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How Do You Name Your Actions? (For Best Results & Motivation) Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
David Allen mentions that when you're writing out a project and specifically typing away your Next Actions, you need to add an action verb to kinda get you started.

Instead of writing: Buy new wardrobe

You'd break it up into smaller steps such as:

1. Google clothes stores in the area
2. Visit store and purchase no more than $50 worth of clothes
3. Save receipt just in case
4. etc.

But even then you can specify it a bit more, for example step #3 could involve more, such as: 3. Place receipt in Clothing Purchasing Receipt folder.

Well, I've included a photo to show the norm as to how it looks like when I write stuff out. Personally, I don't like it. Its kinda a mess; for 2 reasons really.

The first is where normally just a few words would go explaining the next action, I practically write a full sentence or two.

Take a look at: Do laundry: put in washer, and dryer and seperate clothes according to color. (Sort out by colors and remove stains in white shirts)

I feel it should really be titled something like, "Wash Clothes." And under the notes section have the info such as, grab detergent from under the sink, put in washer for 30 min, dryer for 40 min.

Secondly is the wording of the next actions. Action words would seem most appropiate so when I look at that next action, two or three words succinctly tell me what I need to do next (i.e. Call AppleCare). As you can see from the included photos I don't really name them that easily, but rather write a sentence along the lines of, "I need to call AppleCare to fix the DVD slot problem."

The interesting thing with this thread is that i'll hopefully gain some insight as to how others write out their tasks, next actions. I'm completely guessing here and have no idea how others write out their action steps and projects, whether you guys use notes and in what terms and purpose.

Obviously the entire purpose of this is to begin a better routine, implementing the best method when writing out projects and next actions....simply because I feel that what i'm currently doing is making me take one look at my available actions and immediately looking away and surfing the web slacking off.

P.S. Obviously this doesn't just apply to naming action steps and notes, but also delves into how you may go about naming projects themselves and even how you go about naming context location and how many you have..

..but I think taking a look at the photos i've included and what i've asked will show kinda what i'm focusing on in this post.
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I always start actions with a verb (Order new shoes). I name projects using verbs in the past tense (Replaced Crawl Space Insulation).

Be careful not to over plan, it's a procrastination technique and can be as bad for productivity as not identifying the next action (he says with the voice of experience). GTD is about "just enough" planning, not about specifying every step in excruciating detail.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
I always start actions with a verb (Order new shoes). I name projects using verbs in the past tense (Replaced Crawl Space Insulation).

Be careful not to over plan, it's a procrastination technique and can be as bad for productivity as not identifying the next action (he says with the voice of experience). GTD is about "just enough" planning, not about specifying every step in excruciating detail.
That's great advice; you've definitely hit a major tone in my lack of currently getting things done.

I guess as a side question, and this question is directed back at you Curt, is how do you about actually getting things done without an iPhone/iPod Touch? I'm not sure if you own an iPhone/iTouch with the OF native app but i've felt that I can't get much done having my entire list of projects with OF only on my Mac.

I've tried printing out numerous pages of my projects, my available actions, etc on an every other day basis, though things don't stay current for long and I just don't get as much done.

The main and really only perspective I use is context view but feel I'm not getting as much as I would like done. By the end of the day I definately realize I could've spent my day tackling a few more easy action items than being distracted at random points. Perhaps trying out things in projects view. I feel for the past few months i've only looked at things and tackled them based on context and never just the project. I kinda get the feeling i'm trying to move along all of my projects bit by bit rather than finishing on project after another.
 
Focusing
I only keep a limited number of projects (say 20-30) active. The rest are on hold or have future start dates. I flag a half dozen or so projects each month that are in line with my monthly goals. I start the day working from an Urgent perspective (context mode, grouped and sorted by due date) to make sure I finish the tasks due today. Then I switch to an Important perspective (context mode, grouped by context, sorted by due date, only flagged actions). I'll use the Important perspective to choose what to work on next, but often I'll double click the handle of that item to bring up its project, then crank through several actions in that project.

Keeping Lists Nearby
I'm an academic computer scientist, so most of my work is either with a computer in front of me (office or meetings) or in the classroom. I don't have an iPhone of iPod Touch yet, though I'll probably make the leap this summer so I can have my Errands and Phone Calls actions with me easily. Currently I print my Errands and Phone Calls list a couple of times a week and keep it handy. I'll also occasionally print my Chores context so I can crank through a bunch of miscellaneous tasks while I'm working in the yard.

