I'm really numb to my Next Action lists! Looking for helpful solutions... :)

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by WebMarketer, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. WebMarketer

    WebMarketer Registered

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    Hi all,

    What do you guys do when you get numb to your next action lists?

    I find I look at my lists but don't want to deal with them. One of the things I've noticed is that I have a lot of "done" items that I like to keep on my lists -- so I can see what I've crossed out already. But also written on these lists are next actions that I never get around to doing it seems!

    I think my problem may be that I have too many next actions written down instead of the very-very next actions.

    But here's the thing: I know I have NA's that I won't necessarily get around to doing in the very near future. How do you treat these less important items? Do you keep them off your main NA lists to avoid getting numb to them? I still want to keep track of all these items, yet I don't want to get repelled by my everyday lists.

    So what would you do?

    One idea I have is maybe to move these items to a "holding area" in a digital system that I can keep out of my daily sight. So that ONLY when I've completed all of the next actions on a given list, I can then turn to this digital list to add just a few NA's to my paper-based lists?

    My system is paper-based, as this works best for me. I don't use Outlook (and don't plan to), but at times I do use OneNote, which I like.

    The bottom line is that I want to keep track of all my next actions, but only want to deal with those that I can honestly see myself doing in the very near future, so that I can finally put an end to this stressful problem of resisting my lists. Those NA's I'm not ready to commit to (in the very near future) will stay off my lists for now.

    Any thoughts? I really appreciate your feedback! :D
     
  2. mhm802

    mhm802 Registered

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    do you use a tickler? sounds like that might be a good solution for you.
     
  3. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Someday/Maybe

    Sounds like you need to really revisit your projects and put a bunch into someday maybe. Or get used to long lists of actions that haven't been done yet.

    Also verify that only the real actual next action is on your lists.

    Most electronic tools can be set up that way so even if you define more than one next action or a sequence of actions they don't show up until they are really next. Paper means you have to do it by hand.
     
  4. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    ...up to now it was not possible.

    In one of the last podcasts David Allen said that there are items on his action lists that sit there several months. And he doesn't feel it is inappropriate. These actions should be done as soon as possible but up to now it was not possible.
     
  5. WebMarketer

    WebMarketer Registered

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    Thanks, but I don't use a Tickler as this doesn't work well for me.

    Many of my NAs are not tied to a project since they are standalone items. Yet these standalone actions are still things I want to get done... "someday" yes, but not "maybe" -- as I'm sure I want them done. Maybe transfer these items not to a Someday/Maybe list, but instead to something like a "Future Actions To Do" list?

    Looking at such lists creates a sense of resistance and avoidance to them, leading to procrastination.

    How do you suggest getting used to long lists of undone next actions?

    If this is the case, I wonder if Mr. David Allen, the man himself, ever gets numb to his lists, like so many of us do. And if so, what strategies does he employ to get himself unstuck?

    Now THAT would make for a great podcast! ;)
     
  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I don't think I have more than 10-15 things on my someday maybe list that are really Maybe. Of the 600 or so projects and 100+ individual next actions I have on Someday/Maybe Almost all of them are things I really truly want or need to do. But they still go there if I can't get to them for a while. Or if I want to limit how much of one thing I am doing.

    Practice helps with the long lists. At first I got very frustrated with long lists of stuff I hadn't finished. But a regular review of them and why they didn't get done and verifying they were really next actions and not mini-projects and really things I wanted to work on as soon as possible helped train my mind to not worry about it.

    I'd really review them and make sure they are not actually hidden projects but otherwise give yourself time to work with it and it will get easier to deal with longer and longer lists.

    I have a next action on my lists that I've been diligently working on for over a month now. I typically work on it 6 nights a week for about an hour or 2 yet I probably won't finish it for another month. I have some others that have been there for over a year.
     
  7. mwkoehler

    mwkoehler Registered

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    Advice from someone trying to get back on the wagon

    I'm currently fallen off the wagon trying to get back on, but this is how I am trying to do it:

    1. Every active project gets ONE next action. I manage my projects, not my tasks. So when I determine what action I will take next, I pick the project that gets to move forward (constrained by the context I am in).

    2. If a project is not active, meaning I want to do it but I just do not have the time or energy to start it, it lives on Someday/Maybe. Like Oogiem said, emphasize Someday not Maybe. If it still bothers you, rename it to a word that feels better for you like Not Now, or Later. As long as it works for you.

    3. Weekly review. This is what pulls the lists together so that you can put it on Someday, Later, Not Now, whatever and not feel that you will ignore it. Once a week so you can feel safe putting things on that list, but not every day so that your eyes glaze over.
     
  8. malisa

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    In Omni Focus I have a folder called On-Hold Projects. I've got projects in there that I am confident enough that I'll do "Someday" that I've started a project and written a Successful Outcome for it. I think of maybes more as 'list' ideas. Places I'd like to go, books I'd like to read, etc. I have several "Reseach X" projects in my On-Hold folder.

    I have about an equal number of active and on-hold projects. In OF, I can look at one action per project or all, only available actions or all remaining (oversimplifying here).

    Before I converted back to digital I had two sections in a three ring binder, one for active projects and one for on-hold, but still a separate section for someday/maybe (which again, means lists for me). But only actions for active projects went onto my NA lists.
     
  9. bishblaize

    bishblaize Registered

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    i have a Not Yet list - I definitely want to do them, I just don't have the time, money or some other thing (season, location, etc) is stopping me.

