Are You Asking The Right Question?
I’m entering a busy time in my life. My family is thriving, my professional career is blossoming, and opportunity is around every corner. With prosperity and growth, comes confusion, distraction and chaos. Chaos is disruptive and can cause conflict and stress in an otherwise awesome life.
I would like to think balance is my ultimate goal, but I’ve realized that balance is an elusive dream that is just not meant for me at this point in my life. So how do I manage my ever growing list of “to do’s” and stay sane? I do it with one powerful question.
“What is next?” is a fundamental and powerful question I ask myself during weekly planning sessions. To do lists are helpful and can help me get through a day, but if I’m not careful, it can get out of control and critical aspects of my life can begin to slip through the cracks and I find myself in crisis mode.
I had an “a-ha!” moment several years ago while reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done on New Year’s Eve. His book explains the importance of getting all your “to-do’s” out of your head and on paper so you can begin to manage your life and establish a stillness and peace deep within your brain that will allow you to react appropriately to life’s demands. It was in this book that I learned the power of asking “What is next?”
How do I apply this question in my life? When an action item enters in my head I simply record it for action later. Every Friday I spend half a day reviewing my week, which includes reviewing the list of tasks I recorded all week long as life “happened”. Sometimes this list consists of five to ten items, but sometimes it can twenty five or more! I go through each item and find it a home on my project list. It may fit into an existing project I’m working on or it may trigger a new project. Once I’ve cleared that list, then I go through all my active projects and ask the magical question, “What is next?” for each project. Some projects may have dozens of actions items, while others may have only a handful. I simply identify the next logical task, within that project, that will move the project forward and I add to my list of “to-do’s” to be accomplished the next week. After I ask that question for each project I will usually have a nice list of action items that I will tackle the upcoming week.
Once I finish this exercise on Friday afternoon, I have a plan for the next week and can finish my week with a clear head, because I know I have a solid action plan in place that will elevate all of my projects to the next level. I can walk away from my office and enjoy my weekend knowing that I will hit the ground running on Monday with confidence, all because I asked that one important question, “What is next?” What is next for you?