How to track future tasks in a project

Ben S

Registered
I'm often running into a problem where I brainstorm tasks that need to happen for a project but they're not necessarily the immediate next action. E.g. I need to make a phone call at some point but before I make the call I need to get more information from a coworker. I know at some point I'll need to make the call, and talking to my coworker won't necessarily be a trigger for making the call in all situations, so I want to track it somewhere but if I track it in my next-actions list it takes away from the benefit of having only immediate next actions in my lists.

I've tried keeping it in Someday/Maybe but I feel like I don't surface tasks like this soon enough if I only read through them once a week; similarly I've tried keeping them in project reference but I run into the same problem.

Does anyone have any suggestions about ways to manage this?
 

Mateusz

Registered
NirvanaHq handles this perfectly because it has an additional list called Later. Something between Next and Someday.

In general this kind of later actions should/could be stored in project support materials.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
NirvanaHq handles this perfectly because it has an additional list called Later. Something between Next and Someday.

In general this kind of later actions should/could be stored in project support materials.
Things stores someday items Inside projects differently than someday projects or single actions to give a similar functionality.
 

PeterByrom

Registered
If you’re using a tool which stores actions inside a project, and uses tags to assign contexts to the actions, you can leave the tag off the future action. That way, it won’t show when you load up that particular context (eg if it’s a future phone call then don’t tag it with “calls”, leave it until the phone call is a genuine next action, and then assign the tag).

you could also leave a note on the next action (eg, “after doing this, see if you can arrange a call”).
 

Mark Jantzen

Registered
I do this a lot with travel projects - OmniFocus is my weapon of choice. I spent a week in Texas during December. My project was "Enjoy Texas Trip" and one of the next actions was "Check into Denver return flight". I put defer and due dates (24 hours prior) within OF so it stayed out of my face until it was time. The benefit was Southwest Airlines boarding group A02.
 

Oogiem

Registered
I'm often running into a problem where I brainstorm tasks that need to happen for a project but they're not necessarily the immediate next action. E.g. I need to make a phone call at some point but before I make the call I need to get more information from a coworker. I know at some point I'll need to make the call, and talking to my coworker won't necessarily be a trigger for making the call in all situations, so I want to track it somewhere but if I track it in my next-actions list it takes away from the benefit of having only immediate next actions in my lists.
That's project support. How you store it depends on your tools. For me most of those things go into Omnifocus as actions. I have OF set so the default for project sis sequential, so only the top action is shown in the next or available actions perspectives. Sometimes if the notes are much longer then they will be in my DEVONThink note that is the longer form project support material for various projects. If it's a fiull document I ahve an electronic project support folder for long documents and if it's paper there will be a paper folder. In OF I specify where all the various types of project support are for any given action.
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
I'm often running into a problem where I brainstorm tasks that need to happen for a project but they're not necessarily the immediate next action. E.g. I need to make a phone call at some point but before I make the call I need to get more information from a coworker. I know at some point I'll need to make the call, and talking to my coworker won't necessarily be a trigger for making the call in all situations, so I want to track it somewhere but if I track it in my next-actions list it takes away from the benefit of having only immediate next actions in my lists.
Good question, Ben. It sounds like you clearly understand the distinction between a next action and a dependent action. That distinction is critical for optimizing your attention. So many people have a combination of next and dependent actions on their lists, so they end up giving attention to things they cannot yet do. Others here have given good suggestions about handling these dependent actions in your project support.

The GTD Weekly Review is your safety net. When you are reviewing your projects, you will see any projects for which you've done the next action and not yet created a new next action, and you can move what was a dependent action from support to the next action list.
 

Longstreet

Registered
Good question, Ben. It sounds like you clearly understand the distinction between a next action and a dependent action. That distinction is critical for optimizing your attention. So many people have a combination of next and dependent actions on their lists, so they end up giving attention to things they cannot yet do. Others here have given good suggestions about handling these dependent actions in your project support.

The GTD Weekly Review is your safety net. When you are reviewing your projects, you will see any projects for which you've done the next action and not yet created a new next action, and you can move what was a dependent action from support to the next action list.
Excellent advice from everyone! And when you are feeling uneasy....do a weekly review as John said!
 

ivanjay205

Registered
If you’re using a tool which stores actions inside a project, and uses tags to assign contexts to the actions, you can leave the tag off the future action. That way, it won’t show when you load up that particular context (eg if it’s a future phone call then don’t tag it with “calls”, leave it until the phone call is a genuine next action, and then assign the tag).

you could also leave a note on the next action (eg, “after doing this, see if you can arrange a call”).
ah that is a great idea, thanks Peter! I use FacileThings and I always struggle because I put the waiting for action in the appropriate spot but that means I cant work on the next action. So I just set the tickler for it to disappear until I think it will come around or I ignore the next action. But this is a good idea too!
 

PeterByrom

Registered
ah that is a great idea, thanks Peter! I use FacileThings and I always struggle because I put the waiting for action in the appropriate spot but that means I cant work on the next action. So I just set the tickler for it to disappear until I think it will come around or I ignore the next action. But this is a good idea too!
You’re welcome!

also, another trick I use with list managers which don’t have a “defer” or “start date” functionality, is to keep a next actions list called “Tickler”. I use this to put reminders which are scheduled for a specific date, and I use the due date not to mean an actual due date, but the date that I want to see the reminder. So, for example, if I need to check whether something has gone live on a website in 2 weeks, I could set a tickler task with the “due date” for 2 weeks time. Then, on that day, I will see this reminder in my “today” view (or even in my calendar if it’s feeding to it), and then I can either just do the action that day, or move it into a proper context based next action list (eg “at computer”) and even set an actual due date if I want!

so, once again, it’s all about the hard edges of what a list means. If a next Action is in a context list, then the due date means an actual due date, but if the action is in the tickler list, then the due date means the day that I want to see the reminder and treat it as the start date.
 

Ben S

Registered
Thanks all for the great advice! It sounds like I need to work on tracking my future actions in project support, plus getting better at going through project support materials in weekly reviews.

I'm curious what everyone uses tools-wise for tracking future actions? Do you simply have a list of all the potential future actions? Are they organized somehow, maybe by prerequisite actions?
 

Oogiem

Registered
I'm curious what everyone uses tools-wise for tracking future actions?
They are just standard in my tool, Omnifocus. I just set them to be sequential projects and that hides the actions until I need to see them.
 

aderoy

Registered
Tracking of future items
  • tickler file (have the 43 file folders in play for paper based items)
  • emacs org mode item with a scheduled date / due date for anything that is not physical
 
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