How to (quickly and efficiently) see if a project has a next action?


Kelly Forrister | GTD® Coach
I didn't go back to read the original post and I'm sure there are many great suggestions so far. Here's what I would add (or say again):

Consistent Weekly Reviews will help build trust that you have a next action captured for each project.

Between Reviews, some people (not all) want a quick view of that linking in their tool. Some tools do this better than others. A tool like Outlook will only make this possible with keyword searches on that project. More sophisticated tools like Todoist and OmniFocus have this linking baked into the tool by their design. Other tools will do it with tagging pretty effectively.

So it is possible, with varying degrees of sophistication, and some people need that linking. It's not against GTD to need it or want it. I found it more work than it was worth and have a simple set up in Todoist. Go with whatever setup you need to feel confident in your system and choices.


I think that part of the difference between why people link or don't link may be whether their typical tasks make the project obvious.

For example, I have a task, "Prep the former pumpkin space." It's useful for me to be reminded, right in the list display, that that's part of the "New front strawberry row" project. It affects the priority, when I'm looking at my "Farm Digging" context and deciding which task to do today. It affects exactly how I prep the space--luxurious soil instead of lean soil appropriate for herbs, and perennial-plant luxury instead of burn-off-fast luxury as for, say pumpkins.

Now, I could have phrased it as "Prep the former pumpkin space FOR STRAWBERRIES," but...I don't wanna. :) I don't like extra words in my tasks; they clog up my brain while I'm scanning. And while "for strawberries" is pretty short, there are other situations where there would be a lot more text. ("Prep 11A-11G for favas, remembering to make soil appropriate for tomatoes in the spring with just a little added fertilizer" is a lot more complexity, for me, than, "Prep 11A-11G for favas" inside a project, "Winter catch crops for tomato bed.")


I have read all kinds of threads here and elsewhere about whether or not it makes sense to "link" next actions in your GTD tool. Apparently I am not the first to have consternation over this.

The consensus seems to be that you should not "link" next actions to a project directly. Instead, GTD would seem to say you just need to have a complete Projects list and a Next Actions list. If written clearly, it should be obvious what project you are moving along while completing a Next Action.

That all makes sense to me. Where I get confused is when my brain is trying to make the link in the other direction. In other words, if these are truly separate lists, how can I quickly and efficiently make sure that each of my projects has a next action during my Weekly Review?

I have 50-75 projects. Am I really supposed to read each one, then click over to my Next Actions list, scan it to make sure I see a Next Action, add one if I don't see one, then click back over to Projects and repeat?

I'm hung up on this and appreciate any suggestions on what I might be missing.

*I use Todoist btw.
Hi @mdtannet,

Quickly, my 2 cents on this.

I'm not sure about the "The consensus seems to be that you should not "link" next actions to a project directly"
What I'm sure of is that you do not need to (in the perfect GTD world), which is slightly different.

I usually advice people one thing : You must be confortable with your system, ideally almost having fun using it. Otherwise you might just quit the method just because of the system itself.
So if not having a link between project and next actions is a struggle for you, then do implement that link the way you want (I'm sure many shared different ways to do that).

If I may add, I've seen many struggling with that "project" thing. For me project management has nothing to do with GTD.
Those 50-75 projects you have, how big they are ? How big is your contribution ?

Very often in a company, someone is only working on a piece of a project, not the whole projet. So it starts to be confusing, "Project" in GTD is different than the "Project" itself. So if it can help, I like to call GTD Projects "Outcomes" and not projects. It creates a clear distinction (and help to define what the outcome is). It also help not having "big projects" where you start to add more and more actions, without any visible ending.



How I have 'linked' Next Actions to Project is through color coding, either with colored pens-& -paper or Word, All Projects [four columns in landscape] are Associated with one of my four Areas-of-Focus [Concerns, Life-Navigating, Obligations]: DIVINE, HEALTH [includes all personal and professional relationships], FISCAL, UTILITY as such the Next Action has the corresponding color: Pray Rosary, Weekly Review, Mortgage/Rent, Clean Kitchen. It still requires some thinking. For instance, Car Insurance could be either green or blue? Thus, blue for "Research Car Insurance" since a Car is a 'UTILITY' while green for "Pay Car Insurance" since Payments are a FISCAL concern/obligation
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