A dog's breakfast - Next Action Associates

“Oh Dad! You promised!”, my son shouted through the Travelodge lobby at an hour that will not have gone down well for those with Boxing Day hangovers. He was not happy.

He’d just discovered that there was no all-you-can-eat full English at the Epsom branch, just a ‘Breakfast on the Run’ box containing cereals that looked suspiciously like dog biscuits. It was no substitute for a child who knew that just across town his uncles, aunts and cousins were tucking into golden pancakes, crispy hash browns and sizzling bacon at the Premier Inn.

I realised in November that I’d dropped the ball when I tried to make reservations for our annual family get-together and discovered that the hotel we’d chosen was full. So when my next GTD Weekly Review came round at the start of January, the disappointed and hungry faces of my kids were still visible in my mind’s eye, and I decided not to let it happen again.

One of the elements we recommend in the weekly review is to look back at your calendar for the last couple of weeks to see whether there are things that need to be carried forward. Some of this might be routine rescheduling of things that simply didn’t happen – cancelled meetings and so on – but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the things that did take place and, if they could’ve gone better, make some enhancements to your future plans to make sure that next time they do.

With that in mind, here’s the action I created in my Outlook calendar as I thought back about my recent accommodation fail;

The intention is that having this September reminder for my future self means that next year I’ll book in good time. It doesn’t have to happen on this specific day, it’s just designed to be a trigger for timely action which can be re-evaluated when the time comes.

If everything is set fair for another Christmas gathering down South, it can be booked straight away. Alternatively, if plans need to be checked with others first – or if I’ve won the lottery and Christmas in Barbados is finally going to get off the ‘Someday Maybe’ list – then different actions can be set in motion.

What’s important is that it will have come onto the radar at the right time in nine months’ time with zero further thought or effort.

Here are some other actions that sprang from the same Christmas trip post-mortem and are now scattered around my calendar next Autumn;

  • Book Dartford tunnel crossing in advance for London trip
  • Remember to take wellies to Norfolk
  • Remind kids to charge iPad for the drive to London
  • Book advance tickets for London Eye
  • See if X is free for a drink at New Year

This quick calendar review is one of the exercises we do in our GTD Fundamentals seminars, and delegates often discover several otherwise uncaptured actions from just a couple of minutes of this activity. And, of course, while personal stuff has been the starting point for this article, a calendar review will apply just as much to work stuff; e.g.

  • Follow up with X
  • Thank Y for helping out with the seminar
  • Reschedule coffee with Z
  • Arrange meeting with Z to update on the presentation
  • Make note to order new widgets in July

Give it a go – take one or two minutes to look back in your calendar and reflect on your past couple of weeks, both work and personal. Are there any triggers and actions to carry forward that are useful to add to your calendar or action lists?

If things could’ve gone a little better, it’s an opportunity to fire off some tweaks into the future to make sure that next time they do. And if things simply went badly, it’s an opportunity to avoid a dog’s breakfast next time round.

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