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Author Topic: What do you do to bypass the actionable necessity?  (Read 2523 times)

Paul Keith

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What do you do to bypass the actionable necessity?
« on: September 10, 2009, 10:40:35 PM »
http://www.organizei...-to-fix-them-part-1/

Problem B: I just stare at my list and never do anything with it
When people talk about to-do lists they think it’s just about putting down whatever comes to mind that needs attention. A to-do list sounds like a simple idea but to make it genuinely useful you need to really think about what you’re writing down. If it’s not actionable, all you’re doing is staring at a list of vague projects that don’t tell you very much, rather that it telling you what you need to do.

* Solution: For each task you want to write down on you to-do list, ask yourself what the next physical action would be and write that down instead. “Arrange birthday party for Sarah” is not actionable, because where would you start with that? “Collect a list of Sarah’s friends” is a much better item to have. If you see that on your to-do list you know immediately what you’re doing.

Yeah, I said I won't post any articles but when I read this, it reminded me of how this issue could be pigeonholed enough without focusing on the entire GTD system. (even if this is a core of Allen's GTD premise)

Everyone pretty much knows the benefit of this from reading articles like these so I won't bother with the benefits.

The main con however is:
 
Dealing with the unknown project (something common with people who aren't dealing with "official" projects set up by their companies)

here's a hint of what you'll be basically dealing with:

Task/Project: Create <x> comics (assuming you have zero tech knowledge level)

What is going to be my next physical action?

Buy stuff (oh wait! I'm too poor for photoshop/drawing materials)
Download illegal copy until I can afford legal copy (oh wait! I don't know what application does this)
Google "free illegal copy downloader"
 sub-section: Waddle through download managers
Next task: BSOD (oh ****! oh ****! oh ****! I broke Windows!)

<The next day...>

Reset Project: start with paper (0 drawing skills what-if)

Draw...
next physical task:
Draw again...
next physical task:
Draw again...
next physical task:
Consider buying drawing instruction book
next physical task:
Wait for book...no...err... draw

<interlude>
<get generic drawing book>

Ok, next physical task:
Draw Sphere (oh wait! I don't know how to draw a great sphere...)
next physical task:
Draw Circle
next physical task:
Shade randomly (oh wait! This doesn't look like a sphere...)
next physical task:
Shade coordinates alpha, niner, delta... circle...
next physical task:
Goes off to search for math book and resharpen math skills

<The saga continues>


...You see what I'm getting here? You can only swiss-cheese what you know. Sure, alot of talented determined people get by this issue by interpreting the tasks in some quirk like someday/maybes then reference then other stuff... but the reality is that for most casual people, the solution only makes the problem worse. The other main issue is that most talented determined people already "gut it out" without fitting these problems into a to-do/GTD system.

So what's your suggestion? (Don't ask me, I've already lengthened this post already.)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2009, 10:44:05 PM by Paul Keith »

Paul Keith

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Re: What do you do to bypass the actionable necessity?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2009, 10:52:12 PM »
Oh right, I forgot to add that the reason this is worthy to stand alone on it's own as a productivity issue is because most systems don't address this.

You'll rarely (personally for me it was never) find a free productivity to-do list working on a generic rating meter for ranking your tasks based on how actionable they are. (unlike password strengths)

On the flipside, you'll rarely hear any guru focus on this. Even David Allen has a habit of giving the effect that this is just a side necessity for naming your minor immediate lists as "Next Actions".

tomos

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Re: What do you do to bypass the actionable necessity?
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2009, 05:59:51 PM »
Paul
I'm no expert (more the opposite!) in productivity or it's 'methods'.

I believe Forster suggests to start by saying/writing:
Think about X (we'll say it's an idea for a book). And then I guess you'd do the GTD thing of figuring out the first step, but hopefully the thinking bit would help you be realistic about the idea..
as opposed to:
Start my book

In my time I've had some ideas that are pretty big but also pretty 'unactionable' for various reasons. But I suspect at the end of the day, if I really wanted to write that book or illustrate the other one or whatever - I would do it. I would make it so I could do it, even if the obstacles (lack of time/ lack of money/ lack of experience/ lack of talent even) seem insurmountable.

I dont think any productivity or grading system would help or hinder much with going for that big project - but as you say it could help sorting them out.
Me, I could do with all the help I can get - I'm at a sort of crossroads where my main work of the last 15 years seems to be petering out & I don't mind from the point of view that I want to do something different. But I dont know what exactly. And while I *might* not have the luxury of choice, I obviously going to have some sort of influence with my thoughts (be they positive or negative) and my ideas. (and my ToDo lists? lol)

Maybe we should/could think about this practically - Skwire is on fire at the moment ;) - maybe he or someone could throw together an app where one could brainstorm to-do-ideas and somehow rank them - I'll have to think some more about this.
Any thoughts on how ideas could be ranked - to be honest at the moment I cant really see a piece of software being able to manage this.
What do you think? I guess you Paul were talking about this on a different level than "what will I do with my life!" - my post just kind of veered that way unintentionally!

