Monday, September 27, 2004

Actions that don't get done

Merlin Mann has posted a really insightful and helpful entry at 43 Folders which aims to identify the types of tasks that seem to stay on your @nextactions list for too long. He addresses why they stay there, and what you can do about it.

Most of Merlin's "culprits" result from poorly-formed or poorly-worded entries. Many turn out to be multiple tasks, meaning they need to be redefined as a project. Others might not be tasks at all. All I know for sure is that you should read it-- you'll get something from his analysis and proposed solutions.

This got me thinking about my tasks, and I looked through my various lists to see what was getting stuck, instead of getting done. I detected a couple of patterns:

  • Tasks are too broad. For example, I have a task on my @home list entitled "Bring finances up to date." What was I thinking? Sure, it's possible to do it in one sitting, but it truly involves many, many tasks. Solution: Make it a project.
  • Tasks I don't want to do. Hmm... this is a tough one. It seems that when I come to a list to get my next task, I often choose not to do the same ones over and over. I haven't really solved this one, but it might work to break the task down even further. GTD is supposed to help me with procrastination, but it has only helped to a degree. Solution: I don't know! Any ideas?
  • Too many next action lists. I thought I did a good job creating context-specific next action lists, but maybe I have too many. If I'm at home, I have at least five different lists that I could choose actions from: @home, @calls, @offline, @online, and @saw. Solution: I want a tool that lets me create list groupings... if I'm at home, then all of the lists that can apply should be available in one list. If I'm sitting in a Starbuck's with WiFi, I want to look at both my @offline and @online lists. Does anyone have a tool that will do this?
The best suggestion Merlin makes in this post makes a ton of sense: Always word your actions beginning with an action verb: "Call about water heater", "Replace battery in smoke detector", "Buy dishwasher soap."

1 comment:

  1. When you consciously decide you don't want to do something, move it to "Someday/Maybe." Or, and this is a new solution for me, create something like a "Just Do It" list. And keep it short. I'll move one or two dreaded tasks on to this list (which I have named 'Do This') and something about them being called out helps me knock them off. They can't hide. Also the act of moving them onto a priority list starts a little momentum.