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The 'Next Items List' Trap
2008-11-13

Getting Things Done (GTD) is built on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.

It can be summarised as "I have a list with all the actions I need/want to accomplish organized by context and priority. If start working on those actions then I will achieve a lot of things."

While this true for a while, after a period of time people usually start to see their action-lists getting longer and longer, rather than shorter and shorter as more and more tasks get added to the list.

When we realize that our lists are starting to become overloaded, we start doing the easiest and shortest actions in an attempt to reduce the amount of actions. This is what is known as the 'Next Items List Trap' because the easiest and shortest tasks are usually the less important ones.

When we are in this scenario we have transformed a system that is designed to take the stress our of our days into a system that stresses us out a lot as we get stuck in a 'urgency' mode trying to nail down lots of small tasks.

What can we do? The solution at this point is to stop, take a deap breath, review and reorganize!

The first thing we need to focus on at this point is to review our goals so we can decide exactly what our they are. This is usually best done by brainstorming (or writing a 'mission statement') as it lets us re-define whats important to us using a clean slate.

When our goals become crystal clear, we can then start afreash and define a new set of actions that will help us to accomplish our goals. This process involves deleting items from our GTD list that are no longer urgent or critical and then re-grouping our tasks and lists based on our goals.

This process is not that complex, it's really a housekeeping and is something that any productive person should do on a regular basis. It helps us to clean out the cobwebs and shed some light on what really needs to be done so we can stay efficient, effective, motivated and on-point!

GTD is a great system and helps to get things done, however it doesn’t help us to really see what we need to focus on or what our ever-changing big picture is. That part is up to us!


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