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Author Topic: Next Action Card: Over-Simplified Daily Disposable Paper-based Task Outline  (Read 4344 times)

Paul Keith

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Project Name/Date
Coming Distraction:
What Now?
Now Doing:
Want to be Doing:

<finish task>

What Now?
Now Doing:
Want to be Doing:

<repeat until day is over>

Warning: The value of a disposable plan is that it isn't hinged on any other productivity or notetaking system and therefore it's also not there to provide any upgrades to your current plan nor is it supposed to be a stand-alone system where you just add and add your tasks until it becomes a huge list. To simplify, after your day is over, you throw this away.

Materials needed:

Notebook/Index Card/Medium-size piece of paper


None really. This is just a rarely shared set of terms so I'm posting it here.

The origins stem from a combination of GTD's Next Action, Limited Daily To-Do Lists (like those that say you only need 1-3 items on your sticky notes per day maximum) and some modified terms you see in movie theaters.


The idea is to have a simple disposable paper template that can serve as a gap between over-simplified to-do lists and the more detailed personal systems like GTD without needing an advanced pre-template written notebook or other items like software and noteware as well as a set that's easy to memorize and remember.

Ideally this can work as slicers of individual projects but to showcase the outline's disposability let's assume it's an outline of your current day and you will throw the paper out after that day is over.


1st Half

1) On top of the piece of paper you can write your project name or the date you will be doing the task.

Below that write, Trailing:

This is just everything that might be catching up to you or will be bothering you soon. If you are familiar with the Behance Action Method, this is mostly the backburner and backlog stuff.

2) After you've written what you want to write down there, add a Coming Distraction: category.

Same deal except for more dreaded and urgent things. You really needn't overthink both of these categories as they just serve as better reminders of why your deadline is your deadline.

3) Next write down the Soon: category

These three categories are mostly interchangeable. Soon is more for your next tasks rather than your worries but these three are just there to crumple all your someday/maybe/tomorrow/reminder issues all into one without them becoming hard to read and organize because they turned into one giant list of texts.

2nd Half

1) Add a What Now? category.

This could be your Next Action or your Next Thought. You'll see from the next category that it doesn't matter.

2) Below, write Now Doing:

This is your real Next Action which is coincidentally is also your Current Action

3) Finally, finish it off with the Want to be Doing: category.

This is a special one in that you don't need to be writing anything in it. Part of why I prefer software is that I can be paranoid about writing down anything on paper even if no one will really want to read it.

Yet for me, unlike ideas, I can't jot it down in quick symbols or vague adjectives since there would be no point after the day is over to have this in your head. (Unless you like having Missions and Visions)

You could rephrase this into Want to be Doing Now but really it doesn't matter. After you complete the set the only thing you need to worry about is mostly what you add on your next What Now? and Now Doing but that's mostly in case you didn't have enough space or plenty of time after you finished your first tasks.

Advanced Tips:

-Instead of turning Trailing into a checkbox, add the numbers 1/2/3/ besides your item and cross out a number as the event looms closer and closer.

-Same thing with Soon but instead of a series of numbers, add the start date besides any task

-Don't turn Now Doing: and What Now? into checklists/to-do lists. If you need to, move your check-lists and sub-lists unto your actual activity be it a plan/blueprint/main outlining system or just actually going ahead and doing your tasks and having the done state serve as a check-off

Paul Keith

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Two more obvious additions:

What would your body like to do?

What is right in front of you?


Unfortunately as obvious as these are, I find them necessary.

What would your body like to do?

I thought either my body would help me out on this or I could delegate this to a more functional productivity system be it a paper system or a software but unfortunately without this first category the card breaks it's flow and fails to serve as a good enough stand-alone disposable system.

What is right in front of you?

Part of the idea of a stand-alone system is that it needs to capture everything in a pocket dimension of your mind with near zero thought on the user's part.

The idea is that it's worthless if you can have the time to plan and write it out. If you can do that, you are in a spot where you can think on your to-do list or utilize your expertise and specialty...basically if you can plan, then you're either organized already or you're in a safe spot where your plans are good enough to get it done with no urgency (or you have a system that's really not working for you)

Has to be write then review, write then review. Just like if you were planning to buy some items with a grocery list. Look - buy - Look - buy.

...or you're not swamped in your schedule so all you do is write down one or two meetings in a calendar. No need for reminders or contexts or fancy stuff like that.

Problem is, this format is a little too good for me. (This is currently my paper notebook system)

Regardless whether I finish what I wrote or not, it works in the sense that it returns me to a zone-ish mindset whenever I review my notes and I'm off of my organizer's block and get back to doing something.

Problem with a zone-ish mindset is that it tends to stray towards things you really want to do and it's too easy to ignore/forget throwing out a piece of crumbled paper, crossing out your backlogs, forgetting to eat your food, defragmenting your HD, whatever. Plus it adds new ideas to your brainstorming mind. At least for me, on a very slight level, it merges my own disorganization with my own planning so something like writing down "monitor" - makes me remember that I've been sitting in front of this thing the whole day.


  • T:
  • CD:
  • S:
  • NW?
  • ND:


*I find that if you are using an invisible entry in your WWYLTD? that you can merge it with your WWYBLTD? answer so that if someone sees your notes, you don't have to explain why you have a blank section. Of course, if you are good at memorizing data this is child's play. I have an extremely bad memory though so only this section works for me.

*The last few acronyms may seem long but I find, for me, shorter acronyms don't work. Sure typing LTD (Like to Do) would work if I remember what it means and I'm organizing an outline but when my mind is swamped or dead - whole thing falls apart. It's like I'm trying to memorize a template.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2011, 03:05 AM by Paul Keith »