This is pretty much a combination of two brilliant ideas from other people, so it's entirely likely that this has been posted before. But just in case...
Many people identify "next actions" with a tag, but I prefer for tasks to be next actions by default. (Otherwise, I worry that something will "fall through the cracks" in between my weekly reviews if I forget to tag it.) Doing it this way gives me peace of mind, so I'm not taking up brain space with worrying about it.
To accomplish this, I set up a smart list that identifies everything that is NOT a next action, and then exclude that list from my @context lists.
This is basically a combination of:
rajjan's famous sleeper tag method
chad.davis's briliant start date tag idea
(6th comment on this thread: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/forums/tips/10346/).
Here are my exclusion smart list criteria:
(tag:zzz AND dueAfter:now) OR
(tag:z1d AND dueAfter:"1 day of now") OR
(tag:z2d AND dueAfter:"2 days of now") OR
(tag:z1w AND dueAfter:"1 week of now") OR
(tag:z1m AND dueAfter:"1 month of now") OR
(tag:startdate AND dueAfter:today) OR
(tag:tickleme AND dueAfter:today)
If you use a "waiting" tag, add "OR (tag:waiting)".
If you use a "project" tag, add "OR (tag:project)".
Call the list whatever you want. I left mine named "zzz" so it shows up last in my lists.
Now, to see ALL of your next actions, just search for "NOT list:zzz". This is a good test to see if it's working---if anything shows up that shouldn't, adjust your zzz list criteria accordingly.
Then add "NOT list:zzz" to the end of any smart list you use to show next actions. For example:
list name: @home
criteria: tag:@home NOT list:zzz
And one that is a little more complicated:
list name: top
criteria: (dueBefore:"2 days from today" OR NOT priority:none) NOT list:zzz
This shows everything that is overdue, due within the next 2 days, or has a priority of 1, 2, or 3, but is not on the zzz list.
To take this one step further, I have actions default to my @computer context as well. To do that, I simply define it like this:
list name: @computer
criteria: NOT (list:zzz OR tag:@home OR tag:@out)
This way, every task ends up on my @computer list if I don't tag it. This works for me, because if I have forgotten to tag it then the REAL next action is to tag it... which is an @computer task. And I can focus on my @context lists during the week and not worry that I'm missing something.
I hope that's helpful to someone. Thanks for reading!
Posted at 8:59am on January 18, 2014