Saturday, April 17, 2010

April - GTD and Toodledo #8: Culling Next Actions & Gray areas

I had a massive distraction to look at another organization tool.  I temptation to which I temporarily succumbed.  After a quick review, I found that the seductive surface simplicity was a promise of simplicity but that doesn't appear to fit my needs.  My to do's aren't so very simple to organize.

The real GTD with Toodledo work today was culling my next actions.

Even though there are many things that I can do, say for my client that sells vertical blinds (shout out), there is really only 1 of those that I'm going to actually do next.  Sounds simple, but as any online-tool-embracing-productivity-geek would tell you, it ain't simple.  "Next Action" sounds like a simple principle, but does it mean:

Something that I actually can do next if I choose to, i.e., there are no predecessors or other tasks that must be completed first, no barriers at all?  This is, to my understanding, the proper GTD definition.


Among say 5 pre-emininent projects for a client, and 10 more behind that, there is only ONE next action that I actually will do next.

The difference is the difference between a task I can do next and a task I will do next.  (Alternatively, it could be a task I should do next vs. will, but I'll ignore that complexity and assume I do what I should.)

The difference in play is that one list is much (much) bigger than the other.  The former list is indigestibly long, and the latter is very digestible.  Result?  Culling from the former to the latter produced a huge increase in the peace of mind associated with the classic GTD clean sweep.

New Problem:
So the obvious downside is that culling the Next Actions, identified by stars, effectively loses some of the intelligence associated with the tast data.  Now, when I finish a task for a client, I need to figure out another one.  This either prompts the need for another review or promotes working on the wrong thing somehow.  Like many things in GTD, despite the formulaic, process oriented approach, there are still many subjective gray shades to adapt to, and this is one that I'm now brought to.  So, I did two things:

- Leave a few starred actions, or at least break from the rule of one that I implied earlier
- In some cases I left a trigger in one task to another, like a soft-link successor.  In project management parlance, this is like establishing a finish to start relationship, but without a hard link of any kind.  We'll see how this goes.

GTD with Toodledo 30 day project

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