To-Do List vs Next Action List

I had a light bulb moment a few days ago. It reminded me that there is always room for improvement and that sometimes it just takes a bit longer for best practices to sink in ...

I'm been a champion of David Allen's for a few years now and I follow the tenets of Getting Things Done as they best suit my system. As anyone will tell you (if they're being honest) working with any system is a work-in-progress and there's always room for improvement.

Last weekend during my Weekly Review, I was putting together a list of items that needed my attention and I suddenly realized why some items didn't get done from one week to the next, and others were zipping off my list. It was because I was writing a blend of two types of lists: a TO-DO list and a NEXT ACTION list.

When I wrote down exactly what I needed to do to complete the task (NEXT ACTION) instead of just what the tasks was that needed to be done (TO-DO) ... things got done quicker. It just connected to me and I reacted better to my precise instructions, notes.

For example:

  • Get Quarterly Report from John. NO.

  • Email John for Quarterly Report. YES.

  • Plan Trip to Toronto for John and Bill. NO

  • Schedule 15 minutes with Bill to discuss upcoming trip to Toronto. YES

Instead of vague To-Dos, write precise Next Actions.

Be specific about exactly what it is you need to do to get your stuff done! The lists might look a bit longer to start but I guarantee that you will find your projects move forward faster and more gets done because you have firm directives and you know exactly what needs to be done to move forward. Try it for a week.

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