Next Action Analysis Updated

The Next Action Analysis tool’s report has evolved quite a bit over the last two weeks (see picture below) since the initial post (5 metrics for assessing your GTD System).

Here is a summary of the changes:

  1. Added more targeted recommendations for the specific metrics with the most room for improvement along with wiki links that provide GTD advice and ways to use MindReader to address problem. Please add your advice.
  2. Metric subtopics now list the projects or actions that need to be addressed (e.g. activities needing context, projects needing actions, etc). I particularly like the “You have the most work to do in the X context”. On those days where you have your choice of “contexts”, this can tell you where to go. Having these lists close at hand can be a catalyst for review and action.
  3. The scoring was changed so that absolute metrics (e.g. #tasks, #overdue, etc) are scored on an exponentially declining scale rather than with a minimum cutoff. For example, you get 10.0 if you have no overdue tasks, 5.0 if you have 2, 2.5 if you have 4, 1.25 if you have 6, etc. That means if you have 300 next actions and pair that down to 200, you will see your score improve a bit rather than stay flat at 0.0.
  4. The 5F’s reported is now sorted so the worst dimension is listed first.
  5. A new metric measuring the percentage of the projects that have had prioritized was added.
  6. You can exclude “map central”-like central topics from the projects list by assigning a category of “mc*” to them (deactivate after adding the category). Use cautiously as you don’t want stray action items living under one of these excluded projects. This category is intended for the central topic of a map where the project(s) are not in the central topic.
  7. A status summary is shown during report generation so you know the macro is moving along.
  8. Three random “activities of the day” are now included at the bottom of the report. For those days where you just don’t know where to start.

Here is a sample output of the macro:

Sample Next Action Analysis Report

You can compare this to the old version.

Phase I of the 2008 GTD Next Action Analysis Challenge is complete with seven entrants vying for “Most Improved” over the next two weeks. There is still two weeks left to get your entry in for top score and/or the random drawing. I can think of several ResultsManager Power Users who have yet to submit an entry (that is unless they are one of the anonymous entries :-).

If you are a ResultsManager dashboard user, I recommend you download the macro and give it a try whether you want to enter or not. It includes several snippets of code that were previously shared separately including Next Action Roulette, Fire the oldest 10% of your tasks, Are your Next Actions eligible for Retirement, and “percent complete”. No other a software is required. I recommend assigning it to your topic context menu to make it easy to run on your Daily Action Dashboard.

Note that I use the wiki to transfer programs from my home to work PC. This helps me avoid lagging too much in getting updates on the site. The downside is that sometimes undiscovered bugs creep in for a few hours. This particular script has has more than its share and probably a few remain. If you run into a problem let me know or just circle back in a day or so for the corrected version.

From a scoring point of view, I’ve found the “Feasibility: Number of Next Actions” metric to be the most difficult to evaluate. I initially assigned “70” as a 10.0 score but I’m wondering if that is unrealistically low. How many actions should a 10.0 dashboard have? How many is too many as to constitute a red-flag 6.5? Ditto for projects — Please comment below.

The blog will be quiet for the next 2 weeks as I hunker down and vie for the top score prize!


  1. DW said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 7:40 am

    I am working this into my review routine. It is extremely helpful.

    I have a request. How do I assign the macro to the ‘naa’ tag? (I know I should know this and it’s a GyroActivator question, but you’re my hero after that batch processing tip you gave me/us on Sunday.)

  2. ActivityOwner said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 7:50 am

    Thanks — I had forgotten to update “naa” from its earlier incarnation in age analysis. I added it to the tag library.

    The tag just needs to be:

    {send; run:macro:’AO/ao_next_action_analysis.mmbas’}

    Or just paste the packed text from the wiki into the GyroQ dialog box and it will be installed:

    Of course you need to download the mmbas file and put in “My Maps\AO” as well.

  3. DW said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 8:10 am

    Thanks again!

  4. Arkadiy said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 11:51 am

    Thanks, this macro is very helpful!
    I think this update has bug, it analyzes only half of my dashboard.
    My dashboard has 2 sides, one side applies filter #Category=Personal, the other side applies filter #Category= Not Personal.
    For some reason NAA macro calculates metrics on only one side.
    The old version has working fine.
    I can email my dashboard template if it would help in tracing this bug.
    Thanks again for your efforts in maintaining this site and shearing your work and ideas.

  5. ActivityOwner said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

    Ha — the fact that the old version worked is the bug :-)

    I hadn’t anticipated your dashboard customizations as the script is designed to work on the default dashboard. The current version searches for each branch of the default daily action dashboard and copies them to individual hidden maps to add things up without needing to do much filtering/traversing. This approach would only find one each of your “next action” branches.

    I’ll look into making some edits to try to capture multiple branches of the same type onto the temporary maps. I actually have my “AO” world captured as “R:AO” rather than my name and then split it off as a single “next actions” branch on the dashboard with Owner:AO. Cloning all the branches is an interesting idea.

  6. Jose Miguel Bolivar said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 8:52 pm

    Hi AO,

    This macro is superb. I really find it very useful not only to check whether your dashboards are getting out of control unknowingly but also to motivate yourself when thinks are moving in the right direction.

