Personal Time Management

Tips for Time Management at Work & Your Daily Life

What is the next action step?

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Sometimes there is an item on your "to do list" that you feel really stuck with. You are not sure what to do. Or perhaps there is something that you have been procrastinating about for a while and haven't been moving forward with.

What can you do to get out of being stuck, and move forward? The answer is simple. Ask yourself 'what the very next action I need to complete to move the project forward?'

This is the next real physical action you need to take. It's also usually better if you break it down to something small, something that seems easy – a simple step.

Working out what you need to do next is part of the methodology of Getting Things Done by David Allen. It's also just common sense.

As soon as you take some action, you'll get your momentum back. Often the reason you have lost momentum is because you are really not quite sure what comes next. It all seems too hard and so you just defer it. Often, the next action will only take a few minutes to complete. Once you work out what it is then it feels like a load has been lifted off your shoulders – just the very act of working out what it is makes it seem so much easier.

Also, you might currently have a "to do" list, but when you look at it, you don't feel very motivated. It all seems too hard. Often that is because the "to do" list really is not a list of to dos but instead a mixed list of longer harder projects, simple to dos and some other stuff that you don't even know what you are supposed to do with it. When you look at this mixed list of tasks you feel overwhelmed because there is no clear path to success and you really haven't determined what you should do about all the stuff on your list.

So what can you do to improve your productivity in this situation? The simple answer is to look at each task on your list and write down the next physical action you need to take to complete it.

Clarifying your next actions in this way makes your work life a lot less stressful and more productive. In an organization, when everyone has clarified "What is the next action to take?", it makes the organization a whole lot more productive. For example at the end of a meeting, everyone should ask “What are the next actions we need to take as a result of this meeting and who is responsible for the next action steps?”

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