What is your next action?

by oneafrikan on May 6, 2009

I’ve been working a lot lately on trying to streamline and rationalise everything in my head, for various reasons, and have found that the difference between projects and actions can be blurry when thinking of things broadly. The killer has been going through each of my projects, and ruthlessly thinking about what the “next action” is.

I can’t do everything at once, so having a smaller list of next actions is the best way for me to think about what I need to do across my 50 odd active (current, not someday / maybe) projects. When an action is done for the project, I then assign a next action.

When I started going into each project, it’s pretty clear that some stuff is only ever going to have one action (get car cleaned) -> so it’s not a project. When I found many “actions” within a project (they’re aligned for the same purpose or goal), then the next action becomes most important as it defines the starting point for the project, as well as the mental block you have to overcome to create progress and momentum.

So, my learning is this:
Next actions are essential for rationalising priority and allocation of time.
Projects should have more than one action (ala David Allen), focus should be on the very next action.
Ruthless pruning of projects, actions and mental RAM is essential for sanity ;-)

What are your thoughts / experiences?


“Ruthless pruning of projects, actions and mental RAM is essential for sanity” is definitely key.

It only takes a moment to think of something that needs doing, but much longer to actually do it. Since I’ve had my iPhone and Omnifocus, I’ve been able to note down thoughts and todos whenever they occur (middle of the night?) which is great for not forgetting things, but it can result in having many items than I’ll ever be able to deal with.

Sometimes I find it emotionally hard to delete an action which seems like a smart/clever/interesting thing to do but takes time. I usually file these in my Someday/Maybe list where they usually go to die. If I’ve not thought about that particular action at least half a dozen more times, I probably don’t deem it that important and it won’t be promoted back out of that list. I’ll then delete it when I next periodically prune the list.

by Ian on May 13, 2009 at 4:59 am. Reply #

@Ian – Think it’s essential to be comfortable with not getting to everything, ‘cos you just won’t be able to.

The way you prune your someday / maybe list is awesome. I find that I battle with the idea of deleting items, so have just got happy they’ll stay there for a long time!!

by Gareth Knight on May 21, 2009 at 5:14 pm. Reply #

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