How to choose among so many next actions?

Silvestro

Registered
I have many next actions, if I choose one I hear the other one hundred screaming: "What!? If you do not consider me the customer will complain! You will be late! You will not make it on time! You will not able to pay the bill, retire and so on".
How do you deal with this issue?
Thanks
 

mcogilvie

Registered
That’s where the constraints of context, time available, energy and priority come into play. GTD doesn’t tell you what those are for you, but you can’t do phone calls in an important meeting, and probably wouldn’t when you’re eating crunchy cereal. Tell the next actions you’ll get to them when you can, and if they won’t shut up, hit them with your cereal spoon. You’re entitled to have breakfast in peace.
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
The issue is dealt with already in the project plans, ticklers and calendar. Any information about time pressure and urgency is organized there approbriately.

Another hub is the decision wether a project is active or someday/maybe.

So, if I encounter a NA on some list and I really *should* work on that today or right now, something in the tickler for instance already has reminded me of that and will do so tomorrow or so.

And this is already the mild version, if the urgency was higher something on the calendar or in the tickler made me do it already.

If I encounter a NA somewhere, without any due date attached on it or anything, guess what, that NA really can wait 'til another day.

Complex projects need more planning than just a single NA on some list somewhere.
 

Jim

GTD Ninja
If your mind has been swept, and your projects have been reviewed within the last week, and you are looking at a list of next actions that you can do at this moment…

…then the strategy at this point is to listen to your intuition. What does your gut instinct tell to do next?

If your intuition is silent, or can't be heard, then maybe a quick sweep or review is in order.
 

remsleep789

Registered
Silvestro, I have been doing GTD for almost 10 years. I look from where I am today on where I was 10 years ago and it is kind of amazing.

First few years...I felt overwhelmed. I wondered if all the tracking was worth it. I had work to do and almost felt all this tracking was wasteful. I rarely found time for my weekly review.

Maybe 7 or so years ago, I re-read GTD and started to see some of the key points:

1. You have choices.
2. Don't make commitments you can't keep.
3. I had to learn to say "No."
4. I had to stop the concept of "there is not enough time." Time is fixed. Period. It my choice how to spend it.

Yes, next actions require prioritization and scheduling. I had a painful transition as I started to say, "I'm sorry. I've overcommitted. I can't do this right now." It's tough, for sure.

I also read a book called "Essentialism" which drove home these points. I had to re-negoitate my commitments--at work, and at home. I had to frankly get a little more selfish.

But it has helped. It is a crazy world out there. GTD helped me take back control of my life. It's hard...but you can do it.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
I'm really trying to connect this with Pei Mai standing on top of Beatrice's Hatori Honzo sword.
If you chose sword play when you should be breaking blocks, the unknown has arrived and you might want to rethink your next action, as Beatrice did.

Cheers,
Clayton.
While I usually like a bit of Eastern thought with my GTD, I think martial art mythology processed through “Kill Bill” may be a bridge too far for me.
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
While I usually like a bit of Eastern thought with my GTD, I think martial art mythology processed through “Kill Bill” may be a bridge too far for me.
Interesting thread. Thanks to the original poster and all who replied.

For the next action that is screaming, you consider David Allen's reply when asked about prioritizing. He says it depends on what horizon you are asking from. On the ground or projects levels, the screaming may seem worth listening to. But if you lift to areas of focus or life purpose, the screamer may be easier to ignore.

For anyone who wondered about the double jump here from the original post to a sword to a bridge, the avatar that Silvestro uses is a martial arts master from the two-part Tarantino movie, "Kill Bill." Schemeggahead and Mcoglvie are referencing that movie in their replies.
 

TesTeq

Registered
For anyone who wondered about the double jump here from the original post to a sword to a bridge, the avatar that Silvestro uses is a martial arts master from the two-part Tarantino movie, "Kill Bill." Schemeggahead and Mcoglvie are referencing that movie in their replies.
@John Forrister Pai Mei has mastered the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. @DavidAllen has mastered Five Steps That Apply Order To Chaos. Coincidence? I don't think so! @mcogilvie @schmeggahead
 
Last edited:

Sojourner

Registered
I have many next actions, if I choose one I hear the other one hundred screaming: "What!? If you do not consider me the customer will complain! You will be late! You will not make it on time! You will not able to pay the bill, retire and so on".
How do you deal with this issue?
Thanks
Like @remsleep789 said, I'm saying "NO" to the other next actions in that moment in time. I'm only able to do so much or I'm in a context where this particular next action can be done and it's important and urgent to me.

Delegation seems like weakness, and I once thought this too, but I've learned that it's not a weakness; it's a "super power". Delegating a next action(s) to someone else, when possible of course, gives me the "super power" to do multiple next actions at the same time.

Otherwise, those pesky next actions just have to wait their turn. I'll accept any consequences because I've made my choice based on my review and my own priorities and committed to it.

