Next Actions that extend over multiple days

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Brian Renaud, Oct 12, 2019.

  1. Brian Renaud

    Brian Renaud Registered

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    I am struggling to understand the concept of next action as it relates to a task within a project that cannot be completed in one day. My confusion is over if next actions need to be completed within a single day or if they can extend over a couple of days...weeks. For example, I am drafting a procedural handbook for my team that is very detailed and requires a lot of thought. Should I be re-tooling my next actions to focus on each section (chapter) of the handbook or should my next action be, "write first draft of handbook"? With my other work responsibilities, I cannot work on these tasks or the project each time.

    I have been trying to use GTD methodology in my tasks, but I keep falling off the wagon and relying on my brain to remember everything.

    Thanks for any suggestions or recommendations that could help my organize these actions.
     
  2. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    For me, that would be a project with many next actions. I also tend to create 'spend x hours' tasks; I know that some folks don't like those. Examples might be:

    - Spend two hours outlining procedure handbook.(This might be repeated several times until I'm happy with the outline.)
    - Spend two hours drafting Chapter 1 of procedure handbook. (Again, might repeat.)
    - Ask Joe to review Chapter 1.
    - Follow up with Joe.
    - Spend one hour acting on Joe's comments.
    - Spend two hours researching best practices for Blah. (This might be something that you know you need to do before you can even draft Chapter 2.)
    - Spend two hours drafting Chapter 2...

    And so on and so on.
     
  3. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    ”Write first draft of handbook” is either a project or a major component of a project. “Draft section 4.2 on reimbursements” might be a next action, as might be “resume drafting of section 4.3.” It may be helpful to think of next actions as bookmarks, telling you where to restart work. We want low barriers to starting work. If you finish 4.4 and you have no more time to work not the handbook, you write a next action “Draft 4.5.”
     
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  4. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    What will help you remember where you are and what the next step is and encourage you to continue? Write it that way.

    Personally I've had single next actions that stayed on my list for years. Example: I was making my cloak fabric. The project was huge, starting with learning to spin, spinning the wool, learning to eave etc. For years the next action on that project was weave the Black Welsh cloak fabric. I would work on it whenever I had some hobby time. Didn't bother me, I could see it in my "Inside by Myself Hobbies" list as an action and if I felt I could do it I'd go to the loom and start weaving. Or wind some bobbins if I didn't have any already done. I needed over 10 yards of fabric for the cloak and that takes a long time to hand weave if you can only work on it for a few minutes each session and can't do a session every day or even every week or even every month. (During lambing, I never wove at all.)
     
  5. Gardener

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    I've been thinking about why this doesn't work for me. Assorted thoughts:

    - Actions that sit still in my lists for too long become invisible to me. With electronic reminders, I tend to put in a repeated reminder and make it disappear for some interval after it's checked off, so that when it reappears I "see" it. On my current paper system, I'll check the thing off and then re-write it at the end of the list.

    - I get some sort of psychic reward from checking things off.

    - Similar but not quite identical, if I never check a thing off, I don't perceive progress on it. Now, that's if the thing is in my lists--if it's not in my lists at all (for example, the novel really isn't there) I can feel pleasure in progress. But if it's there, it's like my brain assigns the measure of progress to the lists, and so if I don't check it off, it feels stalled and sad and bland and dusty.
     
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  6. Brian Renaud

    Brian Renaud Registered

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    Appreciate the comments, however, how do you track how much time you spend on a given action? Do these time periods get adjusted each day or after your weekly review?
     
  7. Gardener

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    When I say one hour, two hours, etc., I'm referring to a single one-hour or two-hour block. If I sit down for the one-hour block and either get interrupted after 45 minutes, or finish the work in in half an hour, I'll check the action off anyway. If I didn't finish, I'll re-enter another repetition of the action--or if I were using OmniFocus or Reminders, it would have been created to automatically repeat in the first place.
     
  8. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    For me, if that happens then I realize that the issue is probably that it's really a someday/maybe project not an active one. But I also don't have a problem with projects that are only active during certain times each year.

    I sure do this too. So much so that I'll spend a portion of my weekly review making sure I enter in and then immediately check off the things I did that weren't on my lists. But for some reason I don't mind an action that sits there as long as when I read it I realize that it is actually moving in the manner I feel comfortable with. OTOH if I find myself glossing over it I do what you do, I'll change the action to "Work X minutes" or "Finish 2 pages" or some other segmented measurement for a while. I find that the longer I practice GTD the less often that happens so I rarely use that technique now.

    Interesting. I don't really have much of ANYTHING that is not on my lists. Even during lambing, which is work as it appears, I end up documenting it on my list of lambs born that day, and on my calendar and notes about any I had to assist etc. put into Lambtracker. I may not be in control of when I deal with lambs but I still am in control of how I document how I handled them. It's part of my documenting stuff after the fact so something may not have started on my lists but it will get there eventually even just so I can check it off as done.
     
  9. Oogiem

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    I keep a daily log in my calendar of how I spent my time that day. Now I only track by 15 minute increments. When I was working full time as a consultant we tracked time on 6 minute increments. I can go back and see exactly what I worked on each day back to 1989.
     
  10. Gardener

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    Yes, definitely, if it sits still and I haven't worked on it that's what it means. My concern is with actions that sit still because I've started but not finished them--what I might call "work in progress" actions. Those are the ones I get blind to. My brain seems to have trouble with the spectrum between, "Oh, I need to do that," and "Oh, that's done." "Oh, I need to resume that" just doesn't work for my brain.

    Yeah--logically, the novel SHOULD be on my lists. But there's something magic about the fact that I continue to make good forward progress on it, after years of getting no significant writing done, so I hesitate to mess with it. :)
     
  11. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Don't mess with what's working.
     

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