The Next Action

This time next week I’ll be in Chicago ready to kick off our marketing workshop for OSA members from USA and Canada. It will be the second time we’ve hosted this workshop, we did a version for UK members in Ibiza a couple of weeks ago. Several members reported that they took the following day as an ‘on the business’ day so they could reflect on everything they heard and prioritise their own plan of action. This is a habit I have long had myself since the earliest days of my first trips to Silmo and Mido. I would extend the trip by an extra day to allow 24 hours of reflection and discussion and formulating of plans and strategy. It was always worth the extra investment of time. It didn’t hurt that it was an extra day in Paris or Milan either. Think of it as allowing your brain time to digest everything it has just seen or heard.


There is another habit that will help you move more from your ‘to-do’list to your ‘done’ list. This habit is really about clarity and training your mind to be clear about what has to be done. It is the habit of the ‘next action.’ I find it is particularly useful to think like this after you have given your mind a bucket load of stimulating thoughts. Looping back to those of you who were at the conference, no matter what hit home with you, no matter what the top priorities and projects you took away from it, they all need boiled down to the NEXT ACTION. Because the thing is you can’t DO an idea. You can’t DO a project. You can’t DO a goal. You can only DO an ACTION.

The good news is that there is only a very small number of possible next actions you can take regardless of your goal…

…Call someone. Pick up the phone and speak to someone to get this thing moving.

…Email someone to start the ball rolling.

…Research something. Maybe you need to research it before you contact someone. If that’s the case allocate 30 minutes and do the research. You don’t need days or weeks. You’ll be surprised what you can find out in 30 minutes if you’re focused.

…Write something. Collect your thoughts on paper. Map out the strategy in writing. Make your plan. This doesn’t take long either. It will take forever if you mull it over, endlessly in your mind, without ever committing the thing to paper. Instead take 30 minutes to get what you can on paper and then establish whatever the NEXT action is after that. And keep going.

To really get your ‘Next Action’ habit into full flow be sure to practice the following after you establish what the next action is:

Do it – if it takes less than two minutes do it now.

Delegate it – give the next action to someone else to do for you.

Defer it – add it to your calendar to do at a specific time. When something is scheduled it becomes real and the chances of it happening multiply exponentially. And if you can’t schedule it there and then add it to a list of next actions that you review when you plan your week.

Getting clear on your next action for every project you are committed to doing will eliminate feelings of overwhelm and stress and you’ll actually be getting stuff done. So don’t ponder ideas too long, don’t stare at your notes and think I really would like this to happen. Instead train yourself to clarify and ask “what is the next action I can take to move this forward?”