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Next Actions 101 – Rephrase Dormant Tasks to Spur Action

Next Actions 101

This is Part 3 in the “Next Actions 101″ series (read Part 1 and Part 2).

We’ve already covered next action basics and breaking down big projects. For this final installment, we’ll look at those pesky next actions that become dormant.

Do you have tasks on your list that have been there for weeks or even months? Have you started ignoring their existence? Here’s a couple things to help spur you into action.

Make them actionable

If you have a dormant next action, there is a quick question to ask yourself: Is it immediately actionable?. If it’s not, it’s not a next action. What might it be instead?

Maybe it’s really something where you are waiting for someone / something to happen. You can do the action, but only after “pigs fly” or “Bob finishes X.” If this is the case, boot that next action off to another list. In GTD-land, we call this your “waiting for” list. You keep track of these things, but don’t let them clutter your mind.

Perhaps your dormant next action is really too big to tackle. If this is the case, you need to break it down. Go back to Part 2 of this series and think about it some more. You’ve got the forrest in sight, but now you need to see what tree you can tackle first.

Rephrase the action

If all else fails, look at the actual wording of your next action. If it’s been on your list for weeks, you’re probably just ignoring it by now. A trick I use is to rephrase it. This doesn’t need to be dramatic, just something different.

One great example is a letter I was needing to write. My next action was “write letter to Bob.” It sat on my list for weeks. Finally, I reworded it to “draft letter to Bob.” I got it done the next day!

I tricked my brain into thinking that “draft” was simpler and quicker than “write.” I turned my old, crusty next action into a new, shiny one.

You can do this same trick with next actions on your list. Change a word here and there or re-think the desired outcome. You’ll be amazed at how a tiny change will prompt real action.

Here’s the rest of this series:

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

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7 Responses to “Next Actions 101 – Rephrase Dormant Tasks to Spur Action”

  1. Jennifer
    February 8th, 2007

    Or maybe you don’t really need or want to do it and need to renegotiate with yourself. That’s what usually happens to me.

  2. Andrew Flusche
    February 8th, 2007


    I think you’re right about renegotiating with yourself. That’s part of my weekly review: am I really committed to this action? Maybe that’s another post. :)

    Thanks for commenting,

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  4. [...] Next Actions 101-Rephrase Dormant Tasks to Spur Action-Andrew Flusche This article would be a helpful resource for anyone that has started a big project and feels “stuck” in the middle of it. The author offers some advice for re-invigorating these dormant projects. [...]

  5. Movers
    June 22nd, 2009

    I do the renegotiating thing too when I see that something is on my list for too long. But usually it’s not that I truly think I don’t really need to do it, it’s more like “Well I still haven’t done it after all this time so I might as well just never do it.” Even though I know that I should still do it because it would be better for me and my work if that task was done, I just put it off until it no longer feels relevant/necessary. I’m trying to avoid dragging things out like that but it does happen sometimes.

  6. Recipes Expert
    July 10th, 2009

    Great tips, and in my case, negotiating really works wonders. At times, I find it difficult to do with the leftover tasks done but later, when i talk to myself regarding whether the things in my immediate planning list are really so important that needs to be done immediately or i can delay; then things start making sense to me.

  7. videolar
    September 4th, 2009

    ’m trying to avoid dragging things out like that but it does happen sometimes.

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