Suggestions on Sorting Next Actions

Kevint2888

Registered
Yep. At least in the "geekier" circles, remember, GTD is older than the iPhone.

What helped me for a time was division by hardware.

So I had @keyboard, @mousing, @touchscreen. I also experimented with @offline for things that didn't need an internet connection and @mulitmedia-noise for things that I could do very well while listening to music, podcast or watching videos. And also @silence for things that I wanted to do in the silence of the morning (or late evening.)

Another thing that worked well for me was sorting by recency. So, every new NA would be added on top of the list, thus the first tasks tended to be from projects that were "hot", either brand new or I had worked on them recently.

The slower projects would wander to the bottom of the pile in a somewhat organic manner, to be picked up later at slower times.
Thanks for the tip!
 

talundbl

Registered
Thanks for the feedback. After reading this last week, actually followed your advice and think it makes more sense now. Question - do you refrain from even looking at those lists in which you know you won’t be able to do given context? For example if you are not near a computer but on your phone, would you simply ignore @computer until you can?
I should have a disclaimer that I'm no expert and I fall off the wagon often. But being digital can help with this because you can go to one list (i.e. errands, quick filing) when you want, or go to a broader exclusionary list (i..e @computer @office @anywhere) when you like. If you are on paper, then you would have to stack/exclude lists manually.

I would also say that although digital has many benefits, including those listed above, it is very easy to get caught up in playing and fiddling with the tool. I find I'm also less thoughtful and purposeful about writing down clear next actions when I can just speed dump into a digital tool.
 

TruthWK

Registered
Thanks for the feedback. Your note about over categorizing is definitely been a challenge as I’ve been implementing the concepts. The main call out with the context based lists is that most of my work is email based and does not often require additional programs. Which then leads to many tasks falling into @computer. The way I’ve tried to break that down is by time @half hour+ / @quick hits, but it’s imperfect. Any tips?
One thing I've found is that when most of your actions are in 1 context, the best thing is to prioritize at your weekly review and move some things to someday/maybe. If I'm mostly in a context where I get to choose between almost all my actions, then the real limiting factor becomes priority. In GTD, that isn't decided by A, B, C or something like that necessarily but rather by what you choose to put on your Projects and Next Actions lists vs. what you choose to have in Someday/Maybe. The other thing to consider is how likely priorities are to change. If once a week (or how ever often you do weekly reviews) is often enough to make decisions on what to move between active and someday/maybe then you can keep your lists shorter and avoid have so many tasks to choose from.
 

Kevint2888

Registered
One thing I've found is that when most of your actions are in 1 context, the best thing is to prioritize at your weekly review and move some things to someday/maybe. If I'm mostly in a context where I get to choose between almost all my actions, then the real limiting factor becomes priority. In GTD, that isn't decided by A, B, C or something like that necessarily but rather by what you choose to put on your Projects and Next Actions lists vs. what you choose to have in Someday/Maybe. The other thing to consider is how likely priorities are to change. If once a week (or how ever often you do weekly reviews) is often enough to make decisions on what to move between active and someday/maybe then you can keep your lists shorter and avoid have so many tasks to choose from.
Thanks for the note. That’s very helpful!
 

Kevint2888

Registered
I should have a disclaimer that I'm no expert and I fall off the wagon often. But being digital can help with this because you can go to one list (i.e. errands, quick filing) when you want, or go to a broader exclusionary list (i..e @computer @office @anywhere) when you like. If you are on paper, then you would have to stack/exclude lists manually.

I would also say that although digital has many benefits, including those listed above, it is very easy to get caught up in playing and fiddling with the tool. I find I'm also less thoughtful and purposeful about writing down clear next actions when I can just speed dump into a digital tool.
Can definitely say that the fiddling part is so true with digital. The need to set next actions on digital requires some discipline
 

Jared Caron

Nursing leader; GTD enthusiast
Thanks for the feedback and the example. Question - for the breakdown you’ve provided, how do differentiate between admin and computer? For archiving outlook folders, would that be done at the computer? Or is the idea simply to stay as consistent and maintain some level of flexibility. In other words it’s okay to have some computer items listed elsewhere than @computer?
Exactly.

