It's amazing how easy it is to slip back into bad habits. The whole point of the GTD method (which is the most effective of the organisational systems I have ever come across) is to abandon the traditional To Do list and instead have a Next Action list. The difference, as David Allen explains, is that a To Do list might have entries such as: buy more milk, organise 50th birthday party for Valerie, sort out error in credit card bill, tidy desk, finish novel. A Next Action list on the other hand would be: buy milk, decide what type of party Val would like, find phone number to contact credit card company, file papers from desk, write the scene where protag realises he's been betrayed.
The idea is to separate organising and planning from the actual doing, the theory being that if you don't have to think about it, you're more likely to do the thing (whatever it is) if you already have a clear next action designated. However, some things that sneak onto To Do lists are in fact really projects which will require multiple steps to complete.
Yes, I know that's stating the bleeding obvious, but my mind, which if not watched tends to scamper around like a toddler going, "Oooh! Shiny!" bouncing from one attractive thing to the next, and often it needs beating over the head with the bleeding obvious. :)
David Allen does warn that you need to be constantly on guard because Next Action lists all too easily turn into a mish-mash of Next Actions and Big Projects that I'd Like To Do Sometime.
Actually, having looked carefully at my current Next Action List, that isn't quite the trap I've fallen into. The problem I have with it is that it's what Mark Forster of Do It Tomorrow calls an Open List. The Next Action List will never be all done and dusted. As long as I continue to live and breathe and be active enough to do things, there will always be a Next Action to put on the list.
Now when the system was still new, bathed in the glow of novelty, this didn't matter. I would eagerly attack the list and pick a few items off it each day. But now familiarity has set in and although it is indeed a list of Next Actions, I'm not actually doing any of them. This is where I always fall down. I'm a world expert on planning work but have serious problems actually doing it. Not all work, of course, but certain kinds. I know what type of thing gives me problems, but I won't bore you with them here now. Hence my problem with procrastination.
Mark Forster swears by the closed list system. Basically, out of all the things you have to do, you pick a certain number to do tomorrow. And then you do them. All of them. This gives you a little glow of satisfaction, makes you feel more positive and more eager to tackle another little selection of tasks from the larger, ongoing list the next day.
I tried it yesterday. I had 3 things on my Will Do list. I managed two of them. Failure on the first day! In my defence, I tried to do the third thing, but the admin people go at 4:30 on Fridays and the big photocopiers were already switched off. Making 2 copies of a particular form is a vital step in the third thing I'd said I'd do, so I was doomed.d
However... I did get one big job done, did a useful errand in town and learned that I must still refine my skills in determining exactly how much work will fit into a given time. I'm going to give the system a proper trial this week using his game where you score a point for each thing done but score nil points if you don't complete everything on the list you set yourself.
Right, off now to put the ingredients for bread in the machine (one of the tasks I said I will do today.