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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« How to Figure Out Where to Start Organizing | How to Get a Fantastic Result With Your Next Step »

What Is Your Next Step and Why Is It Important?

Recently I was at the doctor’s office for an annual visit. On the wall was a sign with a series of suggested questions to ask the doctor during your appointment. Two in particular caught my attention since they related to this month’s theme, next step. While the questions were intended for a different purpose, I think you’ll find them useful for a variety of situations.

I’ve modified the language slightly to help focus your responses. When you’re stuck and feeling challenged with moving forward, ask yourself the following:


What is my next step?

Why is it important?

Pausing to question what will be next is useful in all situations. Adding the second question, that qualifying “why,” can add motivation and purpose to your action.

Some possible examples of what next and why important are-

  • Look at my to do list so that I can stay focused for the day.
  • Call doctor’s office to make an appointment because my health is a priority.
  • Organize my desk to provide physical and mental clarity needed to begin my new project.
  • Prepare meeting agenda so that I’ll be able to effectively run the meeting.
  • Work on the next phase of my project so it I can complete it on schedule.
  • Make a coffee date with my friend to nurture our relationship.
  • Begin my bedtime routine so that I’ll be alert and more productive tomorrow.
  • Write this blog post to stimulate an engaging, lively conversation.

I’m sure you can think of many more what and whys. I’d love to hear how these questions could work for you. Share your thoughts with us. What is your next step? Why is it important?





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Reader Comments (14)

This is great, Linda! I think once you know why the next step will help you on your way it's easier to plow ahead and take it. I'm currently working with a client challenged by hoarding. His homework - his next step - is to open his mail daily (and deal with it) so that it doesn't accumulate. That sounds simple but it is a challenge for him.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Diane- When it comes to changing routines or habits, defining the why behind next can make a huge difference. As you so beautifully described, you've helped your client identify what next looks like and the reason behind it. Once he successfully ingrains that habit in his daily life, he'll be ready to tackle other challenges. Thank you for sharing.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

I always have a list of next steps, especially for my business. "Next" keeps me moving forward. I think we naturally relax into the status quo, the distraction, the easy. But over time, we often regret not having accomplished more, seen more, and invested more. A few minutes capturing what I really want to do next keeps me working on what matters most.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- I love your practice of "next steps list." That's a great idea! Out of curiosity, are they small next steps or large goals? I'm always fascinated by how different people keep, maintain and manage their lists.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

This aligns perfectly with the concept of Getting Things Done. In the GTD world, you only list your next step on the action list. It's a great way to keep clarity and not get overwhelmed.

What is vital to me is the why. Why is the reason you are starting or completing a task. Keeping Why in your focus keeps you motivated. If you are unable to answer Why, it's time to reassess.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Linda as usual, you always give us topic to think about. Knowing what's the next step is just part of the ecuation, but knowing why is it important gives the ultimate reason to go for it. Even further, acknowledging the why a next step is important we'll make sure that is the right next action to do.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Sometimes my next step is realizing I need to take a few hours away from work when I am feeling unproductive, do some mindless errands, then come back refreshed. You can write an inspiring blog post if you are not feeling it,

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

@Ellen- I like the clarity you mention that the GTD system provides. While I don't use the GTD system exclusively, I do use the power of asking what's next to keep me focused. But as you said, if you don't know why you're doing "next," it could be time to reassess.

@Nacho- Thanks so much. You make a good case for melding the what and the why. One informs the other. Clarity and purpose combined!

@Jill- Do you know the expression, "You can't push a wet noodle?" Taking a break when productivity is at a low point is a great strategy. Pushing ourselves when we're exhausted or unfocused is like trying to push a wet noodle. It just doesn't work. It's great that you know what you need to do when you've reached your limit.

March 22, 2016 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks for this reminder Linda. Of course, I do talk with my clients in the beginning about what they want to achieve and why, but as @Diane said, I too see how powerful cycling back to the why would be for them. It transforms "I have to", to "I WANT TO". Very powerful!

March 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAlison Lush CPO-CD

@Alison- Such a valuable point you make with the distinction between "have" to and "want" to. This is powerful because it reinforces that we always have a choice. Sometimes that choice is in our attitude, but it also can be in the actions we choose to take or NOT to take.

March 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

If I find myself asking "What's next?" I need to look at my to-do list for the answer. Otherwise, it's too easy to get distracted by email, social media, or other activities that may not be the best use of that time.

March 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Janet- I know just what you mean. There are SO many distractions..and social media and email being some of the top ones (for me too.) Refocusing our energy for "next" by checking in on that "list," is an effective way to stay focused and moving in a forward direction. I'm going to check mine again right now. Thanks for the reminder.

March 26, 2016 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

First of all, I had to chuckle at the intro to your post because I always bring a list when I go to the doctor! I mean doesn't everybody?! Lately I've gotten on a jag of really working hard on "eating my frogs,"' making sure those are taken care of as I look to my nexts.

March 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Soboleski

@Sarah- Glad to provide a good laugh. Good for you that you bring you a list when you go to the doctor. And based on the sign and my own personal practice, I'm guessing that not everyone DOES bring a list. It sure is a smart thing to do. My list is a mental, not written one. I'm not sure if that counts.

I had to refresh my memory about the "eating my frogs" reference. When I did, I rediscovered that your "frog" is the biggest, most important task, and the one you're most likely to procrastinate about. The idea is to tackle that first in the morning. Congratulations to you for focusing on your "frogs" as a way of then deciding about your nexts.

March 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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