I define admin stuff as maintenance/not project-related - stuff like filing, data entry, cleanup, etc. The things you have to do but no one is going to make you do. Most of it is "computer" work; so it is more of a "mental" context than a physical one.

Remember that you define your contexts. So if @computer is too vague, you can redefine it in whatever way you wish.

Another thing I've found obscures my context lists is the sub-optimal use of the 2-minute rule. I've found many things I used to "defer" onto my @computer or @admin lists (and whole lot of emails!) were actually 2-min actions that I needed to do as I processed them. I then found I was just avoiding a lot of that stuff. Getting more disciplined with the 2 min rule (aka - using a timer) was a game-changer.
 

Gardener

Registered
With computer access so ubiquitous, an @computer context starts to feel like, oh, an @Light context--I need light to do that task!

And if we were in an Elizabethan world, that context could totally make sense. Clear, bright, reliable light would be a thing only available in certain times and places, like the desk by the window in the daytime. Light would be the critical resource, in a sense sort of like "critical path"--it would be the resource most likely to be missing, and therefore the resource that should guide our choice to do those @Light tasks when we get the chance.

In 2001, when a Google tells me the first GTD edition came out, we didn't all have a computer in our pocket. I suspect that far fewer of us had a laptop that we could carry wherever we were in the house, and that far fewer households had a computing device for every person. So the opportunity to sit down at the household's desktop computer in the den probably was the critical resource for a lot of tasks.

At work, more of us probably had an always-there computer; and for those of us who spent most of our work day at our desks, the computer might have already been sliding out of "critical resource" territory.

So what are the OTHER critical resources that might make more sense?

Possibilities:

@gotaseat: For a few years, one of our important software applications was desperately short of licenses--you would repeatedly try to log in, and it would tell you that all of the "seats" were filled. So if you got a seat, it would make sense to hang on to it until you finished all of the tasks that required that software.

@keyboard: Simply because we have computing devices in so many times and places, it my be relevant to track tasks that require an actual sit-down keyboard--especially at home, especially if you don't have a desk.

@fullsizebrowser: Similar. Several times, I've had tasks that I tried to do on my phone, realized that the needed mobile site is a nightmare, and resolved to do it when I get home. And then I forget, two or three times.

@switchavoidance: There are all those studies that say that task switching consumes a ton of time in settling back into the task. For that reason, it may make sense to group lots of your little "Oh, I have to..." tasks under one context to get them done and out of your mind at once.

You realized at lunch that Jane is the ideal person to assign that particular task to, you remember while on the train that you were supposed to tell Josh that the fix is ready for him to test, you run into Fred at the coffee machine and promise him you'll forward that mail that came from Jennifer, and so on. You entered those in your phone. When you get to your desk, you knock all those off, and thus increase your odds of being able to focus when you set everything to Do Not Disturb and sit down to write or code for two hours.

@desk: If you have a task or mode of work that requires your work computer AND that notebook full of hand-written notes AND that prospectus that came in the mail AND fast network access, the context should be one that encompasses the combination of all those resources.
 

Kevint2888

Registered
Exactly.

I define admin stuff as maintenance/not project-related - stuff like filing, data entry, cleanup, etc. The things you have to do but no one is going to make you do. Most of it is "computer" work; so it is more of a "mental" context than a physical one.

Remember that you define your contexts. So if @computer is too vague, you can redefine it in whatever way you wish.

