Next actions, projects and groups

The natural planning model

GTD dictates that you must clarify which are your Next actions for each project. This activity is part of what GTD calls The natural planning model. According to GTD most of the thinking we need for planning our projects is informal. Your brain is a natural planning machine, and GTD proposes to embrace the way it works when it comes to plan your projects.

According to the natural planning model, the steps that your mind follow for accomplishing any project are:

  1. Defining purpose and principles: Defining the why. What is the purpose of the project?
  2. Outcome visioning: Thinking about the what. How will it feel when the project is completed?
  3. Brainstorming: Generating a bunch of ideas and questions relative to the project: the things that have to be considered for completing it.
  4. Organizing: Deciding what are the things that must occur to create the final result and in which order they must happen.
  5. Identifying next actions: Defining which are the action or actions that will move the project forward

In fact, project next actions are the main reason for managing a list of projects in the first place. Most people believe that it is important to capture all the required steps to complete a project up front (vertical planning). That can certainly be useful but it is not mandatory. Identifying the next step for every project is. Projects in GTD are reminders of open loops you have in your system and next actions are steps in the direction toward closing these loops.

Next actions

A zendone project contains a orderer sequence of actions.

The first action of each project that is to do by yourself (not delegated) and to do as soon as possible (without due date) is considered a next action. This means it is important that you sort your project actions in a meaningful way.

Next actions are calculated dynamically in every moment. This means projects can now advance automatically as you advance working on them. You can complete a project action in the Do stage and have the next action in the same project to appear automatically in the Do section.

Since calendar and waiting for (delegated) actions are not next actions, you can have actions blocking how a project advances. For example, if the first action of a project has a due date, no action will be considered next until that action is completed or deleted.

Groups of actions

Although most projects are simple sequences of actions, there are times when you want to plan parts of a project where the sequential nature is not clear. In these cases, zendone let you group related actions within a project, to express that those actions can all be next at the same time.

You can create groups of actions within projects in the Review and Organize section. Just select the actions you want to group and press the Group actions button, the option in the popup menu or press the CTRL+G shortcut. Grouped actions are actions that are not meant to be executed in order.

All the actions of the group will be next actions when the group itself is the first step of the containing project.