What is your Next-Action List Format?

I'm wondering exactly how other GTD-ers set these up. So far, the medium for my next-action lists is still eluding me. (I have something, but it isn't "right" yet, if you know what I mean.)

So...if you use paper, what size, and how many contexts to a page? How many total contexts do you have? Does this include your other lists (someday/maybe, projects, waiting)? Do you use front and back, or front only? How often do you replace these pages? Are they bound? How?

If you use a digital format, what software do you use? Laptop or PDA? Any other details that might help clarify?

At the moment, I'm trying to find something that will a) fit into my planner, b) leave pages easily replaceable, and c) be bound so I can flip through without dropping anything. I have 10 contexts, plus 2 project lists (I keep "mini" projects separate from "real" projects.) and my waiting and someday/maybe lists, and some of these lists are filled up and completed so frequently that the pages just need to be tossed and replaced. I thought that getting a "look" at how others are doing this might give me some ideas.

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I don't know much about GTD, but it sounds like Circa would be a good fit for you since you want bound pages that can be easily replaced. The compact sized Circa notebook is pretty cheap and fits easily in a purse.

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I'm currently using the

I'm currently using the satellite action cards. I have circa so they are easily moved around and replaced. If you don't want to switch you could reinforce the holes with tape then clip through them so you can take them in and out without having to unclip the whole binder.

I forgot to mention that I do use seperate sheets for each context so I don't have to arrange or rewrite anything.
"On the road to a clear mind - think I may have taken a wrong turn."
Road?? There is a road?

Next Action Looseleaf

I use the classic templates from here in classic size with 3 holes, looseleaf style, all in a classic planner, Day Timer (I have not switched over to circa/rollabind like many here - ring binders still seem very sensible to me - they're easy to punch). I have one context for both sides of a leaf, that is, two pages for each context -- the front and back sides of a sheet of paper, and I separate out Agendas and Waiting-Fors into separate contexts and pages. The reason is to avoid re-writing things over on fresh sheets of paper too much (hmm, actually, perhaps I should get things done more quickly... :-) Having one page for a context allows me to update just that one context without re-doing my whole next action section. Also, there's something about having one physical piece for each context.

I use Microsoft Word

I keep my next action lists in a Microsoft Word document, using contexts as headings. One two-column page is enough to manage my lists, though I have sometimes used both sides of the page.

I revise my list each morning as I process my inboxes and then print it, so I always have a legible list for the day. The letter-size page is foldable for whatever carrying size I need.

Do you procrastinate?

A mix works best for me

I have several ways I do things, each tailored to what needs doing. I use my Junior Circa for project planning and tracking (printed from the templates here), augmented by Google calender/iCal which I set up to email me reminders about appts or general things (such as library books) that have "need to be done by" dates.

In addition, I use a ~5x8 notebook for a general to-do list/capture list, some from the project lists, others just one-offs, where I track things I need to remember to do. (The capture part is where I write something down to remember it. Since it's all in one little notebook, I: 1) remember where to find the info, and 2) transfer the info or not depending on what it is. The rest of the to-do list is either NAs or "almost" NAs. I'll combine stuff like 'get phone number and call x', leaving space to write in the phone number as well as a line to note if I did call and what happened. If there's a follow up it probably deserves to be on a project page.

On days that I'm going out on errands, I'll write a bullet list on a 3x5 card (right now I'm using Levenger's cards, but have also printed out the ones on this site, too).

In the future, I may end up doing more things on the computer - Omnifocus looks interesting, though anything with a learning curve can be annoying - because it's easier to track longer projects that way. Searches are quick and I can print out reminders or not, as I choose.

Imo, it's mostly about finding what works best for you. I like the combo of a analog/digital and the way I've separated the tasks seems to work for me.

What I'm Trying

Thanks. :) (And keep 'em coming.)

What I currently use for everything else is a pocket-size (wirebound) Day-Timer. I can't add a significant amount of paper to it, due to its design, but it is small and streamlined enough that it's the first thing I've found myself consistently using. (Well, mostly consistently.) They sell notebooks to go with it, and I'm thinking about trying one of those, but the pages can't be rearranged (maybe I'll try snipping them with some tiny scissors) or replaced (silly DT - I don't know why they don't sell paper for these things!).

