    • #3
      Originally posted by kewms View Post
      It doesn't really matter, except that if you find an NA isn't getting done it might be because it's really a project and you haven't found the true next action. (For instance, the NA might be "mow the lawn," except there's a pile of branches you need to clear first.)
      Let me expand on that. If you look at a "next action" and don't know immediately how to do it, it's very likely not a next action.


      • #4
        I don't think there are any hard-and-fast rules for this question. Remember, GTD isn't meant to replace your own intuitive judgments; rather, GTD is meant to give you the tools and information you need to trust your intuitive judgments about your work.

        If "Mow the lawn" is all your brain needs to trust that your commitment won't be dropped, then you don't need to break it down any further. If, on the other hand, you're looking at "take over the world", breaking it down into smaller pieces is obviously going to be necessary.

        The key, I think, is to make your NAs as small as they need to be in order to stay manageable, but no smaller. As long as what's on your list passes the "Is it a Next Action, or a project in disguise?" test, and as long as it's enough to make sure you don't drop the commitment, that's good enough in my book.


        • #5
          However deep you need to go to get that action off your mind.


          • #6
            For me, a next action is defined by "What can I get done in one place, with one set of resources, all at one time?"

            If your lawn is "normal" sized, and you are sure that you've got enough gas, and that the blade is sharp, and that the oil isn't so old that the mower might blow up in your face, and that you have the lawn bags necessary for cleaning up the debris, etc., then I would say "mow lawn and clean up debris" is a perfectly acceptable next action.

            If your lawn is ginormous, then the next action might be a little more specific: "Mow the north 40 acres". If you aren't sure whether you've got enough gas or if the blade is sharp, then create a project: "Prepare to mow the lawn".

            I typically start with a fairly large next action: "Mow the lawn". If I get interrupted once I start (neighbor comes over and begs me to help her get the darned cat out the tree, AGAIN! and then it starts to rain before I get back home), then I will cross off the "Mow the lawn" next action and replace it with "Finish mowing the lawn after the grass dries out".

            Sometimes, the task is too daunting -- David Allen uses the example of doing your taxes: something that you could theoretically do in one sitting, but it has a high yuck factor. In those cases, I try to break it down into small enough tasks that I don't get that sick feeling in my stomach when I think about them: Install TurboTax. OK, I think I can handle that. Get Tax folder out of filing cabinet and put it on the desk next to the computer. Yep, I can do that too. Before I know it, I've got "Receive tax refund" on my @Waiting list. Hooray, Me!

            If I get too granular (ie. "Drink a tall glass of water" -- I like to stay hydrated before I begin any physical activity), there is no way I'll be able to associate that with the "Mow the lawn" project when Saturday arrives. So don't even think about going to that level of detail.

            For what it's worth... When I first started GTD, I spent more time than I care to admit on this very issue. Analysis Paralysis is an old friend. In some ways, though, it was helpful: It was the first time in my life I had ever really examined how I went about my daily life and what obstacles I faced.
            Last edited by jknecht; 05-19-2008, 03:00 PM. Reason: spelling


            • #7

              The degree of "granularity" (David Allen's term) for your Next Actions is a balance you decide for yourself. I believe the way he put it was if you need more motivation/bigger picture view, put less detail, and if you need it to be easier to take the next step, put more detail.

              For me, "mow the lawn" is a single Next Action, because it is lumped into one established process. Importantly, as you become better at things, your processes will encompass more. Mowing the lawn COULD become a project, easily, if I am out of gas for the mower. Even then, there are times when getting gas for the mower would be lumped into the process to carry out that Next Action.

              The purpose of Next Actions is to make it clear what to do next--to take your next bite of the elephant. For me, painting a room could be a multi-step project involving trips to several stores, prep work, etc. To a professional painter, that has become a process.

              It is more efficient to have your Next Actions encompass more because there is less writing, reviewing, checking, etc. However, it is more effective at getting us off our collective rear ends if the steps are smaller, because smaller tasks are easier.

              Sometimes a project "Mow the Lawn" could have one very small next action: get gas for lawnmower, followed by a very large Next Action: Mow lawn. Sometimes I intentionally do this just to get me going.

              I hope this helps. You can depend on yourself, by monitoring your RAM, to know whether you need bigger or smaller Next Actions.