GTD® Step 3: Organizing – Next Actions

We are continuing our series on The Concepts of GTD®, using our one page graphic which can be found here.

As a quick refresher, GTD® is a five step system for processing, organizing, reviewing and doing your tasks and projects. The five steps are: Collection, Processing, Organizing, Doing and Reviewing.

In our last installment, we discussed the second step of GTD®, Processing. In the Processing step, we got all of our stuff out of our inbox and into one of the 7 lists/files of the GTD® system. The 7 lists/files are the foundation of the GTD® system and it is imperative to organize them in a way that best promotes productivity.

As we move to the third step of GTD®, Organizing, we will discuss how we should best organize our lists and folders to promote efficient workflow. We will start by discussing how to organize our Next Actions list.


Organizing Next Actions
Remember that the Next Action list is reserved for single action item to be done as soon as possible. A critical step in organizing Next Actions is understanding and respecting the difference between things that must be done on a certain day and/or particular time and those things that just need to be done as soon as yo can get to them. Only the former should go on your calendar, the latter should go on your Next Action list(s).

You want to organize this list(s) in a way that will allow you to get through more of it when you have an opportunity to work on it. If you only have twenty or so items for a Next Action list, you might just want to have one list as you can quickly glance through it to see what you can do in the time you have available. However, if your list of Next Action items is long, you will want to make more than one list and categorize items accordingly.

A good way to organize Next Actions is by Context, specifically by the tool, location or person needed to complete it. This not only allows you to quickly locate the actions that fit your particular context (for example, phone calls) but also maximizes your energy and time by allowing you to move through the phone calls list rapidly and methodically while already at your phone.

David Allen provides the following set of common list headings that will help get you started organizing your Next Actions but you should feel free to add or subtract from it to fit your personal situation:

At Computer
At Office
At Home
Agendas (for people and meetings, this might be several discrete lists, Partner, Spouse, Boss, Accountant, etc.)

In our next installment, we will focus on Organizing your Waiting For list.

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