Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
David Allen in Getting Things Done recommends that you break your tasks down into Next Actions (see the Wikipedia article on GTD for more detail). I think that this recommendation is a double-edges sword that can hurt and help.
Next Actions Can Give Clarity
If you are truly stuck on something and resisting moving forward, breaking down a task into its next actions can make a task appear less daunting and make it easy to move forward. Many people would not be able to tackle a to-do item of “write novel”, but “get out paper” is very do-able and can get you started. Perhaps you are having trouble completing a task because some part of you knows that you don’t have everything you need to complete it. In this case, next actions can clarify what you need to do and get the process started.
But not all next actions are good.
Next Actions Can Prevent Work
If you are subconsciously looking for a way to avoid working on things in a meaningful way, spending time thinking about if your next action is truly unambiguous can be a great way to avoid doing. Think about it. Instead of writing the article you’ve been putting off, you spend a half hour deciding if researching one more site is the next action, or calling a friend for an opinion (but do you have the right number?) or perhaps seeing if there is another magazine article to back up your points instead of sitting down and writing. The excuse of looking for the very smallest next thing to do can eat up loads of time that you could actually be doing things.
So I’m curious. Which camp are you in? Do you find unambiguous to-dos a great productivity tool? Or are they a productivity buster?
Photo by viZZZual.com