The way we describe our projects and tasks can either help us to complete them or compel them to oblivion. David Allen stresses that it’s important to know your next action. I’ve touched on this topic, how do I modify tasks to become tangible next actions?
Example task to next action
As an example, here’s a task straight from my list: Friday blog post.
That’s not much to go on. There’s a thing that needs doing, the blog post. Also included is a date that could be a deadline, Friday but it’s not very clear what the day of week refers to.
For me, the formula that works best is action verb + task (+ date).
I can hear you groaning over action verbs. The goal is to do the task, so we need a word that will compel us to create action.
We can reformulate it to: write pen at work blog post about words and next actions due Friday.
This specific example task creates additional next action steps. While it’s tempting to list them as single generic verbs: outline, draft, edit, I make each step as detailed as possible. I have no hesitation to pull out my thesaurus! For example:
- Outline pen at work post on word choice and next action due Monday.
- Write first scribble draft for pen at work post on word choice and next action due Tuesday.
- Research links to include for pen at work post on word choice and next action due Tuesday afternoon.
Yes, it’s repetitive, but I no longer need to wonder when I look at the item about what post I’m referring to! I’ve also found that as I write these sub-tasks I often take action and sketch out part of the work as I’m elaborating on what needs to be done.
Why next actions work
You no longer need to stop and think about the specifics. You can jump in and do by following the instructions of the action. Try rewording some of your neglected tasks and see if it helps you complete them.