Noob questions

Hello ,

First Thank you for this site, and the templates.

I confess I haven't read the GTD book yet. So maybe that would answer a few of my questions.

What is the difference between a ToDO list , an Actions List , and a Next Actions ?



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How you think about it


All three of those lists tell you what you said you wanted to get done. Next Actions is a word specific to GTD. Actions is a non-trademarked approximation of the same. ToDO might be trademarked by somebody else, not sure.

Anyway, GTD has a specific mindset around actions and projects, and the term 'next action' is an outgrowth of that methodology. It's supposed to include only active verb-type things, like "Call so-and-so about ..." or "Write letter requesting ..." or "Buy bread and milk".

Other lists of stuff to do might be slightly less specific and include stuff like "Christmas gifts" or "Remodel Kitchen" that include a whole group of other, more specific tasks.

Around here, though, the forms are just forms--if you like one better than another, use it the way you want to use it. You don't have to be a devotee of GTD, though it definitely has some valuable things to say.


Thank you shris ! Ok , so

Thank you shris !

Ok , so all day I get emails, phone calls , it all goes in my Inbox. (I'm using a 2 page-per-day calendar and use that as my inbox.)

Then I ( help me here ) move stuff to actions lists ?
Then that's what I review each morning to create a list of ? [ list of things todo today? ]

Sorry for all the questions but I've struggled with organizing myself all my life , and I'm now in a position where I cant afford to do things like a used to.


You're talking GTD.

Hi Tim.

It sounds like you're looking for the GTD method. Someone else in the string posted a link to 43 folders, which is a terrific resource.

The general idea is to collect all your 'stuff' (input) in a limited number of 'inboxes', be they physical, email, voicemail, etc. Then occasionally you 'process' the stuff and determine what has to happen to it. Some gets trashed, some gets filed for future reference, some gets moved to the calendar (appointments and date-specific stuff only), some gets moved to a 'later' or 'incubate' type list for later review, some gets moved to a list of active 'projects', and some gets moved to a list of 'next actions'. The next actions list is supposed to contain only those items you can do without having to do or get anything else first.

So this clears out your inbox and puts everything in a place where it will be useful when you're ready to deal with it. This is supposed to happen at a minimum of once a week, but I process my stuff much more frequently than that.

It's the processing that stumps a lot of people, because you have to look at this stuff, figure out what it is and what it really means to you, then decide what has to be done about it and where it goes.

If my desk is my 'inbox' right now, it has a pile of crap (sorry, stuff) on it right now. I'm still unpacking from a move, so a lot of stuff is sitting there that really has no business there. So it's time to process the inbox.
The Soothing Sounds Meditation CD that I got with my exercise ball is sitting on top. There are two possible places to put it: 1) CD collection, 2) trash. Well, now that I think about it, there's a 3rd option--rip it and stuff it in my soft stash, THEN do either 1 or 2 with the physical disk. To process this item, I have to make the decision about what I'm going to do with it. This has me on the horns of a dilemma, because it's likely crap music, but I haven't heard it yet, and I do kinda like some new wave stuff.. So anyway, I have to make a decision about it before I touch anything else in my inbox--decide on the thing and THEN move on. That's processing.

So my decision? I'd like to rip it and get it into my soft stash, then stow it with the rest of my disks in a folder that only gets pulled out for car trips. So, if I have a 'to rip' folder, I'll stick it in there for the day when I feel like ripping CDs, and I'll add the disk to my 'to rip' list (if I had one) in my planner. In reality, I don't have a 'to rip' folder OR a list, so I'll stuff it in the physical inbox on my desk for later. This is Bad GTD Form, but it will work for me because right now I have to get off the computer and go pick up my kids from daycare. :)

Anyway, the idea is to have a home for the stuff you care about (file system), a reminder system that works (calendar and tickler), and a place to stick the things you haven't had a chance to process yet (inbox). You also need a doojiggy to capture 'stuff' when you're away from your inbox--lots of folks use PDAs or index cards or audio recorders or slips of paper for this.

I'm sure the David says all this much better in his book, but there you go.


Eureka Moment

That makes perfect sense.

Thank you so much Shris !


I'll take a whack at it...

Of the three, a ToDo list is the most general.
When you plan specific projects, there are steps that have to be done FIRST before other things can start.
I look at a "Next Actions" list as a collection of those sort of tasks across multiple projects.

I'd recomment reading the book. "First Things First" also.
They approach planning from opposite ends and sorta meet in the middle. I believe they mesh together very nicely
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

A growing book list

Thank you ygor, I really appreciate it


43 Folders

You may also find 43 Folders to be useful. Merlin's done a few summaries on how GTD works.

The main jumping-off point is here:

I personally don't use "next actions"/"actions" because I like the term "TODO" better. I have one general one per week, plus one sheet per project that I'm working on. Calendars should
contain only the information that is actually date-based (e.g. appointments).

I hope that helps!

43 Folders

That does help very much !

Thanks emmajane



I'm introducing my students to GTD using that very page this afternoon!

Tournevis, how can I, as a

how can I, as a mother of three teens, teach or even introduce to my kids/family/ even my husband, this stuff which I am mindblind about?

I'm so jealous of your students! I want a seminar, or class, or workshop, or ~~~ OMG OMG OMG ~~~

I've got DIYPLANNER to help! okay, not having meltdown afterall. just wanted to say, I really wish you were my teacher right now. love learning. didn't when I was a student, but ready to learn now!

most of the stuff I read says 'help your children to....' okay, if I knew how I'd already be doing it, yes?

but kids can learn stuff their parents can't yes?

Ask questions to your kids.

Ask questions to your kids. Force them to think about it by providing you with answers. Ask them how they should schedule their stuff. Ask them what they think is more important in their various activities. Ask them about the goals they need to reach. Don't tell them what to do right away. Ask questions and nudge them towards finding the answers themsleves. Of course, those questions should be age appropriate. Smaller problems/goals for smaller kids. It works.

hi Tim, I am a newbie here

hi Tim, I am a newbie here too...and I'm not going to be able to find it again - but - there is a workflow diagram that explains the flow of the work. I've printed them on cardstock to be more sturdy and then hole punched them into my binder (which I'm dying to change --- rings too big).

One is called 'Getting things Dont' by david allen. it helps me 'see' the flow, but the terms still are something I struggle with. I've been trolling 'bookins' a book trading website' to hopefully find his book! maybe check half price bookstore, or even pop for it retail if I get a good coupon soon.

the second diagram was created by Douglas Johnston for some reason is easier for me to intuit what it means. the question 'is it actionable?' still throws me! cognatively I get stuff, sometimes, but I have to figure out a better way to label that diamond chunk in the flow chart so I can incorporate it better, and I can sense some verb out of it....maybe mine will be 'What can I do' or maybe 'what are the steps' or ....

the third diag. that I printed off is for me the most helpful, again maybe it's m y learning difficulties, but it's created by Scott Moehring, based on Allen's work, and I love it becuase there are visual icons

Anyway, wanted to say 'welcome' to you, and you're not alone poking around this site, lots of good stuff, and great-helpful-patient people in the wings who seem to await my every question - welcome!