Another thing I've found obscures my context lists is the sub-optimal use of the 2-minute rule. I've found many things I used to "defer" onto my @computer or @admin lists (and whole lot of emails!) were actually 2-min actions that I needed to do as I processed them. I then found I was just avoiding a lot of that stuff. Getting more disciplined with the 2 min rule (aka - using a timer) was a game-changer.
Good call on the 2 minute rule. Definitely see that as something more to avoid than to whether it’s more than 2 minutes
 

Kevint2888

Registered
With computer access so ubiquitous, an @computer context starts to feel like, oh, an @Light context--I need light to do that task!

And if we were in an Elizabethan world, that context could totally make sense. Clear, bright, reliable light would be a thing only available in certain times and places, like the desk by the window in the daytime. Light would be the critical resource, in a sense sort of like "critical path"--it would be the resource most likely to be missing, and therefore the resource that should guide our choice to do those @Light tasks when we get the chance.

In 2001, when a Google tells me the first GTD edition came out, we didn't all have a computer in our pocket. I suspect that far fewer of us had a laptop that we could carry wherever we were in the house, and that far fewer households had a computing device for every person. So the opportunity to sit down at the household's desktop computer in the den probably was the critical resource for a lot of tasks.

At work, more of us probably had an always-there computer; and for those of us who spent most of our work day at our desks, the computer might have already been sliding out of "critical resource" territory.

So what are the OTHER critical resources that might make more sense?

Possibilities:

@gotaseat: For a few years, one of our important software applications was desperately short of licenses--you would repeatedly try to log in, and it would tell you that all of the "seats" were filled. So if you got a seat, it would make sense to hang on to it until you finished all of the tasks that required that software.

@keyboard: Simply because we have computing devices in so many times and places, it my be relevant to track tasks that require an actual sit-down keyboard--especially at home, especially if you don't have a desk.

@fullsizebrowser: Similar. Several times, I've had tasks that I tried to do on my phone, realized that the needed mobile site is a nightmare, and resolved to do it when I get home. And then I forget, two or three times.

@switchavoidance: There are all those studies that say that task switching consumes a ton of time in settling back into the task. For that reason, it may make sense to group lots of your little "Oh, I have to..." tasks under one context to get them done and out of your mind at once.

You realized at lunch that Jane is the ideal person to assign that particular task to, you remember while on the train that you were supposed to tell Josh that the fix is ready for him to test, you run into Fred at the coffee machine and promise him you'll forward that mail that came from Jennifer, and so on. You entered those in your phone. When you get to your desk, you knock all those off, and thus increase your odds of being able to focus when you set everything to Do Not Disturb and sit down to write or code for two hours.

@desk: If you have a task or mode of work that requires your work computer AND that notebook full of hand-written notes AND that prospectus that came in the mail AND fast network access, the context should be one that encompasses the combination of all those resources.
Thanks for the feedback!
 

fwade

Registered
To make it more user friendly, I then decided to sort through by time and energy, such as @half hour projects or more, @higher focus projects, etc.

The issues there is that I’m still going through each list daily to figure out what is most important and not sure if that’s the right way to do this?

Also read some folks mentioning time blocks? Would that be best?
From my research I have developed a theory: the best way to tag your tasks is with the scarcest resource identified....the one that acts as your bottleneck. The tricky part is that this is not the same for each person. And, for any given individual it varies with task volume.

For example, everyone starts with mental tags kept in their memory and all of us run into problems when the number of tasks we must imagine increases. This approach no longer works and we must seek alternatives if we hope to remain effective.

In your case, you chose both time and energy - I would identify which attribute is most scarce and focus on tagging with that one.
 

John Ismyname

Registered
As the years pass, I find more and more of what I do is in the location of my @ home office and done on my @ laptop. My default sort is the longest time duration to the shortest. This is based on Stephen Covey's "big rocks" concept - you have to make room on your schedule to do things that have a longer duration. Shorter duration tasks are easier to "fit in" as your day progresses.
 

ggray50

Registered
I only use contexts for home, work, agenda, waiting for. Dont see the value in splitting any further- just means more lists to keep track of and extra friction. I prefer to work, where possible in the context of projects. Hopping from project to project to crank through a list of calls or emails means constantly adjusting your mental context, which takes more effort and is more time consuming. So having separate lists for emails, calls etc is counterproductive for me, especially since I have unrestricted access to computer and phone whilst at work. Horses for courses though; it's about making the system work for you.
 

ggray50

Registered
Forgot that I also have future projects (someday/maybe). Not got an errands list, no. Would just add that to my home list.
 

