What is the Next Action?AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“You don't actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it 'done'.” ~ David Allen
Most of the time you will not be able to achieve your purpose all at once. A great deal of the results you want or need to achieve will require more than one action. The larger the project, the more difficult it will be to foresee how many and which actions will be necessary.
Setting up a new business or writing a book, for example, can be huge projects, fraught with complications and uncertainty. How can you tackle any project of this nature? Quite simple: focus only on the next action you need to take to move toward the end result.
“The Next Action is the next physical, visible activity you need to and can carry out right now to move a situation towards completion.”
A logical and effective way to act when you find that you have to do something that will require several actions usually consists of these steps:
- You describe in a single sentence the project or situation you have in mind, the result you want to achieve. What needs to happen to bring this project to completion?
- You describe the next action needed to move the project forward.
- You write or enter these answers into a trusted system.
When you describe the project, it should be very clear when the project will be “completed”. As long as the conditions that determine that the project has been completed are not met, the project is “in progress” or in process. And as long as the project is in progress, there should always be a defined next action to move it forward in a timely manner.
The Next Action should always be something “physical and visible”, so that anyone can determine that the action has actually been performed. You should avoid the ambiguity introduced by certain verbs, such as “think”. If an action generates uncertainty, your brain will avoid it and it will be postponed indefinitely. The description of the action, like that of the project, should clearly indicate what needs to be done and when it is done.
As long as your projects are properly aligned with your life goals, finishing them will only be a matter of time.
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, included this simple process within the GTD methodology, specifically in the Clarify stage. When you follow this procedure, you are clarifying the scope of something new that has entered your world and, at the same time, you are organizing it in a safe place, where you will be able to retrieve it at the right time.
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