Fire the oldest 10% of your tasks

Is the “Review dashboards for aging tasks” action item you added to your list after reading a recent post becoming an aging task itself?

Even if you are capturing and completing dozens of tasks each week, a couple of them will invariably be “amorphous blobs” or have something about them that leads you to not complete them quickly. Over time those tasks with a high “cringe factor” can slowly accumulate until several dozen of them are bloating your next-action lists and making your whole system ineffective.

There are several ways to address aging tasks:

  1. Do them
  2. Realize you’ve already done them
  3. Delegate them (better late than never)
  4. Identify a shorter/more concrete “physical” next action to precede them (try using the new MindReader i tag)
  5. Move the start date out into the future to a time that makes sense.
  6. Banish them to the someday/maybe list for a spell.

If you have a lot of “blob” tasks, it can be difficult to determine which to attack first. In order to help address this there is now a simple GyroQ “naaa” next-action-age-analysis tag, which you can install in one step by pasting the naaa tag packed text into the GyroQ dialog box and then run on your Daily Action Dashboard. This tag uses a subset of the code in the more extensive “next-action-verb-analysis” macro and reports its results right on the dashboard rather than in a separate map. Note that this only works well if a large percentage of your actions have start dates associated with them.

next action age analysis example

The naaa tag analyzes the the next actions in your Daily Action dashboard that have start dates and calculates their average age. It then looks for the oldest 10% of the task and adds them to a new branch on the dashboard. You can use the goal of lowering your “average age” metric as a way to motivate yourself to address your aging tasks.


  1. Julian said,

    October 1, 2007 @ 9:11 am

    I’m getting invalid tag error when I try and paste the compressed NAAA tag text…

  2. ActivityOwner said,

    October 1, 2007 @ 1:36 pm

    Are you using GyroQ 1.9.4? The tag is configured to sit beyond the 20-tag limit of 1.9.3 and earlier versions, so that may be what is causing the error.

  3. Julian said,

    October 2, 2007 @ 4:43 am

    Ah – that would be the problem.

    Unfortunately can’t upgrade the GyroQ at the moment because it needs admin rights, which I don’t have on this corporate laptop

  4. ActivityOwner said,

    October 2, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

    Sorry about that. I added a packed text version to the wiki with the tag in the “2” position that should be compatible:

  5. Next Action Analysis Updated » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    February 18, 2008 @ 6:20 am

    […] 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 […]

  6. Next Action Roulette » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    February 18, 2008 @ 6:21 am

    […] now use the GyroQ naaa tag each time I review my daily action dashboard to see what the oldest tags are. Note that this script […]

  7. Chris said,

    January 20, 2010 @ 8:34 am

    Hi AO, I can’t seem to get NAA to work via the GyroQ tag or the macro. I’ve downloaded the latest version of MindReader via the setup script. Please confirm which dashboard the NAA tag should be run on. I’ve got several verions of the Daily Actions dashboard and want to be sure that I am using the correct one.

  8. ActivityOwner said,

    January 20, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

    Hi Chris — The NAA script is designed to work on the original ResultsManager Daily Action Dashboard (Power User). It makes use of information in each of the branches as well as call out information.

    What error are you getting? It is a complex script so its possible there is something unique about your dashboard that is hanging it up.

  9. Chris said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 4:13 am

    Think I’ve solved it. I suspect I was using a tweaked version of the dashboard. I needed to step through the macro to get the ‘do you want to create a naa configuration map’ dialogue but all seems to work ok now.


  10. Declaring GTD Bankruptcy » ActivityOwner.Com – Getting Things Done with MindManager said,

    August 28, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

    […] 12 were over 6 months old. While I generally practice strategies for dealing with aging tasks (see fire the oldest 10% of your tasks), the antibiotic resistant strains had accumulated. I also had several projects with a waiting-for […]

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