I Promised This Next Action, Didn’t I?

Moving on from my plagiarised advice about how to keep a list, I hereby come through upon my promise to address thing about a context list that needs to be considered IF you want to reduce stress, as per David Allen’s (etc) advice.

You recall how I suggested that the short list of projects the DC had was also a huge list? If not, refer back to my post and read it again. We all had lists, or something similar, kept on a computer or in a book or on a piece of photocopier paper. Items such as those listed on last week’s article would be called Projects – you might call them cases, or investigations, but in the end they are all Projects – things that are being done that need more than one step for completion. Remember that definition, because you have a lot of those.

But here’s David Allen’s key point when thinking about the mammoth size of any Project.

You can’t ‘do’ a Project – you can only do the Next Action towards its completion.

That really was worth pressing Ctrl+U and Ctrl+B, it’s that important. Allen is very focussed on the term ‘Next Action’ as being the key to stress-free productivity. (Yes, I know, no such thing but you can reduce the stress by thinking and acting like this.)

And here’s the funny thing. The Next Action is often the tiniest, simple, swiftly completed ‘thing’ to do.

For example: You are dealing with a rape. Huge. You need a victim interview. Big. It has to be done by a specialist. Fiddly, involves someone else. So what’s the next action?

Look up a specialist. A minute. Then contact them. Another minute. Then leave them to it, with your only responsibility in that vein being to wait for the result. (The @WaitingFor list you keep on your phone/computer/paper.)

When all is said, everything that’s peppering your list of Projects is a set of next actions, but it’s the perception that you have umpteen billion next actions that causes the stress. But they are predominantly tiny things that need doing which, when actually done, feel like a win. And then another win, and then another. Even an obstacle is nothing more than another project that contains a next action that can be identified, planned and then done.

You see how this works?

Change of mindset from a huge list of (thought to be) unmanageable projects to one of a lot of easy tasks that can be done when the context allows.

Remember: It may not feel like it, but you CAN only do one thing at a time, even if you have a lot to do. And you can only do them if you are at a place, or with a resource that enables you to do that one thing. And if another thing comes along (as it invariably will in policing), just add it to the Project List, and leave it. If it needs immediate attention, decide the next action and act on it or put it on the appropriate ‘where/when/with’ list for later. Then forget about it.

It really is that easy to understand. It may take a little longer to start using it and gain expertise to the degree that you finally become stress-free, but like driving a car it is nothing more than matter of practice.

I really wish I show you, face to face, but I can’t. But there’s a lot you can learn from YouTube. 😉

If you see value in these posts, please buy my book Police Time Management, which conmtains a lot of usable time management advice. Really. I wouldn’t lie, would I?

(Or buy David Allen’s Getting Things Done Workbook, which is a cracking step-by-step guide. But when you choose which to buy, remember he’s a millionaire and I aren’t.)

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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