Action File

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Contents

[edit] Introduction

The Action File concept isn't specific to Getting Things Done, but it can be a helpful addition to managing a Next Action when there isn't a Project associated with it.

[edit] Who Needs It

Anyone who has to track a single ToDo item which has some physical object associated with it. The physical object could be anything from a sticky note to the People's Republic of Korea. Size doesn't matter, what matters is keeping track of the stuff. Things like this are easier to track when they're associated with a particular project. But when you have just one thing that needs tracking, then it's done for good, you need a way to manage it. Action File to the rescue.

[edit] What's Required

An Action File doesn't require fancy new stuff. You probably have everything you need right now. All you want is a set of files, from A to Z. That's it. You can adapt something you're already using, or get a new A-Z accordion file. I use the accordion file and I keep it on top of my desk, where it's immediately accessible.

  • Supplementary Tickler File: To delegate a task to your future self, it is also helpful to have files marked 1 to 31, representing the days of the months, and also files marked January to December. If you have a pointer to a task, slip that object into the appropriate file folder. Be sure to check and rotate the file folders every day. One can think of this process as sending reminders to oneself -- a personal post office with delayed delivery. Once it's filed, it's out of mind -- per GTD methodology -- until the DO-date. (Highly recommended article written by David Allen: with full details.) --gochess 28 Apr 2005

[edit] How To Implement

Easing the Action File into your system is delightfully easy. When you recognize that you have something that is associated with a Next Action that requires followup, you make a mark on the paper to indicate that this belongs in the Action File: AF. You add to this the letter (A - Z) of the Action File where this paper will reside until you need it. You make the corresponding note in your Palm/Day Timer/Moleskine/Hipster, so you don't lose the item. When you need to come back to it, everything you need will be in the Action File.

[edit] An Example

I need to follow up on a helpdesk ticket. This ticket isn't associated with a particular project, it's just a one-off problem for which I need an answer. My plan is to "Next Action them to death", so I'll be following up on this every single day until I have an answer. When I have the answer, it'll get filed away in my brain, or maybe on an internal wiki.

  1. I print out the original email from the helpdesk person assigned to my problem
  2. I mark the email with 'AF-J', which indicates that this paper belongs in the Action File, under the 'J' section. I choose 'J' because it's the first letter of the person who is assigned to my problem, but it's totally arbitrary.
  3. I keep all my Next Action lists in my Palm, so I make a note in my "Followup" list and I link it to the next day. So the next day, I'll see that I need to get something out of 'J' section of the Action File.
  4. I get the paper out of the Action File and see that I need to call "J." I make the call (or email), then refile the paper in AF-J and set item in my Palm to recur again the next day.
  5. Rinse and repeat until satisfied.
  6. Once you have your answer, you can take your Action File artifact and file it in your reference file, in your head, on your wiki, or just toss it when you know it's done.
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