How detailed do you write your Next Actions?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Jan Ernest, Sep 29, 2018.

  1. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,698
    Likes Received:
    477
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Female
    Here's another take on how detailed your next actions should be. Think about how detailed they need to be if you ever have to delegate those tasks either by choice or through death or injury.

    I keep a lot of the day to day financial and sheep management recurring taasks in my OF system. it's about half of what I track. My next actions for those things are very detailed when I create them. They function like a checklist for me but they are detailed enough that snyone with access to my computer, filing system and the password to my password manager can take them and do them. Actions that say for example "download and file statement x" have in teh notes the web site and also the folder location on my computer where it goes. In essense they are microcoded.

    When I do those actions I roll right past the action support material of the note because I know how to do it. But it's there for someone else if needed.

    Right now I'm automating a lot of those actions using Hazel and so I'm slowly changing the note to include that Hazel does the rename of files and transfer to the filing system automatically but still lists where they end up.
     
  2. Jan Ernest

    Jan Ernest Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Gender:
    Male
    Yep. That is why I am seeking help on what should be and shouldnt be. You cant have a verb that describes equally to a project, and with this answers, it is way too complicated to go to micro-tasks. I like particularly your example on te breathing part, I think this can be referrenced with when I am writing the NAs.
     
  3. Jan Ernest

    Jan Ernest Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Gender:
    Male
    Great perspective on this. Thanks!
     
  4. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2003
    Messages:
    4,674
    Likes Received:
    440
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Some time ago I wrote an article about the Next Action granularity: http://productivemag.pl/5/nd-10-um-en
    It's in Polish but it specifies The Great Next Action equation:
    NA = 10 * SKILL * EN²
    where
    NA - the optimal time in seconds of the Next Action in a given Project
    SKILL - your skill level in a given Project (1 (beginner) to 10 (expert))
    EN - your enthusiasm for a given project (1 (cleaning your bathroom) to 10 (changing the world))
     
    Cpu_Modern likes this.
  5. Sarahsuccess

    Sarahsuccess Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    37
    Likes Received:
    15
    Trophy Points:
    8


    I think it is important to have sharp edges between each of the 5 stages of workflow: capture, clarify, organize, review and do.
    In my opinion, Call Jerry about the management committee meeting is what you have "captured", not necessarily the next action.
    The next step would to be "clarify". There are 3 questions to ask for this:
    1. "Can I do something about this?” This is similar to "Is it actionable?”, butI prefer to ask, “Can I do something about this?"
    You might decide someone else should do it, or you might decide that you should do it, but not yet. Something else should be done first.

    2. The next question is: what is the larger outcome? Will the outcome be reached after this one action, or is it multi-step (a project)?
    The answer might be, to make an action plan for project xyz, or to define roles, responsibilities and tasks of each committee member.

    3. The third question is: What is the next action?
    Here you think about what would be the next thing I need to do about this.
    Possible answers might be:
    a. ask someone else to call Jerry
    b. call someone else
    c. Make a list of things to discuss about the meeting.
    d. or you might be ready and the next action is Call Jerry about the management committee meeting

    Once you have done the clarification stage/process correctly, I think it will be intuitive and easy to write the next action.
    It will also be easier to do it, when you get to the "do" stage.

    Also, the book Getting Things Done by David Allen in the chapter on projects (page 77) states, “How much of this planning model do you really need to flesh out, and to what degree of detail? The simple answer is, as much as you need to get the project off your mind." I think this can be applied to next actions as well as project planning. You should write as much or as little as you need so you know what to do (and get it off your mind). How much you write depends on how familiar you are with each task, and therefore will differ from task to task.

    I think you are referring to the subheading "The Action Step Needs to Be the Absolute Next Physical Things to Do" (Getting Things Done, page 130). David Allen gives an example of "set meeting". He writes that people might think "set meeting" is a next action, but it's not descriptive of a behavior. You need to think what you would do to set the meeting. Would you call, or email, and to whom?

    I think the point is to get the main idea of what you want to do (the next action), and not get stuck in unimportant details, or get stuck in vagueness.

    Hope this helps. I'd appreciate feedback on my reply.

    Sarah
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  6. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2012
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    190
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Gender:
    Male
    @Sarahsuccess: The five phases of workflow, which you've done a good job of summarizing, are indeed critical to success with GTD. But the OP's question is not how to clarify a next action, but how to express it once you've clarified it. For the purposes of this discussion, I think it's OK to assume that "Call Jerry about the management committee meeting" is an appropriate next action. In the real world -- at least in my experience -- this is sometimes the appropriate action to take to move on something.

    @Jan Ernest, I hope I don't sound harsh but I believe you are someone who tends to overthink to the point of inhibiting yourself from doing and I think this goes deeper than just your GTD practice. As someone who used to also suffer from "analysis paralysis," my advice to you is to try to do more and think less. In my experience overthinking flows from an irrational belief that the consequences of any mistake no matter how small will be catastrophic. Try to reorient your thinking by imagining that life is like riding a bicycle. If you make a wrong turn, it's not a disaster because you can correct course. But if you just try to sit still you'll fall and hurt yourself.

    As far as how this relates to GTD practice, try to express everything in the simplest terms possible, and then when you've done that to your satisfaction simplify them even further until it makes you uncomfortable. After all, if you're truly applying the GTD methodology there will be a lot of stuff in your lists. You'll resist even looking at them if they're overflowing with unnecessary detail. If you're doing GTD correctly, often you'll be reviewing these lists multiple times in a day. Don't make that more difficult than it needs to be.

    If you know that the next step to move on something is to "Call Jerry about the management committee meeting" then that's all you need to put in your calls list. Trust yourself that you'll know what to do from there.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
  7. Lagerbaer

    Lagerbaer Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2018
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    9
    Trophy Points:
    3
    I'd add that a next action should be "stand-alone useful". What I mean is: If your next action is "Call Jerry about the management committee meeting" and you did just that, then you have moved the project regarding the meeting forward in a tangible way. You are now measurably closer to its completion. Also, you can do that particular action and then move on to another project / action and it would make sense.

    Now compare that to a next action of "Get phone". So you get the phone and then what? On its own it accomplishes nothing at all. It only makes sense in the overall step of calling Jerry. Same with "Unlock phone". If you were to unlock the phone and then move on to another project with its own next action, that would be silly.

    So while "Call Jerry..." does indeed comprise all these actions (get phone, unlock phone, dial number, greet Jerry, exchange pleasantries with Jerry, get to the point with Jerry...), they can't stand in isolation. I'd therefore call the "Call Jerry..." action an atomic action, because you can't reasonably split it into smaller units (emphasis on reasonably. Of course you can split them, just like you can split an atom into its constituent electrons, protons and neutrons, but that costs a lot of energy and might leave you with a radioactive mess.
     
    Tom_Hagen and TesTeq like this.
  8. ariaabadi

    ariaabadi Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2016
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    "turn page in seed catalog"
    i just told people about your post =D
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019

Share This Page