Sooo...I need something that will fit in the "wallet" with the DT pieces. I tried a work booklet with sticky notes stuck to the pages. That worked okay, because the booklet provided an anchor for the sticky notes, and the sticky notes could be moved or replaced. But because the sticky notes only stick at one side, they made the pages really awkward to turn. (Top-stick notes might work a tad better.) Now I'm trying a stack of index cards with a ring through one corner, and that worked so-so, but it could be a little awkward to flip those, too, because the ring spins itself around so the "hinge" gets in the way, and I really needed a smaller ring in order for it to fit inside the binder properly. Now I have a booklet cover (a la Jon Glass, I think) with a rubber band to hold in place some paper folded in half to make 3x5" "pages." It works all right, too, but I'm thinking it's going to be a pain to replace pages, because the sheet comprises four separate pages, so I can't replace one list at a time.

And I know this is like heresy around here ;) , but I hate Circa rings. (I don't even remember why. I had something from Levenger bound like this and really didn't like it. I think maybe the pages didn't turn well, because the smurfed edges didn't always stay solidly in the rings.) So I'm still looking.

I was wondering if maybe I should just be using a divided-up sheet of paper or two; that would fix the issue of being able to easily flip through it! For whomever said he does this (sorry; I can't see the past comments on this page) with a computer printout: what do you do as far as adding items to the list throughout the day? Do you leave space at the bottom of each context and add them by hand? Do you jot them somewhere else and transfer them to the computer at the end of the day? What do you do if your printer runs out of ink? This might be a workable solution for me if I can get a good grip on how to manage it.

I really like the idea of a small hPDA as a supplement to my DT system, because it's small enough to fit with it, and it's standard enough to print templates. But I just can't deal with having the cards loose, or having to dig through a folder or pocket to find them, (I'm not a file-type gal; I like binders!) so I'd really like to find a binding option that's a good fit.

Why is such a simple thing giving me such fits? LOL

Be blessed!
~Rachel <><


Have you considered creating a small 'folder' with the origami pattern on the site... or perhaps the lil envelope box?

Here's the link to the envelope folder... I made one and it worked great - was slim and held quite a few 3x5's... you can alter the pattern to hold larger or smaller items. LINK

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If you like wirebound

What about a small notebook that's wirebound at the top? Maybe one about the same size as your pocket-size Day-Timer.

If you want templates in it, then check with your local family print shop and see how much they'd charge to wirebind a tiny notebook.

It might be cheaper or easier for them and you to print letter/A4 pages for the notebook, cut both into half down the length. Then wirebind the 2 notebooks along their long edges, and then cut them into smaller notebooks.

My Next Action Lists

I started by having each context of my next actions on one page, i used it for a while, but found it a hassle that i could not see all my next actions at one time (as i use a bound book), i had to keep flicking around. So i decided to just use one page and mark the context next to the next action. Currently i have designed a daily page including my schedule and a place for all my next actions for that day. It seems to be working and i can fit quite a lot of next actions on a page (I use an A4 size, so it's probably a little bigger than most).

A side effect to this is that it makes me more motivated to do the next actions that day, otherwise i have to transfer them to the next day!

my next-action lists

I've been experimenting with using 3x5 cards for each context, and putting them in a binder overlapping on just the top edge where the title/place is, sort of like cascading your windows on a computer. I've been starting to use a Circa/Rollabind hybrid system, and the Jr size seems to hold 7 overlapping context cards. I can change one card/context, or all of them, move them around, pull them out and shuffle them, whatever. The binder doesn't get so thick because the cards aren't stacked, they're "splayed". I might try this in the compact size.

So far, I'm liking it.

While you'r not using the disk-binding, you could use this concept by punching holes and putting them in a small binder. I don't know how you could get them into your wire-bound book, though.

neat idea

I have thought about doing something like this before, but never made it happen. I really like the idea! I have a long weekend here, so just might do some work on my planner set up! Thanks!!

you're welcome

The only thing keeping me from loving this is the absence of a proper punch! This punch shortage is getting to me! (paid 2.5 weeks ago, still not here...)

I kind of covered this in

I kind of covered this in another thread, but glad to repost it here.

I always have a notebook or notepad with me to record thoughts. Per the GTD system, I write stuff down as I think of it through the day, and then "process" it into the appropriate context or calendar day. I do NOT have a sheet specifically called "next actions".

I agree with some of the other posters that you should keep contexts on separate pages. Partly because you could run out of space on one context and partly because you can just grab one list, for example, when you're at the phone.

