43 folders (via dirtsimple) has a nice discussion of how to manage one’s action items, particularly in the context of categorising things into “next actions”. I liked the following key points about action item lists (paraphrased):

  • Actions need to be atomic (if not, put them on a project to-do list)
  • Make them physical actions (not “think about”, but “write notes” etc)
  • Make sure that any dependencies are resolved
  • If it’s not something one is committed to (i.e. learn about something), then put on a different sort of list (e.g. on-hold, learning list, etc).
  • Make them well defined (begin with a physical verb, e.g. email, call, recode, visit etc).
  • Make sure the items are complete enough that you know what needs doing and why tomorrow, or next week, when you actually get to doing it.