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llbean

productivity GTD definition of "actionable"

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Alright, maybe this is an obvious question but I've seen I seem to remember it being a couple different ways.

Does actionable mean "presently" or is it not time-horizon specific? Somebody have a really good GTD definition?

LLBean

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courtesty of Thomas Owens:

Someday/Maybe items are things that you can't or don't need to do right now. Examples are things like vacations or ideas for future projects.

Actionable items are things that you need to do now and you have the context, time, energy, and spending the time and energy will yield a payoff. These relate to current projects or tasks.

Something that is a Someday/Maybe would be a big trip. It's something that you want to do, but perhaps you can't take time off from work, or you have too many high priority tasks, or you don't have the money. Put it on Someday/Maybe and reassess in the future when you have the time and energy (and any other needed resources or skills).

If you can do it now (you are in the appropriate context, have the time and energy, and it is of sufficient priority), then you can choose to take action on that item.

If you can't do it now, put it in he backlog of next actions, schedule a future time to do it when it's appropriate, or pass the task on to someone else.

Another definition:

Well, if it’s doable or actionable (meaning it takes 2 or less minutes to complete), go ahead and do it. Simple enough, right?

If it’s doable, but takes multiple actions, we call that a project. Dump that project into a “projects” list, as a reminder that it might take a little more time to finish. You’re going to review this project list on a regular basis, so don’t worry about forgetting it.

We’ve also got some other options for doable items. We can either delegate it (my personal favorite), or defer it (the procrastinator’s favorite). If you’re going to defer it (you lazy bum), then it should be broken down into next actions (more on that soon), or put on a calendar.

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I think to add to what Ben has said, actionable items need to be true actions and not ones that you need to do something else first or that need to be broken down.

For instance, you might put "call Realtor" as an actionable item and if you had a Realtor and their phone number it would be actionable, but suppose you intend to call Bob first to find out who he used. Then the item isn't really actionable.

Similarly if you are planning a party, you might put "cook food for party," but really need to put "look through recipes for party food, make shopping list, shop" then finally cook.

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To amplify a little, I think they key to actionable is "able to take action." To use Candid's call-the-Realtor example, if you need to call Bob first then you aren't able to take action on "call Realtor." That item won't become action-able until you've completed "call Bob" (and probably "look up Realtor's number.")

I'd also like to add to the "takes 2 minutes or less to complete." Not all actionable items can be completed in 2 minutes or less. For example, as a writer, one of my actionable items might be "work on Chapter 5." That certainly doesn't mean "work on Chapter 5 for 2 minutes and then move on to something else." It means something more like: when conditions are right for writing, work on chapter 5 rather than working anything else. Work on it as long as possible (considering time, energy, productivity, other constraints)." Until I finish Chapter 5, "work on Chapter 5" will remain an actionable item.

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I personally use actionable and non actionable terms in a little broader sense.

To me actionable means that it's related to actually taking some action (it could be now or in future/someday).

Actionable - something which could be done or acted on. It includes actions(regardless of context and time), projects, Someday/maybe projects and so on.

Non actionable means it's just information with no actions attached, e.g. articles, project support materials and etc.

To amplify a little, I think they key to actionable is "able to take action." To use Candid's call-the-Realtor example, if you need to call Bob first then you aren't able to take action on "call Realtor." That item won't become action-able until you've completed "call Bob" (and probably "look up Realtor's number.")

I think you're talking about "next actions" in gtd and not just all "actionable" items.

A quote from GTD book

The “next action” is the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.

Some examples of next actions might be:

• Call Fred re tel. # for the garage he recommended.

• Draft thoughts for the budget-meeting agenda.

• Talk to Angela about the filing system we need to set up.

• Research database-management software on the Web.

These are all real physical activities that need to happen. Reminders of these will become the primary grist for the mill of your personal productivity-management system.

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I would simplify this even further:

Actionable = Task (something that you can actually take action on or complete without breaking it down into further sub-tasks).

Not all actions or tasks can be completed in two minutes or less. For example, reading a white paper is an action, but if it's lengthy, it may take far longer than two minutes.

A project in and of itself is not actionable - but the sub-tasks within it are.

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Actionable = Task (something that you can actually take action on or complete without breaking it down into further sub-tasks).

I think you're talking about next actions, and not just everything "actionable". Well at least that's how I see it. I mean Next Actions and Actionable stuff in general are different things to me personally.

But well, people use those terms slightly differently, and there's no absolute right or wrong way.

Here is a workflow diagram from David Allen GTD book for example

7153102407_a993535505_b.jpg

David Allen defines projects as something which is "actionable" but doesn't define someday/maybe as actionable.

I personally split some Someday/Maybe into:

"on-hold/paused" projects which I still consider actionable

"Maybe" projects which are closer to just plans/ideas instead of actionable stuff.

Also David defines project support as "actionable". (and I don't, but it's a close call).

a quote from GTD book

Actionable 

This is the YES group of items, stuff about which something needs to be done. Typical examples range from an e-mail requesting your participation in a corporate service project on such-and-such a date to the notes in your in-basket from your face-to-face meeting with the group vice president about a significant new project that involves hiring an outside consultant.

Two things need to be determined about each actionable item:

1. | What “project” or outcome have you committed to? and

2. | What’s the next action required?

so basically the bottom line is

"actionable" is just "stuff about which something needs to be done" according to gtd and David Allen.

The “next action” is the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.

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