How many times have you promised yourself or someone else that you’d do something and never actually do it? A lot I bet.
You might be too busy. You might forget. You might even agree to something only to later realize that you don’t even want to do it. Regardless of the excuse, your inaction leads to a dead end.
I’ve definitely hit some walls lately when it comes to blogging, promoting my content, and attempting to start a side business. It’s not that I can’t do these things; it’s that they just become fleeting thoughts in my head or are thrown onto a to-do list that I don’t pay enough attention to. What I really have failed to do is break down these broader tasks into smaller, more manageable next steps and keep consistent track of them. Changing my habits in this way would allow me to do one thing at a time and actually make progress. Next steps should not be an afterthought but rather a crucial part of accomplishing tasks and goals.
Depending on the circumstances, determining next steps can be easy or difficult. It’s mindless to come up with next courses of action when you’ve tackled a problem or performed a certain task before. If you’re smart, you’ll already have a system in place that basically eliminates thinking.
However, if it’s your first time encountering a situation, you probably do not know what to do. That’s totally fine. The good news is that you’ll likely at least have an idea of where to start. For example, talk to people who have been in similar situations before and gain feedback from their processes. If you’re doing research, ask lots of smart, pointed questions, whether in a search engine or to people you’re working with. Guessing what to do next by relying on a lack of experience will almost surely lead to disappointing results.
When it comes to actually taking next steps, a lot of people just react and start executing on whatever pops into their heads first. This works fine when the task is simple and requires a single step. Tackling larger problems complicates things, though. Reactively executing in these more complex situations might make you feel more efficient in the short-term, but it will cost you in the long-term because your actions are not grounded in a carefully thought-out plan.
Instead of quickly taking a first step, actually take some time (e.g. 5 minutes) to think about the ask and how you would systematically go about carrying it out. Write down your thoughts and organize them in a linear way. Set deadlines and assign responsibilities where applicable. As the plan takes off, it will feel good to cross off steps upon completion. Maybe even reward yourself to give you that extra motivation. If you’re worried about putting on the brakes mid-plan, find yourself a coworker or friend who will keep you accountable.
After you’ve taken all next steps and finished what you set out to do, it’s beneficial to analyze what you did, especially if it’s something you will encounter again.
What could you have done differently?
How could you have done it faster?
Ask others around you for feedback. Being critical as taking criticism will force you to get better. Take your learnings and apply them. Rinse and repeat.
What’s a project you can’t seem to be making progress on? Share it below and tell me your first next step!