GTD – Single Actions List

GTD is all based on David Allen’s excellent books. You’ll get far more from reading the books than from any web site.

Introduction

Recently, I’ve taken to using a single actions list, marked @WhenNext, rather than keeping separate context-based lists. It works pretty well as an alternative if…

  • You don’t have too many next actions – I have around 50 – much more than that would probably become difficult to manage.
  • You use a system that can handle a fairly big list reasonably easily.
  • You use a system that sorts lists alphabetically.

Benefits

The main benefit is that I don’t have to worry about what lists to have, and which list something should go in. Also, when I can do things from several lists, it’s quick to check for everything than if they were in separate lists.

Problems

The one list can get a bit long. I’m don’t have all that much that needs doing, and I’ve still got around fifty actions on my lists. I could imagine a busy manager having trouble managing everything in just one list.

So How Does It Work?

Just merge all the action lists together, call it @WhenNext, and prefix each item with the context you could do it in. As long as your lists sort alphabetically, the things with the same context will all be together, and you can create and get rid of contexts as and when you need them. When you complete the last action with a particular context, the context is gone.

Works Well With

I’m using Outlook on the desktop, and Pocket Informant on my iPaq. These both handle long lists quite nicely.

Works Badly With

I don’t think this would have worked with my old Palm Tungsten T3. It didn’t show enough lines on the display at once to make glancing up and down a list easy, and scrolling was always a touch awkward. On the Palm, switching between lists was very quick and easy. It also didn’t sort alphabetically, so the things in the same context wouldn’t have been gathered together.