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what’s the ‘next action’? April 19, 2006

Posted by Timothy Li in GTD, management, Personal MBA, wind.

starting a business is not easy task, but at the same time it doesn't have to be stressful one. The 'next action' method is pulling me out of stress.

Before I studied the book 'Getting Things Done' (GTD from now) by David Allen, I have gone to bed many nights with chaos in my mind, not knowing what to do with the overwhelming number of tasks at hand such as –
build the product, service customer requests, review business plan, prepare for adviser meetings, practice pitches…

All of these tasks have high priority, and when they start to fight each other in your head for attention, working on them sudden becomes stressful. Don't you just hate that?

GTD introduces a 'next action' method of managing tasks. In short, it's a process to convert a none-functional todo list to actual actionable items.

Here is what I adopted to right away:

first you throw everything on your mind into a In-Basket like this one to the right, the in-basket could be implemented with a PDA or just a paper tray to hold your written notes.

The whole point of collecting such a miscellaneous collection of random thoughts is exact that – now you know they are properly collected and you can stop worrying about them all at once.

When a small window of time opens up during the day, I process the In-basket and determine the next actions for each.
1. when the action is short and if time permits, for example "call Tom for lunch meeting" when I have a phone at hand, I complete the task right away.

2. when the action requires more than 2 minutes to do, the action (not the task) is recorded in a

The ASAP list contains immediately actionable items such as 'find school adviser's name and phone number', as opposed to task descriptions such as 'add a new course for next term'.

3. When I have an exact deadline for the task, it gets marked on my calendar. I adopted David's method of treating the calendar as a 'scared place' where only items with definite schedule make it there, otherwise it goes to the ASAP list.
How do you determine the next actionable item? answer my own questions work for me –

I ask: So you want to add a new course for next term? – Yes
How do you add new courses? – through a school adviser
Who is the school adviser? – I don't know
so what's the next action is – find out who the adviser is

Thank you to Josh Kaufman from the PMBA program for introducing me to this book.



1. Brent Ashley - April 19, 2006

Hi Timothy;

Nathan Bowers has built a self-contained wiki based on GTD that you might find useful:


2. Timothy Li - April 19, 2006

cool, thanks for the link Brent.
I will try it on the iPAQ.

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