In the same Pai Mei vein as others... "It's the wood that should fear your hand, not the other way around.". In this particular case, it's the next actions that should fear (respect) your choice, not the other way around. ;)
 

schmeggahead

Registered
In the same Pai Mei vein as others... "It's the wood that should fear your hand, not the other way around.". In this particular case, it's the next actions that should fear (respect) your choice, not the other way around. ;)
I guess I'm the only one who doesn't know how to spell Pai Mei ;)

Delegation seems like weakness
One of the very large "ah ha" moments of GTD for me was this:

The weekly review is a real meeting with a real assistant that you delegate EVERYTHING to: your future self. Be very clear what they need to do with specific tasks to accomplish with enough information to successfully select which to do in a given moment. The tasks should be able to be reviewed with them the following week to confirm completion and/or status.​

When I approached the weekly review as if I were providing information to someone else, it changed the quality of what I found in my system during the week. There was no more "what did I mean by that?"

Clayton
Today's discovery: OSX Grapher showed me that Pythagorean's theorem is a conic section.
 

Wilson Ng

Registered
I've had the same dilemma with so many possible projects and available next actions in my OmniFocus database, I was going nuts. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do every week or every day. I slowly settled on a sand sifting process. Imagine a sand filter with water poured from the top and going through different sand levels until the water is cleared of debris and pours at the bottom of the sand filter.

I have a lot of projects in my house, personal, and office areas of responsibility. I put most of them on hold. In my weekly review, I'll designate 2-3 projects in each area of responsibility (OmniFocus folder) as active. Everything else stays on hold or in the back burner. I'm not touching any paused projects.

I grab anywhere from 1-3 next actions from each project and write them in a BuJo page. I might have 6 projects with 1-3 actions available. Let's say I'll pick an average of 2 tasks from these 6 active projects. That will be 12 tasks. I write those down in the BuJo and title it:

Weekly Menu for May 9th-May 15th, 2022


- Scan and organize last week's paper invoices
- Test out new walkie-talkies I just bought
- Organize the first shelf of my home office bookshelf
- Take photo of one item and promote it on social media
- Bring the bushcutter to maintenance shop for annual servicing
- Declutter the garage storage chests

This represents the group of tasks I want to work on next week.

In my daily review (at the end of the day), I'll look at tomorrow's calendar schedule. If I have a lot of meetings/appointments/events, I'll know I won't be picking a lot of tasks from my Weekly Menu. I can choose 1-3 tusks from the weekly menu listed above. I write it on an index card as my 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) on an index card for tomorrow.This index card represents my plans for tomorrow. If I don't have a lot of appointments, I might choose 3-6 tasks for tomorrow.

When I have time between my calendar appointments, I'll take a quick peek at the index card and get right to work on them. If I can finish those tasks, I'll consider it a good day. I usually choose 3 tasks because I know that interruptions and swerves can happen at any time. I might have my wife come into the office and ask me to help her with something (not gonna argue with the wife..... Happy wife, happy life and all that). Other things like a computer hard drive crash, my child had a rough tumble at soccer practice (resulting in me dropping everything to pick up my kid early), or a walk-in customer with an emergency work order might come in and it can potentially derail any plan. I keep my MITs down to 3 to make allowances for the daily events that can change everything.

I keep doing the daily review every day and nibble away at my Weekly Menu. Before I know it, I'll have made significant progress with the many next actions in my task manager. Plan the week with a group of tasks you want to work on next week. Then plan tomorrow's agenda by picking 3-6 tasks from the weekly menu. Mark them off as complete in the task manager app at the end of the day.

Next Action Filtering works for me...
 

RuthMcT

Registered
I've had the same dilemma with so many possible projects and available next actions in my OmniFocus database, I was going nuts. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do every week or every day. I slowly settled on a sand sifting process. Imagine a sand filter with water poured from the top and going through different sand levels until the water is cleared of debris and pours at the bottom of the sand filter.

Thank you so much for this - this way of doing things really appeals to me. I've printed out your post, and will try implementing it on Monday
 

Wilson Ng

Registered
Thanks. My workflow will probably be different than yours. Adapt to your needs. In my case, I use my digital task manager to capture and organize tasks into checklists and different projects. It becomes the "menu" I order from. I use a hybrid analog/digital approach.

In my daily review (at the end of the day), I'll look at tomorrow's calendar schedule. If I have a lot of meetings/appointments/events, I'll know I won't be picking a lot of tasks from my Weekly Menu. I can choose 1-3 tusks from the weekly menu listed above. I write it on an index card as my 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) on an index card for tomorrow.This index card represents my plans for tomorrow. If I don't have a lot of appointments, I might choose 3-6 tasks for tomorrow.

This is my analog/digital approach using paper and computer. I can imagine that it can be done with just the task manager. Maybe apply the tag "Weekly Target"? At the end of the day, do a search for all tasks tagged with "Weekly Target" to filter list down to these tasks. Then apply another tag such as "MIT" or "Today!" When I'm working, I'll only look at tasks that have been with "Today!"

