Getting Things Done: The “Next Actions” List

Returning to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” I’ve reached a portion of the book that I object to… The “next actions” list – as a separate entity from your calendar – or, in other words, the abolition of the to do list.

Maybe this is my reptile brain, pulling back from this concept in revulsion – but my daily to do list is a habit I don’t think I can or want to break. I’m totally dependent on it. At any rate, in the spirit of journalistic integrity, I’ll share his concept with you:

Allen maintains that there are two basic kinds of actions:

  • Those that must be done on a certain day and/or at a certain time (meetings, appointments)
  • Those that just need to be done as soon as you can get to them, around your other calendared items

Your calendar must show only the “hard landscape” around which you do the remainder of your action items. Allen goes on to say that the old habits of daily to-do lists are “bad” (gasp!) because you put actions on the calendar that you think you’d really like to get to that day, but actually might not, and then you have to shift them to the following day. Therefore, the “as soon as I can” stuff should be organized into different lists based on context required for that action. In other words, you have a “calls” list for when items that must be taken care of by phone, and an “errands” list for tasks that must be taken care of in the car, etc. All totally separate from your calendar. You get the picture. So now I have a calendar as well as SEVERAL different to-do lists (I’m sorry, “next action” lists…) that sounds like crazy talk to me. How is that possibly more streamlined than my Moleskine page-a-day 2012 journal? My appointments for the day are there, and I don’t mind having to rewrite an action item on a following day. In fact, it’s a useful exercise to review the list throughout the day and shift as needed, and then to close out my day with a final look – moving stuff over to tomorrow and beyond. It’s soothing, it’s meditative.,. then I know what I have ahead of me tomorrow and I can drift into dreamland with my glass of pinot noir… etc. etc.…

Maybe I’ll adapt this by breaking up my DAILY lists into these categories – as opposed to keeping a separate list/document for each that isn’t assigned to a day. I’ll give that a shot next week and report back.Image

What daily system to you use to manage tasks and appointments? And what are the pros and cons – do share!

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