Never Ending Actions Lists and How do I prioritize What Do?

viking

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The major problem with my Action Lists is that they contain hundreds of Actions and I add more Actions every day than I can complete...

They are of different types and require different amount of time; some with deadlines and some without. For example, Health, Work (that gives a fixed amount of $ per time spent), Education (which may or may not results in increased productivity or monetary return), Investing (with unknown monetary return), Time with Family, Duties etc....

I spend a lot time reviewing my action lists and trying to determine what to work on every day. How do I prioritize my Actions?
It is difficult to determine how they meet my "life goals" or how they fit in with Allen's "Airplane Analogy"...

My large Action Lists stresses me out, and lowers my productivity because I do not know what to spend my time on...
 
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ianfh10

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If you're maintaining your system and keeping it current, maybe it's forcing you to ask yourself whether you really need all those next actions?

What's the value of them if you complete them? What's the risk if you don't? If they're not things you want to do, maybe consider deleting them entirely. If they are, move to someday/maybe/incubate and think about it later.

It also looks like your "next actions" lists are more like areas of focus. Health, work, education, investing, duties are neither actions nor projects as they can never be completed. In education, you may have something like "learn Japanese" but this is a project so should be on your project list. What's the very next action related to the project? Research tutors online? Put it on your computer context list. Buy a Japanese dictionary? Put it on your buy/errands list. Are you going to complete the action this week, or the project this year? If not, put it on someday/maybe. Your education list will therefore be empty.
 
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This isn’t strict GTD but I’ll choose my next actions from lists organized by role/area of focus/life area. This helps me feel accomplished in all of the areas of my life. I can say that I’ve spent time in each and keeps me from neglecting/forgetting to move forward in one.
Career/Finance
Father
Pet Owner/Animal welfare advocate
Servant of the Lord/Christian
Husband
Castle/home vehicle upkeep
Health/Knowledge/self-care

It’s not always perfectly balanced. There are seasons. Until my kid is an adult and out of the house, I’ll devote more of my time to my Father role for example.

Just an idea but maybe it’ll help you when choosing what to work on all else being equal. Hard deadlines first but then I do something like the above.
 

Oogiem

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The major problem with my Action Lists is that they contain hundreds of Actions and I add more Actions every day than I can complete...
If you are not comfortable with long lists then move everytign you can’t focus on into Someday/Maybe. Personally I like long lists and I keep active anytign I expect or can work on in the ncurrent quarter in my system. I move stuff in and out quarterly to reflect the changing farming seasons.

They are of different types and require different amount of time; some with deadlines and some without. For example, Health, Work (that gives a fixed amount of $ per time spent), Education (which may or may not results in increased productivity or monetary return), Investing (with unknown monetary return), Time with Family, Duties etc....
Those are not projects, those are areas of focus.

Health is an AOF, a project might be Get an adjustable dumbell set and the next action might be research best adjustable dumbells availabel on Amazon

Education is an AOF that might have a project like Learn to program Python stand Alone Apps and a next acton might be investigate options for packaging standalone Python scripts

Family is an AOF and a project might be New Years Dinner Party for friends and a next action might be start the mutton leg in the sous vide 14 hours before dinner
 

grahamen

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If you are not comfortable with long lists then move everytign you can’t focus on into Someday/Maybe. Personally I like long lists and I keep active anytign I expect or can work on in the ncurrent quarter in my system. I move stuff in and out quarterly to reflect the changing farming seasons.


Those are not projects, those are areas of focus.

Health is an AOF, a project might be Get an adjustable dumbell set and the next action might be research best adjustable dumbells availabel on Amazon

Education is an AOF that might have a project like Learn to program Python stand Alone Apps and a next acton might be investigate options for packaging standalone Python scripts

Family is an AOF and a project might be New Years Dinner Party for friends and a next action might be start the mutton leg in the sous vide 14 hours before dinner
I have a new project, get on Oogie's guest list :)
 

Sojourner

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I spend a lot time reviewing my action lists and trying to determine what to work on every day. How do I prioritize my Actions?
It is difficult to determine how they meet my "life goals" or how they fit in with Allen's "Airplane Analogy"...

My large Action Lists stresses me out, and lowers my productivity because I do not know what to spend my time on...
I use the concepts of the Eisenhower Matrix (https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/eisenhower-matrix) with my GTD practice to help me prioritize my tasks.

I find the most stress relieving quadrant of the matrix for me is the "Delete It" quadrant. Along the lines of what @ianfh10 said, if I'm consistently ignoring or moving a task to another list, sometimes I just have to tell myself it's okay to just delete it. If by some chance I delete something that should have been done, it always manages to find its way back onto my Next Actions list. ;)
 

Shady Waxwing

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Sojourner, I agree that deleting is a major stress reliever. And stuff that should be done does always find its way back onto the list.

