Decide on the Next Action

I’ve mentioned before that I can be a procrastinator, haven’t I? Now, I’ll admit that I have piles of books that need to be dropped off. We’ve had various ideas about what we want to do with them. Yet the piles continue. Then I got fed up and decided to take one box each week to Half Price Books – at least with most of them. One day I headed to the pile, ready to grab a box and go. Only they’re not all in boxes, a bag was the easiest to reach, and the bag disintegrated in my hand. Guess what, none of those books made it to the car, nor did I go to Half Price Books.

Often when we’re stymied by our stuff, we’re undecided about what we need to do with it. Sometimes when we procrastinate, we’re reluctant to tackle this or that item. These things require us to make a decision. Too often we aren’t even aware of what decision we need to make.

Decisions, decisions. Life is filled with them. Too often, we’re racing through life just trying to get everything done and not stopping to think about how and where we are spending our time and energy. Some piles of books on the three-season porch were frequently the least of my worries. You’ve probably heard the saying “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” (by William James)

Most of the time we need to consider what the next step we need to take is, specifically. It’s great that you can identify the things you want to do. You want to clear out the basement, or spend more time with loved ones. Sometimes we are talking about a “project,” whether we realize it or not. A project is typically any task that takes multiple action steps to complete.

Regardless of what you need to do – ask yourself “What is the next action for this item?” If you can do this, you will have clarity about your to do list. It also amazingly can motivate you to start tackling items you might have been procrastinating.

In fact, an extreme statement (especially from me) – never make a to do list that includes anything except those specific and concrete next action items. If you don’t write out to do lists – when you’re deciding what you’re going to do next, figure out the action.

If you can consistently take a moment, yes that’s all it takes – just a moment, to ask yourself what the next action is for each task you have, you can reduce the amount of time you spend on tasks and work through your tasks.

Unfortunately, the piles of books are still there. When I decided to deal with the piles of books, my next action was to take one box in. Lately when I look at my to do list, I see ‘take a box to Half Price Books,’ I avoid it. In my current situation, the piles of books moved from an action to a project, since I need to box up the books that I want to take in before I can take them in. I also cannot tackle my to do item immediately – the books aren’t ready to take anywhere. I can see how I’m procrastinating it since it’s more than this easy step. Now the to-do list is modified, my next action item is to box up the books.

What will your next action be?

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