I personally prefer paper because I can see the Today index card or my weekly menu page on my desk. I'm always looking on my desk and it's always in front of me. If my today task list is in my task manager, it's too easy to have the app window hidden. Or worse yet, I get distracted and will hunt endlessly for another easy victory task or getting list in my task manager.
 

larea

Registered
For me my mind boggles when I'm looking at too many things. Two criteria I like to think about - it is easy to look at 1) will something bad happen if i don't do this (and when), but just as or more important is 2) will I be better off once I do this, or how will it benefit me. In order to get a better feel for this, it helps me to hide all the things that aren't going to be at the top for either of those so that I can look at a smaller list. Then make that list even smaller. It is fairly easy to get your head around 10 things and decide which to do first, it is much harder when those 10 things are lost in a sea of 200 less important things.

I have actually been known to make little columns by mine and rate high medium and low for value and then a second column for urgency, then reorder the items. I used to make a color coded list of major projects like this and share it with my manager at work so they could get a good understanding of what I was working on. Of course, while you are working on this you're not actually doing any of your tasks!
 

Wilson Ng

Registered
Thanks. My workflow will probably be different than yours. Adapt to your needs. In my case, I use my digital task manager to capture and organize tasks into checklists and different projects. It becomes the "menu" I order from. I use a hybrid analog/digital approach. This is my own personal approach using paper and digital.

In my daily review (at the end of the day), I'll look at tomorrow's calendar schedule. If I have a lot of meetings/appointments/events, I'll know I won't be picking a lot of tasks from my Weekly Menu. I can choose 1-3 tusks from the weekly menu listed above. I write it on an index card as my 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) on an index card for tomorrow.This index card represents my plans for tomorrow. If I don't have a lot of appointments, I might choose 3-6 tasks for tomorrow.

I can imagine that it can be done with just the task manager. Maybe apply the tag "Weekly Target"to a group of tasks designated for next week. At the end of the day, do a search for all tasks tagged with "Weekly Target" to filter the list down to these tasks. That takes care of my weekly plan.

Apply another tag such as "MIT" or "Today!" for tags inside the "Weekly Target" to say these are tasks I will be working on next. This is done during my end-of-day daily shutdown review.

When I'm working, I'll only look at tasks that have been with "Today!" and get to work on those.

I personally prefer keeping my tasks inside my digital task manager. They're all grouped into lists of projects. But I'll use paper as my daily driver. For me, paper is always visible on my desk. I put my Today index card on my desk clipboard. It's always visible. I can always hide my task manager's window on my computer. But it's harder to hide my clipboard unless I shove it into a drawer or under the desk. This gives me focus on what I intend to do next whenever I finish my calendar appointments. If I have my task manager visible on my computer, it's too easy to just peek at my task lists and look for something easier or more inconsequential. I'd rather do away with the distraction and just hide my task manager until the end of the day or unless absolutely necessary.

See if paper/digital works for you or try to go the all-digital way.
 

gtdstudente

Registered
I have many next actions, if I choose one I hear the other one hundred screaming: "What!? If you do not consider me the customer will complain! You will be late! You will not make it on time! You will not able to pay the bill, retire and so on".
How do you deal with this issue?
Thanks
I use a Two-Column NA List as a Binary-Possibility to place guard rails on my 'monkey-mind.' Thus, Actions/Activities are either Intrinsic/Passive or Extrinsic/Active while accepting 'Agendas' as an Active/Passive-Combo due to very nature of inter-personal engagement . . . Ps., Instead analyzing for 'priority,' many times I just go for what would be the . . . best experience . . . easiest task . . . most enjoyable context . . . might be just the thing to get the ball-rolling especially when I know everything was sufficiently vetted for worthiness [kick-back and trust worthiness was 'done'] in order to be on the list in the first place . . . pop, pop, pop! Thus, I remind myself, 'useless doing' is far superior to doing nothing
 
Last edited:

Blanka Dibtr

GTD Connect
I have many next actions, if I choose one I hear the other one hundred screaming: "What!? If you do not consider me the customer will complain! You will be late! You will not make it on time! You will not able to pay the bill, retire and so on".
How do you deal with this issue?
Thanks
When my next actions list try to do this to me, I realise I need a review. Some items on it are "stuck" due to incorrect clarification or misinterpreted context (as in it is on the wrong list). Some items just have to be moved to my "parking" area (as in a next actions list out of sight, not to be looked at daily) for a weekly review to pick it up again to a next action list when necessary - I do this when the volume is overwhelming me on a next actions context list.
In my day job I do most things as they come in - simply because of the nature of my work - and have a very short next actions list. When I feel like there is way too much buzzing around me, I take a deep breath and do a contextual (work of dayjob only) mind sweep and process that list. That makes me relaxed and focused on what I really need to do next and be aware of all others that should not stress me.
 
Top