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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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In The Other Side of Organized, Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions. Already, thousands of clients and readers have found help and inspiration in her advice, personal reflections on change and connection, and vision of what can be accomplished when you find that sweet spot between chaos and perfection.

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« Is It Your Time for a Gentle Next Step? | One Interesting Way to Use Mindfulness to Focus Change »

How to Mindfully and Easily Discover Your Next Step

Does this sound familiar? You’re ready to start your day. You’ve already dressed, showered, and had your breakfast. For all intensive purposes, you want to get going. However, you’re not quite settled or ready to begin. You might be feeling unsure of which project or task to start next. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of your to do list. You might be feeling uncomfortable, unsettled or anxious. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce some mindfulness to help you find your next step.


Start With Your Breath

Using an anchor helps us to notice where we are. Your breath works beautifully as a place to focus. You can access it anywhere at anytime. Take a comfortable position sitting in a chair, standing, or even lying down. If it helps, you can close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Don’t force it. Take a few minutes to notice your natural patterns of breathing in and breathing out. Let your attention focus solely on your breath. If your mind begins to wander, as minds will do, just bring your attention back to your breath. Breathing in…breathing out. The act of shifting your focus to your breath will help you think more clearly and calmly and make room for your next step.


Add a Dose of Gratitude

Before deep diving into figuring out next, take a few minutes to express gratitude. This can be done as informally or formally as you’d like. You can simply think the thoughts or write them down. There are no rules here. You can think about just one thing or person that you are grateful for, or you can generate a longer list. Take a few mindful minutes to focus your energy in this positive way. Expressing gratitude is another way of anchoring you and making you more open and available for next.


Secure What You Need

When we’re about to embark on a project or new task, it’s challenging to do that if we haven’t taken care of our needs. Ignoring them can leave us antsy. Take a few more minutes to notice what you need to feel settled. For example, before sitting down to write, I like to make a nice, big mug of tea that I can sip between thoughts. I make sure I’ve used the bathroom. I minimize distractions like closing out open windows on my desktop. Taking care of my basic needs, helps me to better focus on what comes next. We often ignore our needs. Slowing down long enough to be mindful of where we are and what we need is essential.


Make the Selection

Have you got a to do list? Is it floating around your head or written down? While I prefer a written list for myself, there’s no right or wrong here. However, for the selection part, I highly recommend capturing the options in some written form so that you can review them. It doesn’t have to be fancy or official. Keep in mind that most of us have many things to do in our lifetime. None of those things get done in a single day. Instead we make choices each day to do or not do what we need and want to do. With that in mind, and in order to keep overwhelm at bay, create a list of no more than three things. Don’t worry. If you complete those things, you can add more. And also remember that tomorrow is another day. But for today, for this next, just write a list of three. Now it’s time to choose. To help you decide think about things like:

  • Do I have time today to work on this?
  • Do I have the energy needed to focus?
  • Would this step be better accomplished at another time or day?
  • Does this have a deadline?
  • Is this a priority?
  • If I didn’t accomplish this, would it matter?
  • Can I remove this from my list altogether?
  • Can this be delegated to someone else?
  • Do I want to get some quick and easy things accomplished quickly to get my motor going?

Remember, there’s no wrong choice. Remove judgment. Maybe next will be organizing the junk drawer, removing the extra hangers from your closet, or making plans for that upcoming party. You’re simply working on that next step. Build from there.


Take Your Next Step

Congratulations! You’ve anchored yourself with breathing and gratitude, taken care of your basic needs, and selected what you’d like to do next. You’re ready for action. Remember that next involves actually doing something. You’ve used some simple mindfulness strategies to arrive at this point. As you experience next, stay in the moment. Whatever you’ve chosen, allow yourself to be there with it. Focus on what you’re doing as you’re doing it- one movement, one step, and one action at a time.

What helps you figure out next? Have you used mindfulness in the process? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation!





