What Are Your Next Actions?AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don't quit." ~ Conrad Hilton
Those of us who use GTD as a personal organization system start by capturing or collecting in a trusted place everything we think we need to do something about. A trusted place is one that allows us to consult or retrieve that information at any time; it can be a notebook, a smartphone, a web application, etc.
Later on, sometime over the day, we decide what we are going to do (or not do) with everything we’ve gathered, that is, we clarify or process it. At this stage we realize that some of these things are not actionable; either we throw them away because they are unimportant, or we save them for the future on a Someday/Maybe list because now is not the right time, or we store them as Reference Material if they are interesting information. In any case, we don’t need to think about them anymore, so we forget.
Sometimes we realize that there are other things that require a small action taking a few minutes—making a call, sending an email, reading some information—. Great, we do them right away and also forget about them.
What do we have left after this selection? We are left with the important things: the actions to be carried out. The things which we must focus our attention on now or in the near future. According to the nature of these actions, we divide them into 3 lists that’ll allow us to focus every day on what’s important:
- The Calendar contains the actions that we have to do necessarily on a specific date. We understand this list as something sacred. It’s not a simple calendar full of things we would like to do in each time period, that simply doesn’t work. If we don’t need to do an action on a certain date/time, we don’t put it in here.
- The Next Actions list contains the rest of the actions that we have committed to do. These are actions that we should do as soon as possible, but without a specific date. How do we prioritize? Which one should we choose to do at each time? Well, the most appropriate according to the context in which we find ourselves, the time available to us, our energy and mood at that moment, and the relative priority of each task with respect to the others. All things being equal, we will choose the one that seems most important to us.
- The Waiting For list contains the tasks that other people have to do. We have delegated them, because we’re not the right person, or simply, they’re actions that are carried out by other entities or organizations. However, they’re still within our responsibility, and we must review this list regularly to ensure that everything is progressing properly.
And you, do you use some method to find your next actions among the infinity of inputs you receive every day, or do you keep using a to-do list?