Here are 3 simple tips for having a clear mind and extracting tasks from texts so that they will actually get completed. (And the best part is that these tips apply to emails, phone calls, and in-person conversations as well!)
Today, we’re talking all about a Next Actions List. This is a list of items that are NOT calendar specific and can be completed at any time during the week. It is important to not overload this list–we want it to be manageable and we want to be totally confident that the items on this list are the very next, most simple action that cannot possibly be procrastinated or put off.
#1 – Create a Physical or Digital Next Actions List
We recommend creating a space for these contexts of your life: Home, Texts/Calls, Computer, Errands, To Discuss, and Work.
You can customize these categories based on your needs, but we suggest not having more than 7 or 8 contexts. How would you categorize the different areas of your life?
This is an example of a Next Actions List that can be printed or created in a physical format. For even more templates and ideas, click here!
This is an example of a digital Next Actions List. I keep mine in my Notes app, and it is pinned to the top of of my app. I really like using this system because my phone is always with me and it is really easy to add and delete tasks.
#2 – Intentionally Open Text Messages & Extract the Next Action
Life is busy, and sometimes texts come to our phones when we are in the middle of something else. When we are intentional about opening up texts and extracting the necessary information, things won’t be forgotten or missed. If you can wait until your messages are not competing with other daily tasks for your focus, it will be much easier to extract the next action at hand.
Also, some phones have the capability to preview a text (without marking it as “read”) or mark texts as “unread.” These might be a great option for you to quickly scan a message, gauge its importance or level of urgency, and then come back to it as needed.
Some texts might only require the 2-minute rule. Let’s say you receive a message that says “Hey! Can you send me the group picture from Friday?” That will take 2 minutes or less, so you can go ahead and send the text right away to that person. That doesn’t need to go on your Next Actions List.
#3 – Add the Tasks to Your Next Actions List in the Appropriate Context
As mentioned before, all tasks on this Next Actions List are NOT calendar specific. Anything date or time-sensitive needs to be on your calendar. The tasks on this list will be done some time during the coming week. When you are looking at your calendar for the day and you notice spots with open time or flexible work time, this is a great chance to refer to what is on your Next Actions List and complete a task or two.
Let’s practice together. I’m going to share an example text and I want you to think about where this will go on your next actions list.
“Can you send me 4 pictures from Google Photos for a Mother’s Day card?”
(This would go under my “computer” section since that’s where the pictures are housed and I need to spend 5-10 minutes looking for pictures.)
“I put the Amazon return package on your desk. The return slip is printed and next to the box. Now we just need to go to the post office.”
(This would go under my “errands” section.)
“We are thinking about going to this new restaurant for a double date. Can you ask your husband if he would like to try this food and if you both would like to join us?”
(This is a two-part text! The first task would be “talk to husband” on my conversations section of the list. Then, when I go to check it off, I ask myself, “Am I TOTALLY done with this task?” The answer is no! I need to use the 2-minute rule to quickly text my friend back that we will or will not be interested in joining them for dinner. Or if I don’t have time to use the 2-minute rule right then, I could add this task to my texts/calls section of the list and send the message later on.)
From child: “Can you call the school and excuse my absence from last Thursday?”
(This would go under phone calls.)
“Can you help me change the light bulb in the laundry room?”
(This would go in my home context on the list, but first, I would think, “Do we have lightbulbs?” If not, that next action would be added to my errands or computer list to purchase, and then when I am completing that task, I would add “change the bulb” to my home list.)
Thank you so much for this. My Command Central is working well, but I have literally 10 years and thousands of e-mails to go through.
Alia Clawson says
You’ve got this! And if you’d like some additional support with emails, this is a great resource! (I’ve been following these tips for 10 years and it’s been super helpful.) https://learndobecome.com/inbox
This has been super helpful, thank you, and so well written! I remember April saying to “boil it down” when it comes to your Next Action Steps. 🙂 Even though I am not enrolled on the STEP program yet (can’t quite justify the expense based on my current needs), your emails are always a source of encouragement, and so filled with warmth. I find all the little bites of support -such as this one- easy to digest and am so appreciative. This episode helps me to “see” the little light at the end of the tunnel, and I can’t wait to try this out and see what it feels like to off load that mental baggage. THANK YOU!