- You open your computer to type two specific emails.
- But then you see a message from a friend reminding you to order tickets for a group event this weekend, so you click the link to order those tickets before they sell out.
- Then you realize you didn’t clear the date with your spouse, so you go to send a quick text message.
- When you open your phone, you see a notification from a client who needs to talk with you this afternoon.
- You open your calendar to see if you’re available, but you realize you actually have a different appointment starting in ten minutes that totally slipped your mind.
- You jump up from your computer–never actually sending those two emails you intended to send, and you spend the rest of the day putting out fires, hoping there won’t be new ones tomorrow. (But you know there probably will be…)
(C) Your Current Projects List includes projects for yourself, for your family, and for other activities beyond the home.
- Projects for yourself can include things like, “Play three songs on the guitar” or “Establish a new exercise routine.”
- Projects for your family can include organizing the house or planning a family vacation.
- Projects for activities beyond the home include things for work or volunteer positions. Maybe something like “Email Brenda about the date for December’s employee event.”
Okay, so once you have 7 or 8 current projects on your list, what do you do? How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed?
Here’s an example from the Perry household:
Has your garage ever looked like that?
I could go through and explain each and every part of that mess–like how our green carpet steamer broke three years ago, but I never tried to get it repaired. Or how we went camping, but just kind of threw everything in the garage when we got back because it was really late at night, and we were totally exhausted.
But what’s most important is what we did with all of it.
First step? We wrote “Clean the Garage” on each of our Current Projects Lists.
Second step? We identified our very next action.
A Next Action is the next specific, visible activity that will lead a project toward completion.
Ours was to simply have a calendaring session and pick a couple of days out of the month when we would prioritize the garage.
That took five minutes, and then we spent the whole afternoon cleaning things up last Saturday. (The garage looks so much better!)
Now here’s the key to Next Actions (and if you learn this one skill, you will never procrastinate ever again):
When you are identifying your Next Action, you need to boil it ALL the way down to the most basic step.
If the Next Action you choose is actually a multi-step task–or something that can’t be done until another task is completed first, your brain will freeze, and you will say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just think about this later.”
But that project is still hanging out in your brain and is stressing you out…maybe without you even being aware of it.
Instead, just stop for a moment, think about the most basic, easy, no-brainer of a step that needs to happen in order to move your project forward, and you write that step down.
Because this is such an important concept, we’ve put together a super simple 10-minute lesson for you.
Part 1: Download this Next Actions Worksheet (where you’ll list three of your current projects and identify the Next Action for each)
Part 2: Listen to this Audio About Next Actions (where we’ll give you additional examples!)
Then email us at email (at) learndobecome.com with either a photograph of your worksheet or an example of one project and one Next Action.
In Lesson #3, we’ll show you how we organize these Next Actions so there’s no stress!
- Clean Desk
- Email Rosie
- Plan Vacation
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Snack for Preschool
- Check Airline Miles
- Pay Bills
- Gift for Mom
- Ink for Printer
- Weekly Appointment with Jim
Clearly what’s on the lists changes day to day, but here are a few reasons why this set-up isn’t optimal:
a. Most to-do lists include projects.
As we learned in Lesson #1, projects are multi-step tasks that can’t typically be done in one sitting. When you write something like “Plan Vacation” or “Backyard” or “Clean Desk” on your to-do list, you most likely won’t get those things done in one day. So you can’t really check them off, and then you feel like you failed.
Instead, those projects would go on your Current Projects List, with only the Next Actions for each project you’re working on that week written on your to-do list.
b. Most to-do lists include routines.
Routines are things we do every day, week, month, etc., and we have dozens of them.
Exercise, eat more fruits and vegetables, pay bills, attend that weekly appointment with Jim…. Those are all routines.
Putting those routines directly onto our calendar or onto a Routines and Responsibilities List that we review every week or so is a thousand times better.
It will free up our lists so they can include only the Next Actions we need to accomplish that day.
I don’t know if you’re interested, but I’ve created a Google Doc of some of my daily and weekly routines. You can click here or on the image below to see them, if you’d like. It will show you the kinds of things I keep totally off my calendar and Next Actions List.
Because we want to “get something off our mind” and stick it onto a list, we most often write tasks in general terms–and leave the specifics for later.
But that causes us to procrastinate because we either haven’t thought through the details or we’re not sure where to locate the extra information we need.
Now let’s look at “Ink for Printer.” Do you know what item number you need? Have you thought about how much you need to buy? Did you check your desk drawer where you thought you saw a few cartridges sitting last month? Again, this might sound over-the-top, but, until you answer those questions, that task will sit and sit and sit on your list.
d. Most to-do lists jumble up the contexts.
- To Discuss
What’s awesome about this is that you will easily be able to work from whatever context you are in.
If you are at home with your family, that’s a great time to work on some yard work or plan your vacation together.
When you have time to make phone calls, you give the airline a ring and check with your friend about working out together.
While you’re running errands, you can pick up that preschool snack.
When you and your spouse have discussion time, you talk about how you’d like to eat more vegetables (yay!) and you review that bill that doesn’t seem quite right.
If you have quiet time in your office, you research that gift for mom, email Rosie, and look for those ink cartridges.
My (April’s) list is on paper:
Eric’s list is within Evernote:
Other great apps to do this digitally are Cozi, Pocket Informant, ToDo, and Remember the Milk.
We update/clean off our lists each week, and we’re good to go!
So enjoy the process. Let us know if you have questions. And take a picture of your list to share with us at [email protected]!
Are you ready for more training? Feeling excited about getting your whole life organized and building a “command central” to keep all the details totally organized?