Last Saturday I had the opportunity for some solo drive time. One of my cousins was getting married in Ina so I made sure to snag some audio for the 5 hour road trip. I ended up listening to the Getting Things Done audio book by David Allen. I read the print version of Getting Things Done several years ago. However, I became reintroduced to the system through a couple of blog posts and the Back to Work podcast by Merlin Mann.
I’d forgotten how great of a system it is for, well, getting things done. The audio book abridged (bummer) but it was a fantastic way to pass the time of the drive in addition to further re-antiquating myself with the GTD methodology.
One tip I’d like to share for this week’s post is the Next Action. I’m going to over-simplify it for the sake of space/time. However, if you’re looking for an upgraded approach to your busy life, I highly recommend snagging yourself a copy of the book. It’s a seriously good read on organizing your life.
Have you ever looked at your to do list and noticed an item on it that you’ve been putting off? For example, let’s say you have “organize my room” on your list. It’s been on there for a month and for some reason you haven’t been able to track any motion on the task. Allen suggests that an underlying cause is because “organize my room” isn’t a single task, but rather a project made up of a series of tasks. A great way to motivate yourself to take action is to ask yourself, “what’s the next action?”
If you want to organize your room the next action might be to “do the laundry in my room.” Sit down and plan out every single action you can think of to complete the project of organizing your room. The end result is a series of tasks that is more clear and actionable instead of a single item that is murky. The project has been unclear because you haven’t taken the time to thoroughly think through all the steps.
By the way, this really works. A co-worker came into my office today and asked me to complete something on the church website. The more we talked through the task I realized it was really a project that required more than just a couple of actions. As we finished up our conversation I asked him, “What’s the next action we need to take?” That simple question gave us both clarity and direction to move the project forward.
Try this with one of your outstanding to do items or in a meeting where it seems like you’re stuck. You may discover that the simple, “what’s the next action” is the right question to move things forward.
Til next time,