Question not only for Oogiem :)

Tom_Hagen

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This is my first post here - so hello for everyone. Also sorry in advanced for my english.

I am a bit confused by one subject. I mean dividing next action task. For some of you - as I've read forum - they are only bookmarks while for the others are chunks of something bigger.

Found somewhere advice like that:
"In your example: if you won't read the book in one sitting, and can meaningfully split it up into chunks, then doing so is probably a good idea.
Generally: It's more motivating to have something that you can start and know will be able to finish within a reasonable timeframe and then tick off your list than to have a task that comes back to the top of your stack again and again.
Also, with larger tasks, these are more likely to actually require at least slightly different individual actions, so that the splitting up means that you more clearly define what your next action should do next."

I like to read Oogiem posts - they can be very inspirative. But... in one place Ooogiem writes:

"One of my next actions that took years was weave Black Welsh cloak fabric. I spent 6 years from start to finish for that one action.[...]"

In other Oogiem gives some real samples:
"Inside by Myself
...
Spend 1 hour reading knitting design books re top down cardigan design
read chapter 5 of GTD for bookclub
Shred 2 inches of scanned files
..."
which means that something that could be one NA: Read GTD for Bookclub is divided into chunks.

So, what is your strategy and is there only one correct solution?

Regards,
Tom
 

Oogiem

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There is no one right way, do what works for you. My strategy varies project to project. Remember that I'm the outlier. I am the odd one with decades long projects and years long actions. That is abnormal for most folks who use GTD and is a function of my life as a farmer.
 

mcogilvie

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As usual, Oogie is spot-on. I have a few projects where I know the steps I will follow. If I am reviewing a book or a manuscript, I will browse, take notes, draft a report, revise, finalize and send. I could list all these steps out, but All I need is the current next action to know where I am. In other cases, I only know the next action, which may be research: R&D who makes the best kitchen appliances. (Answer: they all have rather high failure rates of 7-15%.) in a few cases, I will have a tentative sequence of steps in mind, but that's rare. If I am not doing something, it's quite possible I need to rethink or reword the action.
 

Cpu_Modern

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There is not one correct solution except: find the right strategy for you, that works for you in that particular type of work.

Usually that stems out of the work itself. If you never actually do it, you will never find out. You have to try out.

Is it better to set a specific amount of time for reading in the Next Action or not? Oogiem and I do answer that question differently, neither one is wrong.

You could specify the number of pages you want to read, maybe that works better for you. It really depends.
 

Gardener

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There is no one correct solution. I prefer to size my Next Actions so that they will be done within hours of starting that action. (Not within hours of making them the Next Action, but within hours of actually starting work.) I'm increasingly taking a Kanbanesque approach, of minimizing work in progress, minimizing multitasking, and minimizing the time from start to finish. But that's just my choice of philosophy.
 

Tom_Hagen

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Thank you for all replies. I know I'm not Oogiem (who I admire :) ). I've been practicing GTD for many years (and still do), the book know almost by heart. I've tried different strategies from minimum to maximum granulation. Every strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages. When the chunk is very small it's easier to defeat procrastination but you feel that "checked piece" means a little progress. And vice versa. After all this years I didn't decide what's the best. So I'm looking for some inspiration :)

PS. TesTeq - pozdrowienia z Polski (regards from Poland) :)
 
Hi @Tom_Hagen. @Oogiem has great advice, and, she's unique in her volume and approach to projects (she would agree with this I think). From a coach perspective, I would offer:
  • Projects are something you would complete within the next 12 months
  • If something will take longer than 12 months to complete, consider it's more like a goal or vision, and drill what can be completed in the next 12 months as the project outcome
  • Just because something takes more than one sitting still doesn't mean it's a project. For example, someone might have photos to go through that will take many hours. It could still be a single action and not a project.
  • Next Actions and the motivation to complete them are in the eye of the beholder--in other words, one person's large action could be another person's small. The key is to look at your actions with the lens of "Does this attract or repel me?" Often that has nothing to do with size, but having a clearly defined next actions where you know you'll experience a win/completion.
 

Tom_Hagen

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Hi Kelstarrising. Interesting point. IMHO unfortunatelly not so obvious. The project is everyting consisting of more than one logical (different) action. Assume i have to read some 800 pages book (not for pleasure, let's say manual). It would take 20 hours. This is logical one action - so not a project. But... We have 4-criterium model of making decision what to do. One of the criterium is time. If I divide this into chapters - every chapter means for me 30 minutes. The whole will be a project of 40 actions (of course only the first one is next action). When I have a free 30 minutes I can "use" it for reading one chapter. When I have one big action it can repel me and I never have such a "amount" of one-block time.
 