My challenge with the Eisenhower Matrix is that if I schedule something that is important but not urgent, it's too easy to push it off when some new urgent item shows up. That causes project "new tires installed" to become an urgent "call for road service and, later, figure out why I didn't have check the air in the spare" on a checklist. For me, evaluation using the horizons of focus and the three-fold nature of work helps to stop new urgent items from frequently pushing out the important items.
 

dtj

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There really is no nobility in having 10 lifetime's worth of list items, no matter how exquisitely they are organized. Like others said, it sounds like you need to lean on someday/maybe lists. If even the someday/maybe lists overwhelm your mellow, perhaps be a little ruthless in pruning them to fit. I have aspirational items that just won't fit into my life. For instance, i'd love to become proficient on the guitar, but being honest with myself I don't have 100's of free hours to gain that proficiency, nor to I have the attention span to be diligent about getting the work done. Thus there is never a "Learn Guitar" project in OmniFocus. It could happen, if I should be stranded in a place where all I have is guitar, and nothing to do, but i'm not gonna junk up my lists in what amounts to task hoarding.
 

brian161

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@viking sounds like you could use some filtering/sorting with contexts, ruthless curating of the NA list to move things over to S/M, and more frequent reviews of your horizons.

If you have the book handy, take a look at the Four-Criteria model for making decisions (p 52 of 2nd ed), which walks you though the various "filters" and decision points you could use to help make the list smaller. If your system is digital, you might be able to do that within the application you're using. If not, you could consider separating your NA list by context.

I'm completely in agreement with the others here who suggested being more realistic about which NAs should go into S/M. You could limit your NAs to things you'd do within a week, or go up to several weeks or months. The longer the time horizon, the more NAs you'll have to choose from. Another thing to consider is making sure that your NAs are real commitments that you have with yourself or others, and you list doesn't have things you're uncommitted to, or uncertain about ever doing.

Finally, if you're doing a traditional weekly review, or something close to it, you'll be thinking about your higher horizons, such as projects, goals/AOF, and values. That also gives you the benefit of ensuring that your NAs are generally aligned with your longer term goals. That is also going to be a good time to move some of those NAs to S/M.
 

mcogilvie

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There really is no nobility in having 10 lifetime's worth of list items, no matter how exquisitely they are organized. Like others said, it sounds like you need to lean on someday/maybe lists. If even the someday/maybe lists overwhelm your mellow, perhaps be a little ruthless in pruning them to fit. I have aspirational items that just won't fit into my life. For instance, i'd love to become proficient on the guitar, but being honest with myself I don't have 100's of free hours to gain that proficiency, nor to I have the attention span to be diligent about getting the work done. Thus there is never a "Learn Guitar" project in OmniFocus. It could happen, if I should be stranded in a place where all I have is guitar, and nothing to do, but i'm not gonna junk up my lists in what amounts to task hoarding.

I don’t know what “proficient” means to you, but most people can learn three major chords in a handful of hours over two weeks, enough to play many songs. Another two weeks for alternating bass fingerpicking, and you’re off to the races. If you love the music, it’s easy to find the time. If it’s “work” to you then maybe you’re right to not start it. I pick up one of my guitars and play a little bit a couple of times a day. I’ve been playing for decades, and still improving. I’m working on adding jazz voicings to some traditional tunes right now.
 

dtj

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I don’t know what “proficient” means to you, but most people can learn three major chords in a handful of hours over two weeks, enough to play many songs. Another two weeks for alternating bass fingerpicking, and you’re off to the races. If you love the music, it’s easy to find the time. If it’s “work” to you then maybe you’re right to not start it. I pick up one of my guitars and play a little bit a couple of times a day. I’ve been playing for decades, and still improving. I’m working on adding jazz voicings to some traditional tunes right now.
I wanna be able to create my own music and not just play along. I wanna be able to translate what I hear into something that I can do, without a great deal of work. I want to get to a point where stuff becomes intuitive, rather than just hard work. That's my definition of "proficient". It's not so much that it's "work", it's that it's time. I have many interests and activities that are as enjoyable and fulfilling as proficiency on the guitar might end up becoming. It's a calculation of what do I give up to fulfill this aspiration that is a bit of the "a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush". I wanna do it right, rather than half-a** it. Things I would have to give up, to fit the guitar in, are things that have significant impact on my physical health (play box lacrosse at a decent level, as a 57 yr old, and coaching lacrosse), or a serious impact on others lives (mentoring girls). I have other aspirations that are as open ended, but more scaleable to my available time and attention. So i'm being honest and recognize my limitations and schedule accordingly.
 

TesTeq

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I don’t know what “proficient” means to you, but most people can learn three major chords in a handful of hours over two weeks, enough to play many songs.
@mcogilvie Add one minor chord ;) and you can play many hits from 1960s. "Yesterday" by The Beatles requires a little more...
 

mcogilvie

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@mcogilvie Add one minor chord ;) and you can play many hits from 1960s. "Yesterday" by The Beatles requires a little more...
Not just the 60’s, but contemporary songs like Ed Sheeran’s Afterglow too. Yesterday is a great song, but it really benefits from “a little more” than just chords. I am glad I started to play, and continue to enjoy it years later.
 
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