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Next Actions 101 – Break Down the Project to Get it Done

Next Actions 101

This is Part 2 in the “Next Actions 101″ series (read Part 1).

Big projects are daunting. How do you go from “land on the moon” to tangible steps to achieve that goal? Break it down.

Decide a next action

This is the key to getting things done (GTD). Your project (land on the moon) is your stake in the ground, holding you responsible for the outcome.

But to get started toward that stake, you must break down the project. You need to decide on the next action needed to get there.

In our moon-landing example, we’ll first need a ship of some kind. But “build space ship” isn’t much more tangible than “land on the moon.” That means we need to break it down more.

Before you can build a ship, you’ll need design plans. But before that, you’ll need to decide what you want to take to the moon (how many people, gear, etc). Thus, your next action for landing on the moon is to decide on crew and gear.

Of course, you might choose to start with a method of propulsion for your ship or hiring consultant engineers. The point is that you can determine a tangible action for your seemingly untangible goal.

Apply it to life

The cool thing about this analysis is that you can use it for anything in life. Think about that brief you need to write. How do you “write brief”?

To write a brief, you’ll need to understand the facts of the case, the law surrounding it, and the outcome you need/want. You’ll need to read supporting materials, the record, lower court decisions, etc.

Thus, a good next action for “write brief” might be “read the record.” This allows you to focus on the real thing you need to do (read) rather than your end goal (write).

Do you have any tips to break a project down into a next action? Please post a comment or drop me a line.

Here’s the rest of this series:

[tags]legal andrew, next action, gtd[/tags]

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3 Responses to “Next Actions 101 – Break Down the Project to Get it Done”

  1. [...] Part 2 – Break Down the Project to Get it Done [...]

  2. Warren
    April 25th, 2007


    I’ve just stumbled upon your site. Nicely done. My comment might come across as nitpicking, but I don’t mean it that way. I’ve just seen the issue that I mention in too many real-life situations and would like to comment.

    As for the preceding example of landing on the moon, your end goal does not take into account the repercussions of landing on the moon. The major issue is that we need to get the spaceship and astronauts home safely.

    I only mention this as a warning to people to not confuse the Goal with the Accomplishment. I would define the goal as: “To successfully land a manned spaceship on the moon and return safely.” The Accomplishment would be: “To land a spaceship on the moon.”

    The reason I would make the distinction is that the Goal should encompass the entire project. When you look back on your project, the accomplishment would be ‘landing on the moon’.

    Unless, of course, you meant to leave the ship and crew on the moon. In that case, forget what I just said. :)


  3. Andrew Flusche
    April 25th, 2007


    All comments are always welcome. I don’t think this is nitpicking. You’ve raised a good point. We’ve got to think about the entire project, and not just stop when we reach our accomplishment. That’s a great distinction!

    But we might just leave the crew on the moon, depending upon who’s in the ship. ;)

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