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I'm using Omnifocus for my GTD implementation. I find myself spending a lot of time defining a lot of next actions. Inevitably by the time I get to next action 6 of 10 the remaining 4 are no longer relevant.

How many actions do you usually define within a (sequential) project? Do you rely on your weekly review to catch up and add more actions to the project? Do you find that this means projects take longer as you would only add more actions once per week?

Thanks for any tips or advice.


Below is a simple example:

Project: Rework process for gathering sales figures

  1. find currently documented process
  2. review current process
  3. draft new process
  4. show boss new process to review
  5. finalise new process
  6. document new process
  7. socialise new process

Say I get to step 4 and when I discuss the process with the boss we realise that the process isn't really broken, actually all we need to do is educate the staff on the process. In this scenario I've wasted time documenting steps 5 onwards. This is a simple example of course, maybe I actually documented 15 tasks and things got messed up at step 5.

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4 Answers 4

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It depends on how much energy you have when you are doing the project planning. I try to aim for 2-3 (or a general outline). If I am physically exhausted and I don't feel like doing anything. I might fill out the whole "project" just so I have things out of my head. But remember a project can be as simple as two things.

For your example I would have everything up until step 4, then a place holder for "tweak based on feedback" Or if you work for one of my former bosses, "redo everything".

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You really only need to have one Next Action for each project in your GTD system. Think of it as a bookmark that tells you where to pick up work on that project when you return to working on it. When you have completed that NA, you then make a choice about switching to a different project within the same @Context (another NA from your list), continuing to work on the same project, or switching from Doing to one of the other steps in the GTD process (Collect, Process, Organize, Review, Do). If you move away from the current project, make a note to process later of where you are in the project, which becomes a Next Action for the project. If you don't make that note, your weekly review will fill the gap.

What works for me is doing enough project planning with notes in supporting material that I know generally where the project is going and what the steps are, but I usually don't have all the next actions laid out ahead of time. (An exception is repeating projects, e.g. Change Oil in Car, where over time the project supporting material becomes a checklist of next actions to take.)

In your example, I would probably have a list much like yours in my supporting material for the project, but only the first incomplete activity would have an NA in my context lists.

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The point of planning out for the week is so when you complete Next Action #1, you don't have to stop and think about what you need to do next. I would list all of the parallel and dependent tasks for each project on that project's page, and put anything you can do immediately on your Next Action list. A project may have multiple things you can do at one time, and you should capture all those as NAs -- it will take you longer to complete a project if you artificially add dependencies by only allowing one Next Action at a time. A Next Action is defined as something you can do right now.

An exception to this is if your project is really long and increments are obvious. For example, maybe you want to run 10 miles and you increment your mileage by 0.1 miles each day. Handwriting every single increment is frustrating (I know, I've done it!) so put enough to get you through the near future and update in chunks.

Your Weekly Review is one place to catch and update your list if your projected path to completion changes, but you can also catch and update this in real-time when you have that conversation with your boss. That would actually be a Next Action in itself ("Re-visit project task list") if you can't do it immediately.

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Simple answer: 1 per project. If you feel that isn't enough, because the project is big, important and most importantly too overwhelming. You might doublethink your approach to this project, and maybe define some part of this project as a separate (dependent) project, with it's own outcome and next action.

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Bang on. More than one indicates that you should split it into subprojects. –  Camille Goudeseune May 6 at 14:32
    
thanks man. You got a pretty cool setup on your website. Left and right. I myself had for a long time: with or without irony. –  DDdW May 14 at 20:11

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