2 February 2012

Next Action Balls Reset

emtpy next action balls basket

omg, it’s been more than 7 years since I’ve came up with the Next Action Balls process (see the entire series). Since I’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting rid of physical and digital clutter the NABs also had to go, basically I’m back to square one.

25 April 2007

Next Action Balls 16

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

Holy crab, the last entry in the Next Action Balls series was written 8 month ago.

Basically back to paper. Paper rules.

3 July 2006

Next Action Balls 15

current snapshots of my next action balls

cyrkam airt�s – a quite relaxing game which kinda emulates the next action balls process (thx. Kai).

27 June 2006

Next Action Balls 14

snapshot of todays next action balls

Holy crab, the last entry in the Next Action Balls series was written about a year ago.

Effect: my stuff is spread around everywhere on the web (give me a wiki or an application which lets you create lists and I’ll use it – for a week or so at least), hypertrophic dysfunctionalism.

Back to analog collecting, I guess.

16 June 2005

Next Action Balls 13

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

Well, after quite some time taking an almost exclusively paper based / analog approach for organizing my work-, info-, and data flows, the more toolish parts of my brain started feeling itchy and scratchy, and I started to use a few applications again (Basecamp, local Wikis, and most enjoyably Edward Vielmetti’s shuffle theory of management suite.) Hence the basket was closed for a while.

30 April 2005

Next Action Balls 12

current snapshot of my next action balls basket


A few days ago Chris Murtland posted a good set of strategies for deciding on which Next Actions to act upon within a given timeframe. I really love the idea of building a reusable set of patterns (aleatoric next action, mixins,...) that fits ones individual needs.


My (frog shaped) timer, and I feel pretty lost without it. I basically used it for various kinds of sprints (anti-clutter sprints, feed sprints,...), but since its gone I just quit some habits. (I installed EggTimer (a nice little app) but it doesn’t really cut it for me.)

19 April 2005

Next Action Balls 11

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

current mood: lazy, goofy.

minor technical adjustment:

During the past 2 weeks I was experimenting with Mark Wieczorek’s Cascading Next Actions (this article is an overall excellent introduction into the whys and hows of Next Actions), a method I like a lot since it basically eliminates the need for separate project lists at all. The negative side effect for my setup (each Next Action is written on a Next Action Note and made a Next Action Ball when done) was a decreased output of Next Action Balls, since I’m reusing the notes, scribbling the follow-up Next Action on the same note.

5 April 2005

Next Action Balls 10

current snapshots of my next action balls basket

minor technical adjustment:

Supplementary to using a color based scheme for assigning contexts to Next Action Notes I started to annotate them with tags as well – a trick I picked up from Edward Vielmetti. This actually works pretty well since it provides a higher level of granularity for sorting or rearranging the notes if I want to without distracting if I don’t.

22 March 2005

Next Action Balls 9

current snapshots of my next action balls basket

Workflow note to self: sips

sips (I always forget the name) is a OS X command line tool for image manipulation (and integrates nicely with the shell, scripting languages or AppleScript). It rotates, flips, crops, pads, resamples images, changes dpi, and reads and writes metadata (see ADC’s TN2035). This can be quite a timesafer.

sips *.jpg -Z 160 [creates those nicely sized images you see above]

sips -h [displays all options]

12 March 2005

Next Action Balls 8

current snapshots of my next action balls basket

close-up of next action balls (blog exclusive)

Currently I’m trying to shift my ‘goal oriented’ communication from email to blogs. It remains to be seen whether this is a feasible approach, but there are a few promises:

8 March 2005

Next Action Balls 7

current snapshots of my next action balls basket

Originally I wanted to describe my latest and greatest GTD setup here, but then I followed a pointer of Merlin Mann to an article of Mark Wieczorek, who rises the killer question for assigning Next Actions to Contexts:

Can I act on this item as soon as I read it?

This superbly captures the essence of what David Allen is thinking about the @Context lists – and challenges me with some balancing to do between the two forces zen like minimalism and playful hacking upon the system. It’s hard to get rid of habits.

What @actions do you use? – recent thread on Contexts at the GTD forum, CosmoGTD’s posting contains a nice analogy from free jazz, which might be a good idea to consider: you have to learn to play INSIDE first, before you can play OUTSIDE

27 February 2005

Next Action Balls 6

current snapshots of my next action balls basket (first outdoor / snow experience)

Note to self: new koan – somehow hypertrophic attachement to NABs

23 February 2005

Next Action Balls 5

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

close-up of a few actions grouped by context (blog exclusive)

15 February 2005

Next Action Balls 4

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

After taking a class on Stephen Covey’s Focus, I added two plug-ins to my GTD system:

The Time Matrix

The Time Matrix was developed (and trademarked) by Stephen Covey. It uses the concepts of importance and urgency to analyze our activities (we have to do what is important and urgent, we should focus on what is important but not urgent, we probably do a lot of things that are urgent but not important – which we actually shouldn’t,...).

Covey’s overall approach is basically top down (define your values and roles, analyze how you spend your time, recalibrate on the important / not urgent stuff, plan, do, check, act), but I use the Time Matrix in a more lightweight fashion for cross checking what I am actually doing without being obsessed with eliminating all wasteful/useless/not making the world a better place activities. It’s good to be aware of those though.

The Weekly Compass

The Weekly Compass (also developed and trademarked by Covey) is a method for committing oneself to at least one activity each week for refreshing and improving yourself in each of the four basic zones Covey defines (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) and to address important things to be done in each of your roles for the upcoming week. I love this, it’s somehow a higher level next action without adding too much overhead and with frequent (each week) and relevant (what worked, what didn’t) feedback.

6 February 2005

Next Action Balls 3

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

Projects and Next Actions (before ball-isation)

my Calendar (for the hard facts)

On a self-documentary snapshooting trip: recurring tasks (like posting the next part of this series), bills, and other floating stuff go into my tickler system, supplementary project materials are organized in manilla folders.

Contacts, appointments, and essential data are backed up both on my iBook and on a server, the more exotic ideas for things to do sometimes I store properly labeled on a dedicated gmail account.

This week I also started implementing an analog hyperlinking system, but it probably takes some trial and error figuring out a good way to do it. It probably will end somewhere in between the FranklinCovey system (notes are linked to tasks and events) and Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten (everything is linked with everything using sophisticated naming conventions).

Part 1, Part 2, main documentation page.

30 January 2005

Next Action Balls 2

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

close-up of a next action ball (blog exclusive)

[note to self: take Barnes and Noble University photography class]

Click here to find out what this is about, the main documentation page is now hosted via Flickr here.

Merlin Mann’s Introducing the Hipster PDA
Personal Analog Device from the c2 wiki

25 January 2005

Next Action Balls

In a previous posting I mentioned some upcoming forces – the sweetness of tools – that contest my analog / minimalistic approach of implementing GTD.

Another issue is a certain amount of thinking about this approach without adding any value. Currently I’m writing all next actions on 3.5 by 3.5 sized paper-notes. Now: should I tear a NA apart (makes me feel good for a second) when it’s done or should I keep them for future reference? If I keep them, shouldn’t I track metriks like time estimated vs. time actually spent, date issued vs. date done…? If I track those, shouldn’t I look for or build a database that visualizes trends…?

No. I need to trick and stick me to simplicity. Here is my plan:

1. take a basket and remove stuff inside
2. do the next action
3. make the corresponding note a little ball and throw it in the basket
4. repeat 2. and 3. until the basket is full
weekly do the review and post a picture of the status

Here is the next action balls basket as of today: