How to deal with time consuming "next actions"

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by DimaS, Dec 2, 2019 at 3:16 PM.

  1. DimaS

    DimaS Registered

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    Hi guys!

    I have question about GTD methodology. What should I do with something that can't be done in simple step. For example: "Read book <X>" or "Write Essay" or "Prepare patent documentation". They looks like Next Action but will take much more than one day or even week.

    How I understood Next Action is something that can be done in a small period of time - up to one day. Projects should be broken into next simple actions.

    But how to deal with something that looking like a project (in terms of complexity) but have no next actions?

    My problem with this things that I will start to ignore them after certain period of time :(
     
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  2. RS356

    RS356 Practicing GTD since 2005

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    I define next action as the next physical step I need to take to move a project toward completion. I don’t place a time limit on these. Considering time available comes later as I’m deciding what to do. That said, if there is an action that requires a significant time commitment, I’ll handle it with my calendar rather than on a next actions list.
     
  3. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I just let them go on until done. If it helps I'm an outlier but I've had individual next actions that took years to complete. I just kept plugging away. It was the weaving of my cloak. Once I had the yarn spun and the loom warped all that was left was to eave the fabric. Due to life the universe and everything it took many many sessions to plug away at "Weave cloak fabric" which was the next visible next action. It took me 6 years total elapsed time to finish that one next action. 2 years to get the courage to cut the fabric and 2 weeks to sew the cloak.
     
  4. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Those are all projects. How you describe next actions for “Read book” depends on why you are reading it. Book club meeting on Christmas Eve? Favorite author? Required reading for certification? At a minimum, you can have a next action “read some book.”
    “Write essay” might start with a next action of clarifying the purpose of the essay (Remember the Natural Planning Model). Patent documentation is obviously a project too. The weekly review will help keep you projects alive.
     
  5. bproffitt1010

    bproffitt1010 Registered

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    Maybe 'read book' could be broken down by chapters or sections. i.e. "Read chapters 1-4"....... 5-8, etc. The write essay, could be broken down with "Research subject", "devise an outline", "write first draft", "proofread", etc..............
     
  6. RobertWall

    RobertWall Registered

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    Next actions aren't inherently about simplifying - they're about having placeholders to denote the next thing that has to happen to move something forward. The idea is to present you with a menu of the available things you *can* do to move toward your goals, and let you choose as appropriate.

    *Personally*, I would call "read book" a next action by itself. The only real restriction there is the context, i.e. "am I someplace where this book also happens to be?" If you're in a place where the book is, and you have a persistent way to mark progress (like a bookmark), it doesn't need to be any more fancy than that.

    If you need to break it down into pieces/parts to motivate you, I would still have "read book" as the next action, possibly with a supporting checklist that lets you list all the chapters and check them off. Or you can go crazy with software GTD implementations and set up a task that repeats (the number of chapters in the book) times. That way you can read a chapter and check it off.

    DA has mentioned in some of his material that some of his next actions say things like "draft article". Again, as long as you're in a context where you have the ability to write, and there's nothing else blocking the action (research, etc.), "draft article" is a perfectly-fine next action.

    "Context" and "next action" are the key things here, though.

    "Prepare patent documentation" isn't a next action unless you could sit down in some context, right now, with the material readily at hand, and do the job. If you need to get information from Fred to prepare the documentation, "prepare patent documentation" is a project, and "get material from Fred" is the next action. And technically, if you don't even know how to contact Fred, "get Fred's phone number and/or email address" is the next action. Of course if you don't even know where you would look for that contact information, "contact supervisor to find out who has Fred's information" might be the next action. And once you email your supervisor, "Waiting for Dave to get me information re: how to contact Fred" goes on a "waiting for" list, and your forward momentum on the project stops until that issue is resolved somehow.

    This is what a weekly review is intended for. You go over *everything*, and make sure that nothing is getting ignored or falling through the cracks. I'm not great at this myself, but it's a critical component of making the system work.
     
  7. Tom_Hagen

    Tom_Hagen Registered

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    I divide such a projects into pieces for example: chapters or pages. Thanks to that I can estimate in more accurate way time of doing. And that helps me seize every time gap effectively. In my case it also counteracts procrastination.
     
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