One of the MAIN reasons we have piles of clutter in our lives is because we use physical items to remind us to do tasks. For example….
- “I’ll set this bill on my desk, so I will remember to pay it.”
- “I’ll put these eyeglasses on the counter, so I’ll remember to get that prescription filled.”
- “I’ll put this outline by my keys, so I’ll remember to email that proposal to my client.”
All this creates is a physical system of reminders that grows and grows–but RARELY gets done in a timely manner. And every time you see those items, your brain has to scan through the “list” and decide if now is the right time to do those things.
That takes a TON of energy–so your brain will simply start ignoring the piles of stuff. Then, they’ll only get bigger until you get to the point that you’re ready to throw it all away and start from scratch.
But what if there were a better way?
What if you had a simple, seamless system that would hold the reminders FOR you, so your brain (and all the flat surfaces in your life) could feel relief?
What if you never had to spend time looking for things because you had everything streamlined and in their designated places (even with a busy family)?
And what if all that overwhelm you’ve been feeling could finally go away?
Today’s lesson will help you do just that!
0:00 – Introduction
Next Action–The next physical, visible activity that progresses something toward completion. It is specific enough so that you know where it happens, and with what tools (if any). What ‘doing’ looks like.David Allen, Getting Things Done, p. 306
The topics we’re covering for this lesson include:
- Extracting Next Actions – pulling out a Next Action from information, papers, or piles.
- Establishing Next Actions – putting Next Actions onto a specific list.
- Executing Next Actions – how we actually get Next Actions done–so they don’t just sit on an ever-expanding list.
4:52 – Extracting Next Actions
Whether you’re processing a pile of papers, sorting through a closet, or emptying an email inbox, start with the first item and move your way through–processing each thing as it comes up.
- Is no action required? Go ahead and just put it where it goes.
- Is this something I can do in two minutes or less? Do it.
- Does the action need more time? Add that task to your calendar or Next Actions list.
We don’t want to have a bunch of stuff sitting all over our flat surfaces. We want to extract the Next Actions. Then we can file the emails. We can clean up our drawers and cupboards. We can put the papers where they belong. No longer will the items in your space demand your attention–you can simple BE where you are, putting focus on the things that matter most!
8:44 – Establishing Next Actions
We’re going to use a weekly Context-Based Next Actions List (CBNAL). What is a context? It’s the space, time, or device you’ll need to work on a task. Here are a few examples:
- To Discuss
This is a game-changer! All your Next Actions can now be captured in a short, totally-doable list, and your brain can rest–knowing that those tasks will wait for you until you are in that context.
12:08 – Executing Next Actions
Ideally, your Next Actions list will only have tasks that take 5-10 minutes. These aren’t projects or sub-projects. That said, there has to be open time in your day to look at this list.
When you have a simple, short, clear list of Next Actions that feel exciting to you, and you have a buffer of white space in your life, it’s going to change your life. You will move forward with a momentum you didn’t realize was possible!
14:30 – Community Tips Come listen in to hear a few tips from our awesome Steps to Everyday Productivity Mastery community members!
Next Actions Q&A
Here are the questions we covered at the end–come listen in to hear the answers!
Basic Next Actions “How-To”
- 17:50 – How do you maintain your next actions list? Do you rewrite it constantly as you work from it?
- 21:16 – What is the difference between a Next Action and a sub-project?
Making It Short and Specific
- 24:11 – I struggle to make a list specific enough–too often, they’re really more a multi-step item that languishes on the list. Also having too many Next Actions on my lists makes me feel overwhelmed. I need clarity on how to break Next Actions down sufficiently. I tend to think in sub-projects instead of actual Next Actions and this slows me down.
Choosing What Matters Most
- 27:12 – I think I need help with my “purpose.” I can do tons of Next Actions–but I don’t know where I’m going right now.
- 29:12 – I feel like there are so many priorities; it’s hard to whittle it down.