    When i started my current job, taking over a failing charity, I realised there's a backlog of work to keep me busy literally for years, assuming nothing new came my way, which of course it does. So I have a list of things that I want to do, but I couldn't possibly put them all as projects right now, we'd literally be talking about 300+ projects, and maybe thousands of Next Actions.

    So rather than go insane I put things on the Not Yet list and just review them every week. I dont create NAs for them (why bother if im not doing them) I just put the project there.

    I also keep a project called Odds and Sods - which is just for those stray Next Actions that aren't associated with a real project, so maybe thats a useful tip too.
     
  10. WebMarketer

    WebMarketer Registered

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    Interesting. I think the label "Someday/Maybe" creates some resistance in some people, maybe in my case. There's a sense of ambivalence connected with this label.

    Renaming this category to something I'm more comfortable with might be part of my solution. Your suggestion of a label such as "Not Now" is a good one. It is a way to assertively state "I'm choosing not to commit myself to any of these things right now" -- implying I've made clear decision about what not to do for the time being.

    I may even call this part of my system "Not Now, But Later", and would make it a point to set appointments with myself to revisit this category of "on-hold" actions and projects on an ongoing basis.

    I think I like that.

    I really like the concept of having a "On-Hold" category. I think this is a great label for things I'm sure I want to do but am not ready to tackle yet for whatever reason.
     
  11. malisa

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    The ones that are on hold indefinitely are just that. Then the ones that I have a vague idea of when I might like to/might have to deal with it get a month number at the start of the title (and an OF start date, so they're really not technically on-hold OF wise).
     
  12. Mark Aitken

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    When I am numb to my next actions, for me it means one of these things has happened
    1. I don’t value the outcome any longer, so I look at dropping the project and focusing on something of value.
    2. I don’t remember my motivation for starting, or I don’t have the same motivation. In that case I’ll rewrite in the comment of the project my outcome I want and perhaps why I want this outcome to happen, I.e. how it links to my goals.
    3. The next action needs broken down to the next smallest task I can do with an appropriate context. Sometimes I just need to sit and think about the smallest simplest thing I can do next, which gets me unstuck.
    4. I decide that the task isn’t in my focus but will still be worth doing. In that case I don’t force myself to work on it, I move it to my someday list and review it again every week for a while until it becomes a focus area again or it gets dropped.
    5. At work, I think about someone else benefitting from the task, and consider delegating.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
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  13. CamJPete

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    Try experimenting with the following:

    1. Create a Kanban flow with your next actions list only. (i.e. don't include any projects on the list). Then put every action into backlog, and limit the number of items you put in actions. Research the internet for how to design a Kanban with sticky-notes. The downside to this is if it is physical, then you need separate flows for work and home. An electronic version of this is Trello so that you can sync to whever you are. I sometimes find that Kanban flows keep me motivated to cruise through the short list of work-in-progress so that I can get to my "backlog" (which is really just everything on the next actions list). You kind of have to dynamically update your short work-in-progress (perhaps three items) depending on your contexts...continually moving items in and out if they aren't finished. Not an ideal solutions, but it does have some psychological benefits. Kanban doesn't fit neatly into GTD, but a stand-alone flow can be created with just your next actions list (with perhaps some waiting for actions, not waiting for projects).

    2. Consider separating someday/maybe into one someday list, and a separate maybe list. In the someday list and dump everything you are genuinely committed to doing into it. Dump everything else into the maybe list. Once that it done, pull the items out of the someday list that are most on your mind, and would give you the greatest payoff in terms of weight lifted from your shoulders to complete it. This will include both projects and actions. Put these items on the active projects and next actions lists appropriately. Try to keep the list "relatively short" (you decide what that is). Each day, review your someday list and see if there is anything that is pulling on today that you need to move to projects or next actions. Each week, review your maybe list and see if there is anything you'd like to move someday or projects/actions list.

    I'm no next actions guru, and have a question I'm about to post on the topic myself, but have experimented with these. They may help.
     
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  14. ellobogrande

    ellobogrande Registered

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    Paper does have subtle advantages over electronic media, but lack of portability and accessibility breaks the deal for me. Those who do keep action lists on paper should write a fresh new list on a clean piece of paper during weekly reviews when crossed-off items make the original list an eyesore. A freshly written list renews your engagement with those items. The act of rewriting the items forces you to more deeply evaluate whether or not the next action actually belongs there. You don't get that with electronic lists.

    The only items that belong on your next action lists are those that you can do *right now* given appropriate context, time and energy. During weekly reviews as you review your actions blow by blow you evaluate if each next action really is a next action. For example, if you've defined a next action to pick up something at the hardware store to fix something at home (i.e. a project) but you haven't clearly identified the item you need or you haven't made a key measurement yet, then that errand does not belong on your @Errands list. Cross it off and replace it with a well-defined next action on your @Home list (e.g. Measure space between x and y. Count number of 1" wood screws needed for z).

    You only need one next action per project at any given time to keep things moving forward. Anything that you can't do right now belongs in a separate project plan document in your general reference system. You may not have to track these as much as you think; your brain will connect the dots for you if you faithfully do your weekly review. If you don't it won't matter either way.

    Every now and then I define a next action that really isn't a next action and it becomes apparent when I feel resistance to following through on it. I use Google Tasks to host my GTD action lists. I created a special list called Pending where I move such actions (because I'm lazy and don't want to have to retype, especially if I made comments in the notes section) after I identify the real next action. Once I can move on one of those pending items, I move it back to the appropriate list.
     
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