Any other ideas out there?
Tom

Paul Keith

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Re: What do you do to bypass the actionable necessity?
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2009, 10:26:48 PM »
Quote
I believe Forster suggests to start by saying/writing:
Think about X (we'll say it's an idea for a book). And then I guess you'd do the GTD thing of figuring out the first step, but hopefully the thinking bit would help you be realistic about the idea..
as opposed to:
Start my book

That's one way. He also suggests in AutoFocus to highlight it.

Basically someday/maybe and it's other derivatives are holding back the productivity movement because as you alluded to:

Quote
In my time I've had some ideas that are pretty big but also pretty 'unactionable' for various reasons. But I suspect at the end of the day, if I really wanted to write that book or illustrate the other one or whatever - I would do it. I would make it so I could do it, even if the obstacles (lack of time/ lack of money/ lack of experience/ lack of talent even) seem insurmountable.

This is bad and is one of the reasons I felt GOE 2009 should be criticize-able even at the risk of attracting rude people for rude people's sake.

Quote
I dont think any productivity or grading system would help or hinder much with going for that big project - but as you say it could help sorting them out.


It could...but not with unactionable items. At least not fully.

That's kind of the point of making a thing actionable. If you can do that, most mundane stuff pretty much need not any system beyond a to-do list. (but anything that becomes that way don't need a full system either...nor of a full functional to-do list... you just need a list you can see in front of you)

Quote
Me, I could do with all the help I can get - I'm at a sort of crossroads where my main work of the last 15 years seems to be petering out & I don't mind from the point of view that I want to do something different. But I dont know what exactly. And while I *might* not have the luxury of choice, I obviously going to have some sort of influence with my thoughts (be they positive or negative) and my ideas. (and my ToDo lists? lol)

Exactly. I think most good productivity systems promise this "help" and they deliver to an extent but the margin of progress has been so small that it's worth asking this question still.

Quote
Maybe we should/could think about this practically - Skwire is on fire at the moment Wink - maybe he or someone could throw together an app where one could brainstorm to-do-ideas and somehow rank them - I'll have to think some more about this.

Nice! I don't know who Skywire is but that sounds good.

Just one question though: what would be the difference between this app and a bug tracker?

Quote
Any thoughts on how ideas could be ranked - to be honest at the moment I cant really see a piece of software being able to manage this.
What do you think? I guess you Paul were talking about this on a different level than "what will I do with my life!" - my post just kind of veered that way unintentionally!

Nah, no prob -- all productivity questions kind of lead to that question anyway. :p

Honestly, as long as I don't know programming, I can't really give out any practical ideas because most of these are going to be algorithm based.

It'd be like me suggesting a spider to gather all productivity related ideas and start a ranking from there. I won't even be able to suggest a basic concept of it because I don't even know HTML or CSS.

If I would be just throwing out random ideas though, I'd do something like this:

1) Let's first use the data from the spider to create a flawed universal ranking which we would use as supplement for the program. Kinda like We Feel Fine for productivity related tasks. (For web apps, we could go the api way of asking permission for users to allow for this program to anonymously collect their task data)

2) Let's then make the user take a decent "personality quiz"-like survey ala Strength Finder for free and then use it to generate a starting "guess-generator" for their task by comparing their strengths to the commonly written tasks scouted by the spider.

3) Let's then wrap this generator around a bare bones to-do list.

4) Instead of a progress meter, let's combine this interface with a How Full is your Bucket universal user interface which allows them to insert a task for every drop. (This should then bypass the fear of data mining because they can drop a task anonymously and as long as not enough trolls skewer the data, the rankings would not be highly inacurrate)

5) The generator should then be able to intelligently know whether what they've done contributed to any of the tasks they've put in the to-do list and then create a drop-down history archive for that task. (This should serve both as the 43 things alternative and also a history of what actions they've done as well as what actions they/others did that might possibly hurt their goals in achieving the action.)

6) These data can then be exported to a format that allows it to be sent to a universal central server database which can be compared and contrasted and scrutinized to be improved upon. (Equally these should keep the app from bypassing privacy because then you can design an interface that would remove sensitive data)

...but that's way out there. It's really more accessible to ask others of the basic question of "What do you do to bypass the actionable necessity?" than such ideas because not all members in donationcoder are most likely advanced programmers.

I'd encourage you to make a separate topic of this though. Would be nice to have another active programmer-centric thread in this GOE besides the To-Do List of Doom.