Gardener

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Hi Kelstarrising. Interesting point. IMHO unfortunatelly not so obvious. The project is everyting consisting of more than one logical (different) action. Assume i have to read some 800 pages book (not for pleasure, let's say manual). It would take 20 hours. This is logical one action - so not a project. But... We have 4-criterium model of making decision what to do. One of the criterium is time. If I divide this into chapters - every chapter means for me 30 minutes. The whole will be a project of 40 actions (of course only the first one is next action). When I have a free 30 minutes I can "use" it for reading one chapter. When I have one big action it can repel me and I never have such a "amount" of one-block time.
One possible way that I might do this could be a project of "Keep up with technical reading". (I don't do outcome-based project names. They just annoy me.)

It might have actions like:

Repeater, every two weeks: Update list of Technical Books To Read. (This task would involve floating the next couple of books that you want to read to the top.)
Daily repeater: Read current technical book for 30 minutes. (Since the Update task is complete, if you finish the current book, you can move to the already-chosen next one.)
 

mcogilvie

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Hi Kelstarrising. Interesting point. IMHO unfortunatelly not so obvious. The project is everyting consisting of more than one logical (different) action. Assume i have to read some 800 pages book (not for pleasure, let's say manual). It would take 20 hours. This is logical one action - so not a project. But... We have 4-criterium model of making decision what to do. One of the criterium is time. If I divide this into chapters - every chapter means for me 30 minutes. The whole will be a project of 40 actions (of course only the first one is next action).
Somewhere I remember David Allen giving his official blessing to entering simple linear projects like reading a book as one next action. I do this sometimes, for example as "Read Chapter 87 ! Read Boring Co manua." The chapter gets updated as I progress. I use the'!' symbol to separate action from project because it's easy to get to on all my keyboards.

Having said that, I couldn’t spend 20 hours reading a book under any circumstances- does anybody know where I can get the comic book version of War and Peace? (OK, I did take a semester-long course in Joyce's Ulysses in college, but it was so long ago we had to read it in Greek.)
 

TesTeq

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Hi Kelstarrising. Interesting point. IMHO unfortunatelly not so obvious. The project is everyting consisting of more than one logical (different) action. Assume i have to read some 800 pages book (not for pleasure, let's say manual). It would take 20 hours. This is logical one action - so not a project. But... We have 4-criterium model of making decision what to do. One of the criterium is time. If I divide this into chapters - every chapter means for me 30 minutes. The whole will be a project of 40 actions (of course only the first one is next action). When I have a free 30 minutes I can "use" it for reading one chapter. When I have one big action it can repel me and I never have such a "amount" of one-block time.
You've discovered a problem. Maybe it's a business opportunity? To create a software nagging the user to read the book or exercise and reporting his progress for motivation? Time-based progress or page-based progress for books...
 

2097

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Simple linear tasks are very generous because you can work 4 hours on them and you can work 3 minutes on them. Yes, longer chunks are good because we reduce task switching cost, but 3 minutes of reading is better than nothing. Bookmarks are a wonderful thing. ♥

I have a big pile of "books in progress" that I can pick up one that fits my current mood (scary? happy? sad? intellectually stimulating? challenging? easy and fun?) and read for a bit and I don't track those on the system. Their presence in the read pile is the tracking.

"Read boring manual" is to me kind of a contrived example since usually we turn to manuals to sort out specific information, not just to get from page 1 to page Ω and hope that whatever sticks in our minds is good enough. But I get that it's an analogy for any big simple linear task.

Let's say I have to distim all the doshes and that I have enough doshes that it'll take 40 or 50 hours to distim them all. But I have everything I need to distim some of the doshes as soon as I am in the correct context. In that case, my philosophy is to just put "distim the doshes" on that context list. And when I have time to distim some doshes, I distim some doshes. Hopefully for hours and hours, if possible, to cut down on task switching cost.

I don't use time window at all to determine what's a next action. Instead, I look at prerequisites. What is "in the way" of me doing this right now? Do I need to get new frobnicators in order to distim the doshes? Do I need to get reading glasses in order to read? Then those things are the next actions. "Get frobnicators @frobnicator_store". "Get reading glasses @glasses_store".

I don't want to fiddle with updating my GTD apps endlessly to keep track of chapters and pages. If I want to read, I read. If I don't want to read, I don't read.

GTD for me is to keep track of what needs to be kept track of, to "bookmark" things that need to be bookmarked, to keep things out of my mind and externalized. And a regular old bookmark (such as a post it note) does that job for books.

System overhead is my enemy! The "second brain" should support my work, not be my work. "Defining work" is important but it's possible to spend the "defining work" time more efficiently and directly, vs more fiddlingly and indirectly.
 

2097

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Context switching is in some sense what defines a specific action to me. If project X requires me to do work in the kitchen and do work in the garden, then the context switching is what makes me consider those two things as separate "actions".
 

Tom_Hagen

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Context switching is in some sense what defines a specific action to me. If project X requires me to do work in the kitchen and do work in the garden, then the context switching is what makes me consider those two things as separate "actions".
Thank you for all information. :)
 
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