Next actions list

. 2 min read

Have you ever wanted to get more things done? Then I suggest you read David Allen's book 'Getting Things Done'. Don't have time to read? Here's the book in a nutshell: when a task presents itself, you should either do it right away (if it takes max 2 minutes to do), delegate it (if it's not your speciality), throw it in the trash (if it needs not get done), put it in your inbox (if there's no specific time to do it or if the deadline is later or if it's a "someday" idea), or mark it in your calendar (if it's a meeting or something else that concerns a specific time).

(Your inbox is a physical box in which you drop all ideas and tasks, written on paper, that you get during the week and which you empty and sort out once a week. This way you get the idea out of your mind so you can freely focus at the task at hand, knowing the idea isn't lost or forgotten but waits for you patiently in your inbox until the time comes to sort it.)

This is what the book is mainly about. But wait, there's more! One particular handy tool caught my attention when reading it that has literally (okay, maybe not literally, but darn close!) saved my life while studying in the university.

This tool is the next actions list or as I call it, the NAL.

The NAL is a sheet of paper (maybe a very long sheet) that contains every single task you have ahead of you that has either an externally or self-imposed deadline. You write the task with adequate specifics on the left side and the deadline on the right side of the paper. Carry it with you at all times, examine it multiple times a day, add new tasks appropriately as they present themselves, and strike out each task right after you've completed it.

The striking out is important - it creates the addicitive feeling of effectiveness and it teaches your brain to want to strike out more tasks.

When I was finishing my Bachelor's degree and moving on to Master degree studies, the amount of work and assignments and homework for all the courses started to become enormous, partly because I was studying on a faster pace than was recommended and had more ongoing courses than anyone else. Thank lord I read Allen's book then and not years later. I took his advice and listed everything down, carrying the sheet of paper with me everywhere I went. I must admit, though, that at times just seeing the paper made my cortisol levels rocket. Because on good days there would be maybe ten active items on that list. And on bad days? Close to fifty. (Lucky for me they weren't deadlining on the same day!)

The point is that even though I sometimes got stressed about whether or not I could get everything done in time, I could always be sure that no assignment or essay or homework would slip through my system and reach a deadline without me knowing there ever even was a task to be done. It also helped me predict the future: I could see, with one look at the paper, if I would be by my desk all night that night or watching a movie, relaxing.

With the NAL, you'll always be up to date.