How to get it all done? Take the Next Action

Here’s the first of our guest posts by our summer team. Joey has relocated to the Ann Arbor area for our project this summer. She gets things done …

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen is an instruction manual for creating a highly effective to-do list. The book explains how to master workflow through collecting and processing every task, large or small, in a person’s life. There is a lot of information and instruction about implementing this system, but for this blog I am going to highlight one of the points that really struck me.

One of the principles is the concept of ‘next action’. Often when creating a to-do list it is easy to spin your wheels and put off the things that need to get done. Implementing the ‘next action’ approach can help with that. Here is an illustration of how it works.

‘Get haircut’ is an example of a common task on a to-do list. But ‘get haircut’ is not an action step, it is really more like… a project (which David Allen defines as “any desired result that requires more than one action step”), even if just a mini one. ‘Get haircut’ could potentially be broken down into the following action steps at the minimum:

  1. check calendar for potential availability
  2. look-up salon phone number
  3. call salon to set appointment

Every time the mind sees ‘get haircut’ on the list it starts trying to process what to do. It expends energy you probably want to be focusing on something else, so you decide to come back to it later. Breaking it down into ‘next action’ steps provides clarity. It is clear what you need to do and gives a sense of how long it will take. If you want to be more productive, the next time you add something to your to-do list take a moment to think about if it is a direct action, if not…

ask what the ‘next action’ is.

My name is Joey Hampton and I am a Course Builder Intern at Torrance Learning. I really enjoy helping create the e-learning modules and exploring all the fun summer things
to do in the area.

By | 2017-09-03T13:14:31+00:00 February 2nd, 2012|News|