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Reader Comments (14)

This is so helpful especially for those tasks that we have been procrastinating about. Today I am planning to tackle my desk. I have the morning off. Wish me luck.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKim

@Kim- I'm so happy that you find these ideas especially helpful with procrastination. I wish you all the best of focus and success as you "tackle" your desk today. You've set your intention so you're more than halfway there. If you feel like sharing, I'd love to hear more post desk organizing session.

March 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

This is fabulous, Linda! I like the way you talk about centering yourself, minimizing distractions, and taking care of personal needs before really focusing. I have a 'gratitude' journal I write in every morning. I reflect on the day before and record what I accomplished - even if the accomplishment was simply to relax and take the day off. I find by acknowledging what I've done helps me to move on to what's next.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Diane- It's so easy to just step into the day without taking the time to really ready ourselves. That preparing process can make all the difference for how the day unfolds. Kudos to you for making gratitude a priority each day. I can imagine how doing so colors your days in a positive way. And how affirming to know that writing down your accomplishments also helps you find those next steps.

March 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

As I read "If your mind begins to wander... just bring your attention back to your breath" I could actually hear the voice of my former yoga teacher saying those very words! Thanks for the reminder that this isn't just for yoga class.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Janet- Yoga, meditation, yes...familiar words from wonderful teachers. In my mindfulness journey and mindfulness meditation practice, this idea gets constantly reinforced. I find it so helpful to normalize the wandering that our minds naturally do. But the real practice and benefit is the exercise of bringing ourselves back to the present moment.

March 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great reminder to slow down and become aware.

I added a section to my planner called "For next week to-dos". This section is for items I think about that need to be done but I don't have time this week to do it. Then at the end of the week, I transfer those to-dos to the following week. This gets them off my mind and allows me to stay focused on the task at hand.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Sabrina- What a great system you've developed for keeping the mind clear and your to-do list on track! It sounds like it works beautifully for you. I use the "2Do" app that works similarly to what you've described. I can schedule the date for when I want the task or project to appear with the goal of accomplishing it that day. However, if plans or my schedule change, I can easily shift the item to another day. It also allows me to future plan. As you said, the beauty is that items don't get lost, but it helps to keep the mind clearer and more focused on the present.

March 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Outstanding! Great way to start my day!

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Ellen- Thanks so much. I'm happy to know you found something here of value to begin your day with.

March 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, What a wonderful process you've created for yourself for shifting out of autopilot and into a place of mindful choice!

p.s. I love how we seem to be traveling similar practice paths these days. I'd love to hear more sometime about the particulars of the path you're taking.: )

March 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

@Andrea- It's a funny thing with autopilot. After all, as organizers, we are great promoters of routines and habits. And I know that they have a place. Without them, I suppose pure chaos would reign. However, there's something to be said for introducing mindfulness into some of those automatic "doings." It adds a level of presence to what we're doing, feeling, and experiencing.

We're explorers, my friend! Happy to talk "paths" anytime.

March 12, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I just love this approach. What a peaceful and calming way to approach the day! I love focusing on breathing. I do this with yoga, and each morning when I am praying. As you say, the beauty of breathing is that you can focus on it any point, in any situation. I also love your list of questions under "Make The Selection." We all have more on our list than we can realistically tackle at any given moment. Just acknowledging that is so important. When we prioritize our next step, basing our choice on well-thought out choices, we have a much greater chance of succeeding. I spend time every morning breathing, praying and discerning what matters for the 24 hours ahead. It is precious time to me that I greatly miss on the days I miss it!

March 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- It's fascinating how often we "hold" our breath. When we do, that blocks our thinking and creates more anxiety within. As you said too, our breath is always with us, so we readily use it as an anchor, as a way to check-in, and let go. Every exhale is a natural letting go/releasing. And when we become conscious of that, it can help us in so many ways. Your morning routine sounds lovely and peaceful. I know what you mean about missing your routine on certain mornings. I feel the same way about my daily mindfulness meditation practice. I prefer doing it in the morning because it's such a calming way to begin and set intentions for the day.

March 25, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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