I have eight contexts in my 8 1/2 x 11 inch binder, and one sheet for each of them. When I complete an action I cross/check it off, so I have a running tally.

Simple is good...

I use forms that are offficially sold for my personal-sized Filofax. It's easier than printing and cutting my own... And, for this use, they fit well enough. I have only one context to a page, and naturally I use both sides. (Even then one of contexts already takes 2...) I replace a pages mostly as they are "done" - I am trying not to let anything stay undone on NA-list too long.

I have 5 contexts:
- @ home
- (To discuss) With my husband
- @ phone
- @ computer
- @ errands
(Just finished my job so no context for that at the moment.)

As you can see, someday/maybe and waiting are not counted here. So far I have not divided them into countexts. In addition I have a project list, but NA's of the projects are marked to the normal NA-lists.

For simple mini-projects I don't make a separate project page at all - I find it sufficient to have them mentioned in the project list and simply always having an action in the NA-list, if then not in the waiting-list. I have thought, however, of making a form suitable for such mini projects, e.g. 4 projects on both sides of a page. (The 4-field-form in DIYP would be good, but there's none for my size.)

Multiple lists

I break all the "don't do this" rules with my planning.

I don't use GTD religiously
I don't have all my next actions/tasks in one place
I don't have project pages. I brainstorm my projects and write the large tasks (aka next actions) in the various lists and fill in the smaller next actions as I go.

- Next actions that are "@ housework", "@ routine, personal", "someday/maybe, personal" etc are in business card size fobster.
These are on one side of the card only as I reuse old business cards and it's hard to read over the writing. :)

- Next actions that are "@ work" are written into a week-to-an-opening A5 (half letter) diary by date (that never leaves my desk)

- Next actions that are "@ personal" or "@ friends" etc are in a small moleskine diary

It works for me. I'm sure it would annoy many people as everything isn't in one place and 50% of it is in my head

Don't feel bad.

I've never even read the GTD book. I know the basics from people talking on this forum, but I've never tried it. I just keep a boring plain to-do list. When I worked I had a list there and a list for everything else. And that's it. But my job didn't have projects.

Back when I was a programmer I kept lists for each project and then copied my immediate to-do items to a main to-do list. The main list was on paper, the project lists were on the computer.

Works for me. I've never had to juggle a lot for a job though.

One big ugly list and satellite lists

I've switched over from index cards to an ordinary steno type notebook for, well, call it my master inbox. I start with a new page each day, and put the current date at the top of each page (both sides)as I use it. Everything goes there, as it comes to mind -- appointments, things to do, things to buy, movies that sound good, chunks of text as I use 'gaps' to write, whatever. I just draw a horizontal line between each 'item' and draw a symbol indicating what it is in the right margin.

Though 'symbol' is a rather grand word. Stuff to buy gets a dollar sign, except stuff from the grocery store gets a "G". Appointments get the appropriate date written large and clear. "P" is for phone calls to make, "TD" for any other ToDo type task. "V" and "B" are for videos/movies to watch and books to read, respectively. Text blocks just have a squiggly line drawn down the margin. Etc.

Every evening I type the text blocks into computer files and 'delete' them by drawing a slanted slash through them with a highlighter. (I do all the crossing out with highlighters so I can reread what's crossed out, if I ever have to.)

Whenever convenient, generally when I'm next back at my desk, I move the appointments to either my work calendar or the one page per month calendar I use for non-business hours stuff and cross them out of the steno notebook.

Every now and then I move things like books to read/movies to watch/stuff to buy to a dedicated 'satellite' list just for that category. These are mostly spiral bound notebooks, around 4X6 in size. Mostly they live in my glove box, waiting until I happen to be near the library or hardware store or whatever. These all get crossed off the master list as they get moved. (Groceries go onto the divided-by-category list on the side of my fridge.)

Pretty much all that leaves are ToDo stuff, tasks and phone calls, which I cross off as I do them. When a page is completely crossed off I pull it out of the steno notebook, use scissors to shave the 'ears' off the top of the page, and stick it into an 'archive' folder. (I assume I will eventually toss these pages, but so far I haven't.)

Anyway, I find having most stuff on lists dedicated just for that type of item AND which can be kept in the locations where they are most likely to be needed works much better for me than having to keep all of them on me in a planner all the time.