- 31:25 – I struggle to create a list that is practical for low energy days–I often make my Next Actions list when I am feeling ambitious and motivated, but then I need to get things done when my motivation drops.
Dealing with Procrastination and Fear
- 35:48 – Where I get stuck is when there’s some kind of fear involved. If the project itself–or especially if the Next Action itself–requires a decision that I really don’t know what to do, then I might procrastinate no matter how I write it down.
- 39:50 – I struggle with decisions. I catch myself dropping projects that require a Next Action decision and struggle with a sense of dread.
I hope that the stories and experiences shared in this podcast will help you as you work to recognize which actions belong on your list! When you wake up excited and go to bed content, you know you have the right things on your list.
Ready to get started? Choose the top thing from one of your piles (physical or digital), extract the Next Action, and add it to your own Context-Based Next Actions List; then, come share your progress in the comments below! We love hearing from you!
Free Bonus: Printable Next Action Lists
Would you like your very own printable Next Actions List? We have several layouts available for you–just sign up for the Step-by-Step Home Organizing Party to get access to all of the nine Lesson bonus resources! LearnDoBecome.com/party
- [VIDEO]: Optimizing Asana–Using Boards to Manage Projects
- Determine the Highest-Value Activities to Help You Reach Your Goals (Lesson 3)
- Optimize Performance and Resolve Anxiety Issues with Dr. Don Wood and April Perry
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Success is a Choice by Rick Pitino
- When Panic Attacks by Dr. David Burns
*Dr. Wood’s Inspired Performance Program
Dr. Wood’s program has helped me in more ways than I can even tell you. It is an investment. I made this my Current Project for 3 months, because this was my highest priority. But as I worked through the program, I had both immediate and long-term results. As I trained my brain to stop feeling overwhelmed, my mind became calm. I don’t feel stress over anything from the past. (SO weird to say that!) And I’m learning how to disassociate that feeling of anxiety from my need to be productive. I’m able to focus on the most important tasks and just enjoy time with my family.
If you are ready to retrain your brain so that anxiety no longer holds you back, just click the link above to learn more!
Introduction to the STEP Program
If you’re new here, our free one-hour training will show you exactly how to set up your Next Actions and get control over the piles of clutter:
We are newbies and Step members quite overwhelmed but hopeful just diving in . . . Had a wonderful Saturday of LearnDoBecome radio encouragement and stories with April while we made MONSTROUS ventures into the bedroom AND worked with the pile system. Enjoyed little zones of clear space celebrated with a bouquet of greens and a new Dyson vacuum! Came back and treated the vacuum like a toy amazed at what it picked it! Wrote backwards Routines for future reference re deep clean to redo vacuum baseboards of mattress box springs, rotate mattress, vacuum mattress pillow top six months out, then monthly change and launder mattress pad, routine re change change sheets to laundry day for weekly at Home! Loving it and doing it together. Afterall, we sleep in it together! 🙂 Had so much fun with the vaccuum we ventured into the office and arranged a bit on the Command Center and vacuumed under the two work stations and the rest of the room noting that the stacks of boxes of papers did not have the anxiety they would normally have had. They’re being processed into the schedule.
Taryn Wood says
Bobbie, this is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your success story here with us. We’re so proud of you! Keep that motivation going!
4 Day Days and Darwin says he feels “Liberated” Our Command Center is becoming focused, I’m transitioning into a Franklin Covey Classic Binder I had from a previous attempt at organizing, we have a growing list of Projects, and yesterday we each did our Next Steps (phone calls, scheduled appointments, he vacuumed, I used the 3 box method and arranged the book shelves (donating generously including empty notebooks and papers for kids back to school)and took pleasure in arranging some open space with a few special family pics and momentos in three emptied shelves! CURRENT PROJECTS: Emails and Paper Clutter
Next Step: Review Gmail Email Podcast re making 3 files and sort through one paper the pile shredding as we go and making someday piles and filing the rest!