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Next actions: Both physical _and_ visible
Merlin Mann | Sep 17 2004
Just a GTD quickie, but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
David Allen defines next actions as “the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.” [ch. 2, pg. 34; emphasis mine]. I’m finally realizing that this subtle change in thinking can have profound effects on the way you look at the stuff in your life.
See, I’m an inveterate list-maker, and I’ve always thought I was actually pretty good at it, but when I look back now, I can see how my typical TODO list was littered with landmines.
I’ll bet you have (or had) a similar running list of all the nagging stuff that was littering your mental landscape, right?
The thing is, I now see how items like these can’t really be “done” at all; each one of those things is actually a complex, multiple-item project with built-in dependencies and waiting time. To look at any of them as a single thing I need to do is to buy into the anxiety-inducing premise that my goals and behaviors should somehow mirror each other on a one-to-one basis. If you think about it, that’s plainly ridiculous.
A more reasonable approach using GTD would be to focus just on that next physical activity needed to undertake each project; even if it seems like a trivial activity. In order:
I imagine a lot of people roll their eyes at this kind of self-absorbed minutiae-tracking, and a lot of people certainly don’t need it. But, for me, turning anxieties into projects and projects into discrete physical behaviors has a lot of appeal. It takes all the pressure off your brain and puts it back where it belongs: on your eyes, on your hands, and on that fat ass you need to get into gear.
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