How Specific Is Your Next Action?

Do you have a project that has sat on your plate for a while?  Perhaps a home repair that never seems to get completed or the office redesign that is caught in perpetual limbo.  Odds are the reason this project lacks momentum is because the time has not been taken to carefully consider the next physical action needed to move it forward.

action-arrowPhysical actions are visible to other people such as calling someone on the phone, typing an email, drafting a memo, or talking to a colleague.  A common trap is to believe that “thinking” about an item is a next action.  Thinking could be part of a next action if that process is accompanied by a physical movement to capture the ideas, such as drawing a mind map.

Last week I met Andy Aichele, the new Organizational Learning and Development Manager for the Columbus Metropolitan Library and a certified GTD trainer.  He shared an effective way to think about how to create effective next actions.  The approach is to imagine delegating the action to someone else. Would they be able to understand and complete the action based on how you described it?

To practice this approach, the next time you develop a next action consider how you would describe it to another person.  If you could delegate it effectively to others, then you should be able to compete it yourself.  Projects only move forward through physical actions so be careful to effectively and clearly draft your next step.

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