Ditch To-Do Lists. Create Life Maps Based on Contextualised Next Actions

Imagine you have a list of several things that need to get done. Both personal and professional.

How do you track these things so that you don’t miss out on them?

Most people maintain some form of a to-do list.

I used to be a big fan of  To-Do lists as well, and I thought I was being productive! But in reality it wasn’t really helping me in getting things done®.

To-do lists aren’t effective for a number of reasons:

    • They can get long to the point where you dread looking at them
    • They don’t come with convenient “Next Actions”. Most items are vague and in fact projects requiring multiple steps. And you have to re-think your “Next Action” every time you approach a to-do list.
  • Lists tend to repel you and become a dead weight. You often end up creating a new one to replace your existing nemesis.

Ever since I started practising GTD, I realised the futility of typical to-do lists.

Instead I now have a list of “Next Actions” I need to take organized by proper Contexts. Which means I know exactly what I need to do when I am in a particular setting and thus can make optimal use of time and resources.

For example “@Office” here are the Next Actions I need to take:

    • Brainstorm on Furnishing offer
    • Collect post it note for car
  • Discuss new campaign idea with RK

“@Computer”

    • Draft email copy for new upcoming Workshop
    • Create Typeform for MA’s Weekly review
  • Create checklist for landing pages

It now feels like I have a map for different areas of my life. When I’m at work, I pick up my @Office Map; to see the Actions I need to take at my office. When I’m in front of my laptop I open up my @Computer Map to see what I can do take my various tasks forward.

Here’s how you can build “Maps” for your life.

Start Maintaining Next Action Lists

Whenever you have a thought like “I should do this…” or “I need to do this…”, instead of just writing it down, also identify the very next action you must take to register progress on it.

For example, instead of just putting down “Health checkup”, ask yourself “What’s the Next Action I need to take to move forward on this?” A possible answer could be: “Call Apollo hospital to book appointment for health checkup”. That’s your Next Action!

Park Next Actions in Contexts

Create contexts. Here are some example of contexts you could have:

@Calls

@Office

@Home

@Computer

@Errands

@Agenda

In the example above, the Next Action “Call Apollo hospital to book appointment for health checkup”, would go in the “@Calls” list.

You can create your own contexts based on your needs. For example do you meet your boss very often, and have things to discuss with him? You could create a context called “@Agenda: Boss“.

Why are Maps Better Than To-Do Lists?

Once your contexts are populated by Next Actions, you have navigable Maps for different areas of your life. Each Map will give you options & freedom to use your intuition to decide what is most important to you at a particular moment and take action on it.

By making this change, I rely on my system to guide me in terms of what I need to do next. Once I started trusting my system, my mind was free to let go of the what, why and where and focus on the actual execution. And as I built trust in my system, I used it more often, enjoying the benefits.

Never forget an Agenda item to discuss!

Another great benefit is I stopped forgetting to discuss various points with the people in my life. For example I meet my brother Arif several times a day.

And often I know there’s something important I need to run past him, but I can’t remember the details. They conveniently hit me when he is not around.

But now, as soon as the thought comes to my mind, I put it in the context “@Agenda: Arif“. The next time I’m with Arif, all I have to do is look at this Map and there I can see a comprehensive listing of everything I should discuss with him.

It’s pretty cool. Your own life management GPS! Try it out and share your thoughts below.