    Re the reader survey I think 70 is actually about right for a week, as it means 10/day on average in a week. After that we may convert some more from “someday” to “committed” in the weekly review.

    2.5 times that figure would probably be a good upper limit.

    As for projects, I think the number should be between 3 and 10 for 70 actions. I also think the number should be somewhat a percentage of the actions, so for the 175 limit I mentioned before the maximum number of projects should be 25.


  7. ActivityOwner said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

    Thanks JM — I am really enjoying working from the NAA branch. I have been in a rut of using the DA Plus dashboard to process my intray, manage my deadlines, and then my targets. That is all useful, but the result is that rather than working my way down into my context lists, I’m constantly dealing with or being discouraged by the sqeaky wheels. This new sorted approach gets me started in the right portion of the dashboard.

    As I mention above, I changed the code so there are no upper limits on projects, actions, overdues, etc, so I’ll put down your “upper limits” as the 65% level.

    Your score will get pretty tiny but there is always a small improvement for any dent you make in the piles. There can be offsetting effects though. For example if you knock off a bunch of young tasks, the “feasibility” score will improve, but your “freshness” score may go south.

    3-10 projects sounds pretty conservative, but perhaps it is realistic. I tend to have just a few “next actions” on any given project, but lots of projects on the radar. It would take a lot of discipline to admit to myself I wasn’t realistically going to touch them in a given week. It would be interesting to modify the “mark task complete” macro to always track the parent project as a call out to see how many projects actually get advanced in a typical week. A metric on actions/project might be interesting as well.

  8. ActivityOwner said,

    January 15, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

    Arkadiy — I changed the macro so that it will incorporate multiple branches of each type on a dashboard. You need to make sure each branch still has athe substring the macro is looking for — i.e.:

    “committed next actions”
    “needing next actions”

    If you enter and win the contest, I reserve the right to make this your “custom macro” prize, and if you don’t enter, to have this new feature disappear again :-).

  9. MindReader: How to best read your mind? » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    January 18, 2008 @ 1:04 am

    […] just type it out. Don't overuse this feature or your next action list will turn red and your NAA score will suffer […]

  10. Jon B. said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    I updated to mindreader with setup159 recently. I am using mindmanager 8.2.319. Now, when I run NAA, everything seems to complete, the temp map goes away and takes me back to the daily actions map, but mindmanager becomes completely unresponsive. I have a 2 core laptop and during this entire process, one of the cpus spikes to 100% and never comes down. I have to kill mindmanager. Basically, NAA is now useless. Any ideas?

  11. ActivityOwner said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

    Hi Jon — I’m not sure what would cause that. The program hasn’t changed significantly recently. Are you using any other add-ins? Some add-ins (like Mind2Chart) might react to the sudden addition of new topics and need to chew on them for awhile. MindManager’s roll-up feature might also create an issue. Which version of MM are you using?

  12. Jon B. said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    I found it only happens when using it from the Ribbon. If I run naa from Gyroq, the problem does not occur. I am using MM 8.2.319

  13. ActivityOwner said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    That is strange. The ribbon is just running the same macro at this point. Do you have auto-save on?

  14. ActivityOwner said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    OK — I have a hunch what could do this. The last think NAA does is open a web page with advice. MM could be having trouble doing that. You might want to disable the internal web browser to see if that helps.

    This question prompted me to convert the NAA script to It now runs much faster! On my system it went from 65 seconds to 22 seconds. I uploaded a new build (0022) with this included.

  15. Jon B. said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

    Ok.. Thanks, I will try this. Also, I did disable autosave earlier based on comments you made in other blogs. I will download the new build.. then attempt again in the ribbon. If that fails, I will disable the internal web browser. If that still fails, I will try again from gyroq..
    Thanks for the quick response.. and.. of course, the great tools!

  16. Jon B. said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

    I downloaded the new code and replaced the existing macro.. Same issue occured.
    Disabled the Browser – Same issue
    Ran it from Gyroq – no issue..
    Strange but true.. If there is something I can do to debug this, please let me know. At this point, I have a workaround, so not a big deal for me to not use the Ribbon.

  17. ActivityOwner said,

    March 24, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    Hi Jon — One thing we could try would be to compile a separate version for you and insert dialog boxes to determine at what point in the code (if any) it is stopping at.

    First, I’d like to have you try one thing. Open “My Maps\AO\naaconfig.mmap” and go to the “showadvice” topic and put a 0 instead of a 1 in the note. I still suspect the problem is somehow related to the script trying to show you the advice page. This will disable that.

    Do you have any other add-ins installed?

  18. ActivityOwner said,

    March 25, 2011 @ 5:32 am

    Jon — one more suggestion if the above doesn’t work. Please download the latest version of the tool and give that a try. It occurred to me that I had a problem with a tag (clo) that closes unmodified maps when I ran it from the ribbon. I think the problem is that MindManager has figuring out what to do when it closed the active map.

    NAA was closing the active temporary map before switching back to the dashboard. This might have been causing a similar issue for you. Now it switches over before closing the temporary map.

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