Appropriate Level of Detail
If you aren't shy about sharing them, you might consider posting some of your actual projects and actions so you could get some coaching from the community. I assumed your laundry example was fictitious. Do you really need that level of detail to do the laundry? If so, because of attention issues or whatever, then that's fine. However, if you can do the laundry by just having a reminder to Do Laundry, then you're wasting time writing down detailed instructions. (I suppose its also possible that you just haven't washed clothes often enough to remember all the steps. In that case, consider printing out the steps and taping them to the outside of your laundry basket.)

Procrastination
GTD is a collection of habits: Collecting, Processing, Organizing, Reviewing, and Doing. It seems like you're concerned with the Doing habit and have decided that the problem is with your Organizing. That may be the case (and Allen offers some very specific advice on how to apply the Natural Planning Model when you get stuck in the Doing phase). On the other hand, many of us who are drawn to GTD seem to have problems with procrastination. In found Neil Fiore's The Now Habit invaluable in addressing my procrastination tendencies.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Focusing
I only keep a limited number of projects (say 20-30) active. The rest are on hold or have future start dates. I flag a half dozen or so projects each month that are in line with my monthly goals. I start the day working from an Urgent perspective (context mode, grouped and sorted by due date) to make sure I finish the tasks due today. Then I switch to an Important perspective (context mode, grouped by context, sorted by due date, only flagged actions). I'll use the Important perspective to choose what to work on next, but often I'll double click the handle of that item to bring up its project, then crank through several actions in that project.
What you stated was interesting. Only recently have I started putting projects on hold, only with projects that can either wait, aren't urgent or help to not have to worry about while other more important things need to get done. For example, I've been wanting to get Invisalign but have put that whole project on hold and probably will for another month or two.

With future start dates as you mentioned I have a few actions under miscellaneous that have future start dates so they don't appear under my available perspective til' I'm ready for them. Such things include, "Go surfing in July" (Warmer weather).

You mention you flag projects that correspond with your monthly goals. Therefore am I right to guess that you only flag projects and not individual actions coming up? See, i've created a perspective called, "Today!" that includes only my available flagged items. Every morning i'll go to OF, look @ my available perspective and flag actions I figure I can do today. Then i'll only work out of my Today! perspective. Some days i've gotten everything under that perspective done (and more), while other days i'll be easily distracted by the internet or my girlfriend and hardly touch one or two actions.

The Urgent and Important perspectives are sorted by due dates; so do all your projects or next actions have due dates? If anything, i'll mostly using starting dates so things will begin to appear in my available perspective the beginning I can get something done. I have one called, "Trim Finger Nails" as I recently only stopped biting my nails. I used to do it all the time, now hardly at all. Instead of trimming them at random, i've set an action to show up as available after 5 days since the last time I completed the same action. Personally this has worked for me, as when before if I didn't trim them after 5 days i'd revert to my old habits and bite my nails on the 6th day (subconsciously ready for trimming with my teeth)

So that's what I wanted to ask in terms of your due dates, everything has due dates? Most things? Projects or just actions? What's the benefit for you? I'm not suggesting it won't work me, in fact i'm open minded to try new things out, which is why I love the flexibility of OF; i'm all ears.

For you whats the difference between Urgent and Important perspectives? Do you primarily focus on Urgent, then if you have time Important? Kinda befuddled there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Appropriate Level of Detail
If you aren't shy about sharing them, you might consider posting some of your actual projects and actions so you could get some coaching from the community. I assumed your laundry example was fictitious. Do you really need that level of detail to do the laundry? If so, because of attention issues or whatever, then that's fine. However, if you can do the laundry by just having a reminder to Do Laundry, then you're wasting time writing down detailed instructions. (I suppose its also possible that you just haven't washed clothes often enough to remember all the steps. In that case, consider printing out the steps and taping them to the outside of your laundry basket.)
Oh, those laundry examples were real. But then again, that's how I originally
wrote it out when I first got OF. I'm not too shy about posting my other projects and actions; i'll include some photos here.

Regarding the laundry stuff and bedroom, bathroom stuff; i've done it rountinely now for months that I can pretty much get away with it just saying, "Clean bedroom."

Yesterday for about 20 minutes I retitled some of my action steps. I'll include a photo of this and also a photo of how I originally named my actions a sentence long explaining what to do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Procrastination
GTD is a collection of habits: Collecting, Processing, Organizing, Reviewing, and Doing. It seems like you're concerned with the Doing habit and have decided that the problem is with your Organizing. That may be the case (and Allen offers some very specific advice on how to apply the Natural Planning Model when you get stuck in the Doing phase). On the other hand, many of us who are drawn to GTD seem to have problems with procrastination. In found Neil Fiore's The Now Habit invaluable in addressing my procrastination tendencies.
I'm glad you touched base on this cause, well 1st of all, I just picked up the audiobook of The Now Habit which I thought was weird/interesting you ended up mentioning it here. Awesome.

