The one little getting things done secret that saved me from being just another person with good idea to being a successful business owner was the message I shared with students and graduates of my Professional Color Certification Program during our Sensational Work Session.
TRANSCRIPT: Getting Things Done Secret Of My Success
Hi, it’s Kate Smith. Welcome to our sensational working session. There is something very motivating and almost magical that happens when a group of people come together in support of one another. While we will each be working individually we all benefit from the positive group energy.
Before we dive into our work I want to share something that has helped me to move from simply dreaming about the life and business I wanted to create to actually making it happen.
Gene Hayden the author of The Follow-Through Factor: Getting from Doubt to Done says, “Following-through is the only thing that separates dreamers from people that accomplish great things”. and I think he’s right.
Have you ever heard someone boost that, “They are an idea person?” When I hear that I smile to myself because most of people I know have good ideas. What a majority of them don’t have including the person that sees themselves as an “idea person” is the ability to successfully implemented their ideas.
Ideas, even really great ideas, only come about through a series of small actions.
Like most smart, creative people I could have easily fallen into being just an idea person had I not discovered one little secret that saved me.
I learned to ask myself, “What is the next action that I can take in order to move me closer to achieving my goal (or completing my project or bringing my idea to life.?)
The idea of asking that question comes from David Allen’s Getting Things Done. He wasn’t the first person to ever suggest asking the question, but the importance he places on it is one of the reasons the people who follow his advice — including me — actually get things done.
The question is especially powerful for creative people, as it gets us out of our heads and into action.
It is this simple little question that will not only transform you and your to do list. Here’s why.
1. A project can end up sitting on your to-do list for a long time without getting done.
Why? Because you can’t DO a project — you can only do a physical action. This is a point that David Allen drives home when he talks about his “Getting Things Done” system. Taking this to heart has really helped me over the years to move forward. I also use it to get myself “unstuck” if I am stalled.
This works because you you can’t “do” this course, a design project or even your tax return. What you can “do” are the multiple steps that once completed or achieved move you closer to your goal of completing the course, designing a room or a client or completing another year’s tax return.
Yes, you need to keep track of projects but the project itself it not the item on your “to do” list. What you needs to be listed are the actions that you are going to take in order to complete that project.
Whenever you are working on something that has more than one step ask yourself, “What is the very next physical action that I can take – hopefully today or soon – to get this done?”
For example with taxes my list might include: 1. gather my 1099 forms, 2. have bookkeeper close out year in Quickbooks 3. make an appointment with my accountant, etc. There could be any number of “next actions” but the key is to put them on your to-do list because those are things that I can do to move closer to achieving my goal.
2. Sometimes there may be other things on you to do list that aren’t projects, but they might not be actions either.
Recently I put “Figure out what I want to wear to Britney’s wedding” on my to do list. Well, figure out isn’t really an action. An action I could take is “Try on dresses and decide if I will wear one of my current dresses to Britney’s wedding.” If not, the next action would be to go out and find a new dress.
When we ask “What’s the next action” we are ensuring that we have actual actions, and not vague, fuzzy terms.
3. Be action-oriented.
Have you ever left a meeting and felt that little and been accomplished and no decisions had been made? I know I have. Whenever you take time out of your schedule to meet whether with a colleague or client ask yourself before the meeting ends, “What is the next action each of us needs to take?” Then make sure everyone is clear on what they need to do to. If people are not clear on what they must do you have just wasted your time. When people are clear about the answer, especially you, to that question things get done.
4. Move or remove the actions that can’t be done now.
When you focus on the very next action you can take today, you will be able to see which items need to be removed from you list or moved to a time in the future when you will be able to complete them.
If I can’t print out my Quickbooks year-end reports until my bookkeeper has closed out the year take “print out my Quickbooks year-end reports ” shouldn’t be on my list until sometime in the future. Keeping on your list when you can’t accomplish it keeps you feeling like you have a never ending to do list. It also distracts you from focusing on the items you can do right now.
5. Make quick decisions.
The question really helps you to make quick decisions. Raise your hand it you have ever put off taking action on something because there are things that have to be decided that you don’t want to think about. I’ve got my hand in the air on that one. If I haven’t already sold you on the idea of asking the “What’s the next action?” perhaps for this reason alone you’ll see the benefit. By asking the question you don’t have to make every decision right now. You don’t need to plan out an entire project. All you need to do is decide on the one thing that you need to do next. That makes the decision-making process less daunting. When you break the decisions apart rather than thinking about them all at once you can make a decision very quickly. As soon as you are able to make the first decision you have moved yourself from the just thinking about something you need to get done and into taking an action that moves you closer to actually getting it done.
Asking yourself “What’s the next action?” is a simple four word question that can become a powerful implementation tool that you can begin putting to work today.
Your next action: go through your to-do list and ask this question of every item on your list.