The Power of Verbs

Getting things done is not an easy task. Or maybe I should say is not an easy life path. Making clear goals, organizing and planning them, and then actually doing them, that’s tough. Pretty tough. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that will agree on that.

Of course, we can alaways implement new methodologies, like GTD, or constantly improve our personal skills. But that will not spare us from the actual effort of actually doing. It’s a constant struggle, with constantly growing rewards. Every little step that move me forward on this path, it’s a special one. It’s a milestone on my road towards the choice of a personal path, it’s another overcomed crossroad.

Today I’d like to talk about one of these little steps. One of the most important, yet subtle, thing that I discovered while GTD-ing, was the power of verbs. After each weekly or daily review I end up with what I can call a list. A list of to do’s, in the general acception, and a list of Next Actions, in the GTD acception. Here is a little sample:

  • blog post about mind mapping
  • milk, daipers and baby food
  • meeting with the client
  • new functionality on the network of websites I own

Just a list. And, several days ago, it just hit me: that this is just a list. And I didn’t realized that which much joy, to be honest. While I was thinking that I am actually improving my getting thins done skills, all I was actually doing was nothing but creating lists. And a list is not a helping tool. It’s just a collection of items.

Well, after the first reactions after this somehow surprising discovery, I decided that it’s time to move forward and try to make my list a little more useful. So, I started to put some verbs in front of the items. I ended up with something like this:

  • write blog post about mind mapping
  • buy milk, daipers and baby food
  • go to meeting with the client
  • decide about new functionality on the network of websites I own

And, suddenly, everything was changed. The list was magically transformed into something else. It wasn’t just a list, anymore. It becomed a list of actions, instead of items. A story board. My story.

Also, putting verbs into my list forced me to make decisions. The last item on the list, was actually just a thought. The moment I verbalized it, I had to come with a decision: I will actually implement it? Do I need this? What is it, after all? If I would let it into its initial form, the item wouldn’t evolved in any direction. It would just remain an item.

A little change like this can have huge effects on your actions. It can instantly evolve you from the “collector” stage to the “action” stage. It can make you the hero of your own life, instead of the scrybe of the life that you will never have.

[tags]gtd, productivity, personal development[/tags]

7 thoughts on “The Power of Verbs”

  1. I love how simple you’ve just made this whole idea. If you force yourself to start with a verb, it becomes an actionable list.

    In my weekly review packet, I have a page with two lists of verbs (my wife gave it to me. I don’t know where she got it.). One list is verbs that indicate something is a project. The other list is verbs that indicate something is a single action.

    Thanks for the great post.


  2. Yes, I think that’s exactly the difference between “collector” stage and “action” stage. You may collect huge amount of stuff, but actually doing it it’s a completely different story. And sometimes the little things, like this one, can make it happen easier.

  3. Looking at my task management system, I found that I tend to do this anyway. However, it is helpful having this “action methodology” spelled out, particularly when looking at tasks that have been languishing for a while, where I need to ask “what is the next action that will move this project towards completion?”.


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