Oogiem

Registered
Hopping from project to project to crank through a list of calls or emails means constantly adjusting your mental context, which takes more effort and is more time consuming.
For some people that is true. Not for me. I can easily switch projects but it's very hard to switch from email to phone calls or from Libre Office to LambTracker. If I try to stay in a project I get scattered and things do not move forward at all well.
 

ggray50

Registered
For some people that is true. Not for me. I can easily switch projects but it's very hard to switch from email to phone calls or from Libre Office to LambTracker. If I try to stay in a project I get scattered and things do not move forward at all well.
Horses for courses. You have to do what works for you. As a 'knowledge worker', I do occasionally work out of my inbox but to move my work projects forward, I need to immerse myself in the subject and carry out multiple related actions. Deep work, as some call it. There is no way I could hop from one project to another just to group a few successive phone calls or emails together.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Horses for courses. You have to do what works for you. As a 'knowledge worker', I do occasionally work out of my inbox but to move my work projects forward, I need to immerse myself in the subject and carry out multiple related actions. Deep work, as some call it. There is no way I could hop from one project to another just to group a few successive phone calls or emails together.
I agree completely. Switching between major projects causes significant attention residue. My best, most impactful work comes from deep focus on projects.
 

Jared Caron

Nursing leader; GTD enthusiast
I agree completely. Switching between major projects causes significant attention residue. My best, most impactful work comes from deep focus on projects.
Horses for courses. You have to do what works for you. As a 'knowledge worker', I do occasionally work out of my inbox but to move my work projects forward, I need to immerse myself in the subject and carry out multiple related actions. Deep work, as some call it. There is no way I could hop from one project to another just to group a few successive phone calls or emails together.
For some people that is true. Not for me. I can easily switch projects but it's very hard to switch from email to phone calls or from Libre Office to LambTracker. If I try to stay in a project I get scattered and things do not move forward at all well.

Interesting discussion.

Seems to me to be situational. I think a big value play in GTD is that it gives you the flexibility to bounce from project to project if you're in that mental mode, but also the tools to clear the decks, block your calendar, and get focused for deep work when you need to.

Most people probably need both approaches to some extent, but they will serve different purposes.
 

Suelin23

Registered
Hi GTD Community,

I’m new to the GTD approach and trying to figure out how best to sort through the next actions by context, time or priority.

Given that the majority of my work takes place on my computer, in my office and at home, most of the next actions get stuck on one @computer list, which is almost like a big next actions list.

To make it more user friendly, I then decided to sort through by time and energy, such as @half hour projects or more, @higher focus projects, etc.

The issues there is that I’m still going through each list daily to figure out what is most important and not sure if that’s the right way to do this?

Also read some folks mentioning time blocks? Would that be best?

If anyone has any suggestions, that would be great!
I use a OneNote based system, and tag all of my computer based NAs. Given I have a project list of 75 projects, the computer list needs a bit of refinement. I use ON to do tags with a number 1, 2 and 3. To do 1 is for high mental energy, To Do 2 is for medium mental energy, To Do 3 is for low mental energy.
I block time in my calendar for big tasks 1hr+.
It’s working well so far. After completing a To Do 1 I will swap to a 3 for a bit of a break, and then I might do another 1 or a 2. To do 3 is usually for a break or at the end of the day when I’m more tired.
 

feedtaleone

Registered
I have a general @computer list, and another for anything in our electronic medical record. Those two categories plus the Admin list keep my computer work pretty well organized without over-categorizing. vidmate download instasave
 
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