You can say that my problem lies in organizing, but I won't lie to you or myself and say that it also lies in motivation. I'll wake up in the morning, lie in bed, know that i'll go to my Mac and look at all my available actions and flag them so I can view them in my "Today!" perspective so I have a list to crank out for the day. But when I go to OF in the morning even if I choose the easiest of tasks, I just won't get around to doing them.

Say I gotta just "Print out Math Study Guide." Upon looking at that in OF i'll subconsciously look in disgust and find myself on Google News telling myself i'll print it out after reading a few news stories. Obviously time will fly by, nighttime comes for me to psych myself into thinking i'll do it tomorrow. This is perhaps why I started this thread on how you name your actions; this thought with me was that the sentence long action made me want to not view OF since I haven't really clarified what I gotta get done. Rather than, "Gather up all newly purchased pants/jeans also brown button-up paleontology summer shirt to get that tailored too" I perhaps should've been writing, "Drive to Dry Cleaners with Clothes to get Tailored" or something more succinct. I won't lie that even inquiring about all this makes me think i'm procrastinating a bit further and should really be getting all my stuff done; but at the same time have realized that the way I started writing things I'm OF weren't the best method and figured there are people in the OF forums that have ways of using OF that do work, and work well.

Also, i've included photos of almost all the stuff I have in OF. Photos of all my perspectives expect "Today!" since nothing was flagged, but Available and Completed too. Along with my Projects and my Contexts.
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2 More pics.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyDude View Post
You mention you flag projects that correspond with your monthly goals. Therefore am I right to guess that you only flag projects and not individual actions coming up?
Mostly right. I flag projects, or sometimes action groups within projects, that I want to focus on this month.

Quote:
See, i've created a perspective called, "Today!" that includes only my available flagged items. Every morning i'll go to OF, look @ my available perspective and flag actions I figure I can do today.
That's great if it works for you. For me, the liberating thing about GTD was not doing this daily planning that always created guilt about not accomplishing all the things on my list. Now I just work from my action lists, accomplishing urgent items first then working on whatever is left. If it isn't important, it isn't on my list, so doing anything on my list is a productive use of time.

Quote:
The Urgent and Important perspectives are sorted by due dates; so do all your projects or next actions have due dates?
Definitely not! For me, due dates only go on things that have firm deadlines. Note that my perspectives use grouping. Grouping has more effect than sorting (items are only sorted within their groups). My Urgent perspective is grouped by due date, so the firm deadlines are at the top. My Important perspective is grouped by context, so the sorting by due date has very little effect.

Quote:
For you whats the difference between Urgent and Important perspectives?
As I said, I work in the Urgent perspective at the start of the day, to make sure I finish the stuff with firm deadlines for today. After that I work in the Important perspective. (I actually have three versions of each of these perspectives, e.g., Urgent, Urgent-Home, and Urgent-Work. The latter two are focused on the subset of my contexts available in each location.)

Some mornings I don't have the energy or concentration to do anything in my Important perspective. On those days I'll switch to a general Actions by Context perspective and do some easy tasks to establish some momentum.

Quote:
i'll include some photos here.
Your contexts seem reasonable. The other pictures were shrunk by the forum software and are too small to read. If you want some coaching, I'd suggest picking a particular project that you're struggling with, select the items in it, and copy and paste them into a forum post. (It's probably best to create a new thread for that, since we've diverged from the original topic here.)

Good luck with The Now Habit. It was a big help to me, and I hope it will be for you too. Don't beat yourself up. Just do your best and keep at it.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
HappyDude, could you make the pictures a bit bigger? Some of these are so small I can't make out what I'm supposed to be looking at.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolajl View Post
HappyDude, could you make the pictures a bit bigger? Some of these are so small I can't make out what I'm supposed to be looking at.
The trick to doing that is to use an external image hosting service and just insert the link to the picture. I use http://imageshack.us though there are many other offerings out there. With imageshack, after you upload an image the resulting page will show some "hotlinks for forums" in the lower part of the page. The first one seems to work well here -- just click once in the link, cmd-C to copy it, then paste it in your message. It's unfortunate that the attachment support in the forum software makes the screen captures mostly unreadable! I wonder if there are any settings that Omni could twiddle for their site to improve this situation, although the external hosting approach does allow one to place the images amid the text, which is nice.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
I wonder if there are any settings that Omni could twiddle for their site to improve this situation,
I've updated our forum settings to allow larger image attachments. (And also to turn on thumbnail previews.)

Last edited by Ken Case; 2009-06-29 at 10:42 AM..
 
 


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